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CNN NEWSROOM

Supreme Court to Weigh in on Custody Case; Disabilities Treaty Blocked by GOP; Top-10 U.S. Vacation Destinations; Marijuana Legal in Washington Tomorrow.

Aired December 5, 2012 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: I want my son.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN, ACTOR: You can't have him.

JUSTIN HENRY, ACTOR: Who's going to read me my bed time stories?

HOFFMAN: Mommy will.

HENRY: You're not going to kiss me good night anymore, are you, Dad?

HOFFMAN: No, I won't be able to do that but I'll get to visit.

It's going to be OK. Really.

HENRY: I feel like (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Remember "Kramer versus Kramer," 1979? An award-winning film starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. It was the story of a child caught in a custody battle between two warring parents.

I've got a story for you now that is kind of the same but a lot more complicated. It involves the custody fight of a 5-year-old girl and an international treaty. Plus, a Supreme Court decision that could decide which parent that little girl ends up living with.

CNN's justice correspondent, Joe Johns, with the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aris Chafin is a beautiful 5-year-old in the middle of the custody battle between two parents at the end of a rocky marriage.

JEFF CHAFIN, FATHER OF ARIS: My daughter, she's my sparkle. She's everything for me. She's everything for me.

LYNN CHAFIN, MOTHER OF ARIS: If my daughter is sent to the United States, I believe I will never see her again.

JOHNS: It's a complicated legal fight dealing with international borders and treaties and important enough that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken the case.

ARIS CHAFIN, IN MIDDLE OF PARENTS' CUSTODY FIGHT: (INAUDIBLE).

JOHNS: The last time Aris was in the U.S., her father shot this video of her. But now she lives in Scotland where her mother, Lynn, is from. A federal judge ruled that Lynn could legally take Aris back to Scotland despite the father's objection.

Jeff is a U.S. army sergeant who served in Afghanistan. He says Aris, she shouldn't be with her mother because Lynn has a drinking problem.

J. CHAFIN: Personally, I don't think someone with an alcohol issue like that can take care of a child, you know, definitely on their own.

JOHNS: As evidence, this is a 2010 police video where Lynn was charged with disorderly conduct. Lynn says it was an isolated incident after a night out.

L. CHAFIN: You know, I had too much to drink and I apologized to the court when I was taken to the court. This is not a reflection on me as a mother. I wasn't drunk, in charge of my child.

JOHNS: It's a classic "he said, she said."

L. CHAFIN: I believe he set me up.

JOHNS: Lynn accuses Jeff of unwanted controlling behavior, including a plot to get her deported.

L. CHAFIN: He called the police on me on the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, and I was removed from the house. I was taken to a particular jail.

JOHNS: Something Jeff denies.

J. CHAFIN: How could I get her deported? How is that even possible?

JOHNS: -- telling a totally different story.

J. CHAFIN: I woke up with her standing over me with a knife.

JOHNS: So why would the Supreme Court get involved? There's a treaty called the Hague Convention that says a child in the middle of an international custody battle goes to the country of her habitual residence.

Here's Lynn's lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: The whole treaty turns on these two words, "habitual residence." What is the ordinary, regular home of this little girl?

JOHNS (on camera): And what is it in.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Scotland.

JOHNS (voice-over): The federal court agreed that's where Aris belonged, but Jeff's lawyer argues the judge got it wrong. The question is whether Lynn intended to stay in the U.S. with her family.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: The phrase "miscarriage of justice" comes to mind.

JOHNS: But the main issue is for the Supreme Court is if Jeff can appeal the decision now that Aris is out of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: You've got to have that next level of review.

JOHNS: And it could have broader implications.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: This is a case that has immediate, significant, long-lasting impact for every parent in America.

JOHNS: Though, most likely for military families that live overseas. Ultimately, Lynn's lawyer says it all comes down to this.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: The welfare of the child. It's not good for a child to be like a ping pong ball going backwards and forwards between countries.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Joe Johns joins me live from Washington, outside of the court.

