Rowell v. Rowell

Summary

Keri Rowell was granted an extension of temporary custody of her three children as long as she kept her children from seeing her sister who has HIV. Her sister, Tanya Wilkins, had always played an active role in the children’s lives, but following the ruling, she was unable to have any physical contact with them. Lambda Legal filed a brief advising the court of medical information about the transmission of HIV. Jason Parham, an infectious disease specialist from Jackson, Mississippi, also testified that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact within the home and that there was no reason to keep the children away from their aunt. Within days, we won the reversal of the temporary custody restriction and the children were reunited with their aunt.

Context

More than two decades of science has proved that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact in the home.

Lambda Legal's Impact

This case is important specifically for families with a person who is living with HIV, as it reaffirms the fact that the families affected by HIV should not be torn apart by judges. It also is important for people with HIV, who regularly face ridiculous fears that they pose a threat to others, when science has dispelled such myths.

History

  • July 2005 Lambda Legal files brief in Chancery Court of Jackson County on behalf of a Mississippi mother barred from allowing her children to have contact with their aunt because she has HIV.
  • July 2005 Victory! Within five days of filing its brief, Lambda Legal wins reversal of custody restriction.

Case Information

Outcome: Victory

Plaintiffs

Keri Rowell

Attorneys

Lambda Legal
Gregory R. Nevins, Jennifer Sinton , Jon Givner

Co-counsel/Cooperating Attorneys
Cliff Johnson of Pigott, Reeves, Johnson & Minor, P.A. in Jackson, MS, and Art Hewitt of Mississippi Center for Legal Services in Gulfport, MS