Joe, everybody always assumes that the best interest of the child is number one when you're arguing a case, when you're deciding a case, when even you get to bring a case. Where you're standing right now, that's not what you are deciding at all. This is a very narrow issue for the Supreme Court.

JOHNS: That's for sure. And for the people who are lawyers, the issue is mootness.

But let's step back a bit. This court has seen a lot of dramatic things happen in this story but they decided to zero in on what may be the most dramatic tech of all, and this is a moment 18 months ago, when Lynn Chafin won her day in district court in Alabama, and within two hours, Aris Chafin was on a plane out of the country, end of story. And the question really, I think, a lot of the justices were asking is whether there ought to be a time out, a 48-hour period, something where there's time to appeal, time to get a second look by a different judge. And as you know, Ashleigh, there are a lot of judges out there that don't take kindly to the idea of an international treaty sort of undercutting all of the rights of appeal because they think the United States has a pretty good system.

BANFIELD: How do you establish this habitual residence which ended up being so critical in this case? JOHNS: Right.

BANFIELD: How is that the United States is not the habitual residence for that little girl?

JOHNS: Right. There's a whole series of analysis and there's different points, people can argue different things. The father argues, well, Lynn Chafin had intended to stay in the United States so you should consider habitual residence the United States. Lynn Chafin says, no, she didn't intend to live in the United States and Aris had spent more time in Scotland. So that's where you get the back and forth on habitual residence.

BANFIELD: What a case. It's heartbreaking no matter how you look at this.

Joe, thank you. Excellent work. I appreciate that.

And also if you want to read up a little more on this case, I encourage to you do so. There's a lot to learn. Go to www.supremecourt.gov.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: I'm going to describe for you a very dramatic scene for a moment. A wheelchair moving slowly to the center of the Senate floor, and in that wheelchair, an 89-year-old war hero, a hero who earned two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star. And that hero appeals for recognition of a treaty. It's a treaty that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. Just sounds like a no-brainer, right? The war hero is right there to the right of your screen. You recognize him. It's Bob Dole, one-time Republican presidential candidate and 30-year Senate leader. And in a very emotional moment, Democrat and Republicans walked over to him to greet him. And then Democratic Senator John Kerry, who also has two Purple Hearts, who also was nominated to run for president, gave his most impassioned speech of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Bob Dole, why is he here? He's not here because he's here to advocate for the United Nations. And certainly this man is not here because he doesn't want to defend the sovereignty of the United States of America. He is here because he wants to know that other countries will come to treat the disabled the way we do. He's here because he wants to know that when a disabled American veteran or wounded warriors travel overseas, that they are treated with the same dignity and respect that they receive here at home. That's why an 89-year-old veteran, one week removed from the Bethesda Naval Hospital, comes back to the Senate on an early December day, because it matters. Because what we do here in the United States Senate matters, not just to us but to people all across the globe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: That's pretty powerful stuff. And after all of that, Bob Dole was wheeled off of the floor by his wife and then the vote came and it was rejected. It was rejected.

Wolf Blitzer is with us now to talk a little bit more about this.

On its surface, Wolf Blitzer, it would seem like political suicide to vote down a treaty that promotes the rights of people with disabilities. But there has to be a good reason as to why someone would vote it down. What is it?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: First of all, you need 67 votes to ratify a treaty. You need a two-thirds majority. They got 61. They didn't get 67. They are going to try again next year.

A whole bunch of Republicans, including Senator John McCain, for example, were passionately in favor of ratifying this treaty. But a lot of other Republicans, by and large, conservatives, they hate the United Nations, they don't trust the United Nations. They don't want international law, in their words, to interfere with domestic laws in the United States, whether federal laws, state, or local laws.

And one of the most recent other major reasons why they rejected this treaty, these Republicans, by and large, who voted again ratifying this treaty, Ashleigh, was because of the powerful words that Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate said. As you know, he has a severely disabled child, a little girl. He said, I don't want international lawyers, I don't want the United Nations and New York and foreign countries telling me and our local officials what they can or cannot do as far as treatment for little Bella, his daughter. And that was a powerful factor in convincing a lot of these Republicans to reject this treaty. They didn't see that they need the international community, in effect, to get involved in what was going on here in the United States.

The counter-argument, of course, is we wanted to bring -- by ratifying this treaty, those who support it said, we wanted to bring the rest of the world up to the U.S. standards in hoping those with disabilities, but that obviously didn't resonate, at least not enough, to get the 67 votes.

BANFIELD: I bet you, though, we end up seeing something like that in campaign ads in a couple of years.

Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much.

Be sure to watch Wolf, 4:00 this afternoon, "The Situation Room."

Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: There are a lot of ways you can choose a vacation destination. You can take a family vote at dinner or close your eyes and throw a dart at a map. You can be really lazy and go to Canada. I'm kidding. Our country is great though. But there are some other ways to choose a vacation spot. I am talking to you, Lonely Planet, this awesome guide book. The whole group of people at the Lonely Planet are giving you some brand new direction because today the guidebook is releasing the top-10 U.S. destinations for 2013. Drum roll, please. Ready? Number one, Louisville --

(LAUGHTER)

-- number two, Fairbanks; number three, San Juan, the Island; number four, Philly; number five, American Samoa; number 6, Eastern Sierra; number seven, Northern Maine; number 8, Twin Cities, Minnesota; number 9, Verde Valley; and number 10, Glacier National Park.

And if you're surprised by that list of top 10, you can ask this guy. I'm joined by Robert Reid, the U.S. editor.

First, where is the Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon?

ROBERT REID, U.S. EDITOR, LONELY PLANET: You want to know what states? New York --

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: No, you know what I mean.

REID: I know. I know.

BANFIELD: People say the top-10. First of all, Louisville, Kentucky?

REED: Louisville, absolutely. A lot of people think of it just as Derby days, but Louisville has quietly become in the last few years kind of like the new Austin, the new Portland, Oregon, the new hip place to go to. If you're looking for a place for a big weekend, bourbon rains there.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: We're talking family vacation.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: You can bring your family. There's the Louisville Slugger Museum and steamboats on the river and newly converted warehouses with antique shops and great eaters. And the Highlands. They have Louisville Weird Stickers. It's kind of tons -- there's a lot of bars and bourbon that gets flowed there. If you go in early May, you can add the Kentucky Derby. Kids will love that.

BANFIELD: Yes, that's a whole lot of fun. I would pass on the mint julep though.

(LAUGHTER)

So what is up with Philly? I think a lot of people thought that was fun, if not funny.

REID: I love Philly. It's not just tri-cornered hats and the Liberty Bell.

BANFIELD: And cheesesteaks.

REID: And cheesesteaks. And sad Eagles fans.

(LAUGHTER)

It's about art. It's become a vital art destination. Artists are getting priced out of New York. They're going there. There's a huge gallery scene.

BANFIELD: These pictures are beautiful.

REID: Yes. Philly's great. And then the Barnes Foundation has one of the greatest collections of Impressionist art. It moved from a suburb to central Philly last year. This has become one of the things that people have to do when they think about art. Philadelphia.

BANFIELD: I was surprised about the whole top 10. Were there any on this list as you compiled them that surprised you? You did not expect it to make the first cut?

REID: I think a lot of people don't realize how great Fairbanks is off season. Next year --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Come on. Alaska's is gorgeous.

REID: That's right.

BANFIELD: We get to see it in the live news shot on FOX every day.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Fairbanks, because of the northern lights. It has more visibility than anywhere in the U.S. 240 days a year, you can go and it looks like the spirits of different colors. It's unreal. It makes a noise, too. Everyone should see the northern lights.

BANFIELD: I grew up watching the northern lights on a regular basis. So this picture, to me, is actually normal although a delight because it is sort of a summer phenomenon from where I'm from. Going to Alaska, it's like going to Canada but you keep your money in the U.S. economy.

REID: That's true.

BANFIELD: What didn't make the list? What was the one, you were, man, we've got to cut this.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: You know, I was interested in putting in New Jersey -- (CROSSTALK)

REID: -- because there's the 40th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen, and because Sandy affected New Jersey, too. They are bouncing back, too. Hoboken is the sixth borough --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Maybe you'll get a sighting of Chris Christie, and he will swear at you.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: That's an added bonus, getting sworn at.

BANFIELD: In Jersey?

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: It's a badge of honor. I worked in Jersey for a long time.

Robert Reid, thank you. It's nice to meet you.

REID: Thank you.

BANFIELD: It's a great list and beautiful pictures too.

For more on this list, check out CNN.com. It's awesome.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: A really big day in Washington State tomorrow for some people because any adult there is going to be able to smoke marijuana legally, tomorrow. Just a little bit, though. Like an ounce, which to some people is not a little bit, but you don't need a reason. You don't need glaucoma or trouble sleeping. No medical reason at all. This might keep you awake. It is still illegal under federal law. Doesn't matter whether you are in Washington, Colorado, which is in a month, or anywhere else. The state actually -- Washington hasn't even checked yet with the feds to see how they're going to sort of deal with this loggerheads really of laws.

Ethan Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance Network, and he joins me now.

Help me navigate this. I think this is a big question for a lot of people, not the least of which the people in that state that would like to light up tomorrow. What does this mean when it comes to federal law versus state law, and are the feds changing their tune in terms of when they're going to prosecute and when they just might not?

ETHAN NADELMANN, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE NETWORK: I'll tell you, nobody really knows the answer. I think the Obama administration, the Justice Department are trying to figure it out because what happened on election day was Washington and Colorado became the first two states in the country and actually the first two political jurisdictions anywhere in the world to decide to legally regulate marijuana like alcohol, so the feds have to figure this out.

BANFIELD: A little like alcohol. I can buy as many bottles of beer as I want. I can only have an ounce of marijuana in Washington and in Colorado, right?

NADELMANN: That's right. It's important to say, by the way, that what's going to happen this week in Washington State, and next month in Colorado, is just going to make it legal to possess up to an ounce in the privacy of your home. You can't go out smoking in public, all this sort of thing. The part --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: You have to stay in your home, really?

NADELMANN: Yes. Washington is going to be private. Just like you have "no smoking" laws and all this kind of stuff, Washington is going to be private, not puffing down the streets. This is going to be fairly subtle.

The part of the laws that say that Washington and Colorado state governments should set up a legal regulatory system like with alcohol, those don't enter into force until July, in the case of Colorado, and December next year in Washington. So nobody has to do anything soon. All that's going to change is people can possess up to an ounce without getting arrested.

BANFIELD: While we sort of debate back and forth what the feds are going to do about the guy whose smoking a joint in his house, how about the more macro level of this. Let's say Washington State tomorrow needs to start setting up the regulatory boards, the commissions, those who oversee collecting taxes, because this is supposed to be a tax boon, according to some, for many states, are they now subject to federal law, because essentially they're involved in the drug business.

NADELMANN: You have the governors in both states, they're asking the feds what to do, and the feds are saying, we're not sure. Now, you know, two years ago, when there was an initiative in California to try to legalize marijuana that fell just short, the Attorney General Holder warned the Californians, you better not do this because we're going to crack down. This time, the attorney general didn't say a word, so a lot of us are optimistic that the feds are going to give this a shot for the state governments to come up with a responsible, regulatory system. And everybody wants smart regulation, right? Nobody wants this thing all in the underground and all crazy and this sort of stuff. The question is, how do you do this, and can the White House and the Justice Department leadership say, let's chill out on this for a bit, let's let this happen in a responsible way?

BANFIELD: Five seconds left. Do you expect to see any big busts across the board or absolutely nothing off the bat?

NADELMANN: I don't think anything big is going to happen. No big busts coming up. BANFIELD: Ethan Nadelmann, it's good of you to join us. Thank you very much. I don't think this conversation is over. We have tomorrow, we have next month, and then we have the rest of the fall- out --

NADELMANN: You said it.

BANFIELD: -- when everything else starts to come in to play.

Thanks so much.

NADELMANN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Nice to have you.

Thanks, everyone, for joining us. It's been nice to have you for this hour. Make sure you stay tuned. NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL is going to get going with Suzanne Malveaux right after this break. Have a great day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL.