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About Dominique Fernandez. Dominique Fernandez. Books by Dominique Fernandez. Trivia About Signor Giovanni. No trivia or quizzes yet. Welcome back. The Court's second implication -- that any discrimination short of an "insurmountable barrier" is permissible -- is one of those propositions the mere statement of which is its own refutation. Levy, as I have pointed out, holds squarely to the contrary specifically in the context of discrimination against illegitimate children.
And numerous other cases in this Court establish the general proposition that discriminations that "merely" disadvantage a class of persons or businesses are as subject to. In short, the Court has not analyzed, or perhaps simply refuses to analyze, Louisiana's discrimination against acknowledged illegitimates in terms of the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment. Williams, U. Florida, U. Doud, supra; Gulf, C. Ellis, U. Certainly there is no biological basis for the State's distinction. Vincent's illegitimate daughter is related to him biologically in exactly the same way as a legitimate child would have been.
Indeed, it is the identity of interest "in the biological and in the spiritual sense," Levy v. Louisiana might be thought to have an interest in requiring people to go through certain formalities in order to eliminate complicated questions of proof and the opportunity for both error and fraud in determining paternity after the death of the father. This argument, of course, was the focal point of the dissent in Levy and Glona v. I leave aside, for the moment, the fact that the holdings of those two cases indicate that this consideration is insufficient to justify a difference in treatment when there is no dispute over the fact of parentage.
For my Brother HARLAN's dissenting opinion in those cases explicitly recognized that the State's interest in this regard is fully satisfied by a formal public acknowledgment. When a father has formally acknowledged his child or gone through any state authorized formality for declaring paternity, or when there has been a court judgment of paternity, there is no possible difficulty of proof, and no opportunity for fraud or error.
This purported interest certainly can offer no justification for distinguishing between a formally acknowledged illegitimate child and a legitimate one. It is also important not to obscure the fact that the formality of marriage primarily signifies a relationship. Analysis of the rationality of any state effort to impose obligations based upon the fact of marriage must, therefore, distinguish between those obligations that run between parties to the marriage and those that run to others.
My Brother HARLAN, unlike his colleagues in the majority, concedes that the Equal Protection Clause requires a justification for Louisiana's discrimination against illegitimates, and he attempts one; he argues that it is reasonable for a State to impose greater obligations on a man in respect to his wife and their children than in respect to other women and any other children of whom he may be the father. In other words, contrary to the Louisiana court below, he apparently believes that Louisiana's discrimination against illegitimates reflects a state policy that would discourage marriage by imposing special burdens, such as those of forced heirship, upon those who enter into it.
However that may be, such force as his argument may have stems directly from its lack of specificity. Imposition by a State of reciprocal obligations upon husband and wife that are not imposed upon those who do not enter into a formalized marriage relationship is based upon the assumptions 1 that marriage may be promoted through pressure applied on or by the party seeking the benefit of obligations imposed by the married status, and 2 that, in any event, the choice is entirely within the control of the two individuals concerned. These elements are entirely lacking when we consider the relationship of a child vis-a-vis its parents.
Kent, Commentaries 12th ed. Intestate succession laws might seek to carry out a general intent of parents not to provide for publicly acknowledged illegitimate children. However, as the summary of Louisiana law I have made shows, one of the primary hallmarks of Louisiana's civil code is its detailed, extensive regulation of the family relationship. Its discrimination against the illegitimate in matters of inheritance and succession is official state policy, completely negating any argument that such discrimination merely represents a legislative judgment about the probable wishes of a deceased or the desires of most persons in similar situations.
The opinion of the state court below itself eliminates that possibility. The Louisiana court. Finally, viewing the general statutory treatment of illegitimates as a whole, particularly the facts that only a narrow class of fathers can legitimate their children by declaration, and that unacknowledged and "adulterous" illegitimates are prohibited from inheriting even by will, I think the conclusion is compelled that Louisiana's discrimination represents state policy, not an attempt to aid in the effectuation of private desires.
Even if Louisiana law could be read as being based on a legislative judgment about parents' intent, the present discrimination against illegitimates could not stand. The Court makes no argument that fathers who have publicly acknowledged their illegitimate children generally intend to disinherit them. No Louisiana court opinion or Louisiana legislative pronouncement that I can discover, or the Attorney General of Louisiana in this case, has ever argued that the Louisiana scheme reflects the general intentions of fathers of illegitimate children in that State.
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Indeed, the state court below justified the discrimination on the ground that "the denial of inheritance rights to illegitimates might reasonably be viewed as encouraging marriage and legitimation of children. Such denial could encourage marriage only if fathers generally desire to leave their property to their illegitimate children; otherwise, disinheritance.
Moreover, logic and common experience also suggest that a father who has publicly acknowledged his illegitimate child will not generally intend to disinherit his child. A man who publicly announces that he has fathered a child out of wedlock has publicly claimed that child for his own. He has risked public opprobrium, or other sanctions, to make the public announcement.
Surely it does not follow that he will generally desire to disinherit that child and further discredit his reputation by refusing to contribute to his own child at death. Moreover, Louisiana is the only State in the country that denies illegitimate children rights of inheritance from the mother equal to those of. The Court nowhere mentions the central reality of this case: Louisiana punishes illegitimate children for the misdeeds of their parents.
The judges of the Third Circuit Court of Appeal of Louisiana, whose judgment the Court here reviews, upheld the present discrimination "[h]owever unfair it may be to punish innocent children for the fault of their parents. It is certainly unusual in this country for a person to be legally disadvantaged on the basis of factors over which. Hirabayashi v. United States, U. The state court below explicitly upheld the statute on the ground that the punishment of the child might encourage the parents to marry.
Given the importance and nature of the decision to marry, cf. Boddie v. Connecticut, ante, p. Glona v. American Guarantee Lability Insurance Co. In my judgment, only a moral prejudice, prevalent in when the Louisiana statutes under consideration were adopted, can support Louisiana's discrimination against illegitimate children.
Since I can find no rational basis to justify the distinction Louisiana creates between an acknowledged illegitimate child and a legitimate one, that discrimination is clearly invidious. I think the Supreme Court of North Dakota stated the correct principle in invalidating. Louisiana law appears to direct that the birth certificate be changed only when the child has been legitimated.
See U. A parent can only disinherit a legitimate child if the parent alleges a certain statutorily defined "just cause" in his will and, in terms, expresses his desire to disinherit the child. Article of the Louisiana Civil Code specifies the "just causes" for which disinherison is permitted:. If the child has raised his or her hand to strike the parent, or if he or she has actually struck the parent; but a mere threat is not sufficient. If the child has accused a parent of any capital crime, except, however, that of high treason.
If the child has refused to become security for a parent, having the means, in order to take him out of prison. The persons seeking to take against the disinherited forced heir must prove the truth of the "just cause" alleged in the parent's will. Pennywell v. George, La. Disinherison is not favored. Succession of Reems, La.
But only those natural children can be legitimated who are the offspring of parents who, at the time of conception, could have contracted marriage. Nor can a parent legitimate his or her natural offspring in the manner prescribed in this article, when there exists on the part of such parent legitimate ascendants or descendants. As U. See n.
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The Court relies on the fact that Mr. Vincent was within this narrow class of fathers of illegitimate children to suggest that Louisiana law allows fathers to decide whether or not their illegitimate children will inherit the father's estate. Ante, at U. Even as to this class, however, Louisiana law places the burden on the father of a publicly acknowledged illegitimate child to take affirmative action to inherit that child, while virtually disabling the same father from disinheriting a legitimate child, or at least placing a burden of affirmative action on the father in order to disinherit the legitimate child.
Thus, even as to this small group, the discrimination imposed by the State is clear. The only context in which this statement might have relevance would be in the context of the question, not presented in this case, of the power of Congress to regulate the devolution of property upon the death of citizens of the various States. In such a case, the question would indeed be whether the Constitution commits such power exclusively to the States. It so happens that this Court, in an opinion written by my Brother BLACK, has held that the Constitution does not commit the power to regulate intestate succession exclusively to the States.
United States v. Oregon, U. Although it is true that this is an area normally left to the States, it is not immune under the Tenth Amendment from laws passed by the Federal Government which are, as is the law here, necessary and proper to the exercise of a delegated power. Doud, supra; Hunter v. Erickson, U. California, U. Cahoon, U. Plessy v. Ferguson, U. Board of Education, U. I agree that Louisiana has an interest in promoting family life and in directing the disposition of property left within the State.
I do not understand how either of these interests provides any basis for Louisiana's discrimination against the acknowledged illegitimate, and the Court does not explain the relevance of these state interests. In view of my conclusion that the present discrimination cannot stand even under the "some rational basis" standard, I need not reach the questions whether illegitimacy is a "suspect" classification that the State could not adopt in any circumstances without showing a compelling state interest, or whether fundamental rights are involved, which also would require a showing of a compelling state interest.
See Levy v. Virginia Board of Elections, U. Oklahoma, U. This Court has generally treated as suspect a classification that discriminates against an individual on the basis of factors over which he has no control. The concurring opinion suggests that the legal obligation to support the illegitimate child imposed by Louisiana law goes "considerably beyond the common law and statutes generally in force at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted. The authority cited by the concurrence for this proposition describes early 19th century American law on the subject as follows:.
The reputed father is liable to arrest and imprisonment until he gives security to indemnify the town chargeable with the maintenance of the child. These provisions are intended for the public indemnity, and were borrowed from the several English statutes on the subject; and similar regulations to coerce the putative father to maintain the child, and indemnify the town or parish, have been adopted in the several states.
Note, Illegitimacy, 26 Brooklyn L. Louisiana and Glona v. See the table summarizing state statutes in Note, Illegitimacy, 26 Brooklyn L. In , New York as well as Louisiana did not allow illegitimate children to inherit equally from their mothers. New York has since changed its law. Hawaii Rev. Codes Ann. Compiled Laws Ann. The state court also argued that Louisiana's disinheritance of the illegitimate would serve the State's interest in the stability of land titles by avoiding "the disruptions and uncertainties to result from unknown and not easily ascertained claims through averments of parentage.
This is simply a variation on the State's interest in relying on formalities, see supra at U. Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.
Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship. Vincent Labine v. Vincent, U. Justia Opinion Summary and Annotations. Syllabus Case U. Supreme Court Labine v. Vincent No. See: So. Page U. Appellant, as the guardian of Rita Vincent, petitioned in state court for the appointment of an administrator for the father's estate, for Page U. Under those circumstances, the Court held that the State could not totally exclude from Page U.
Other rules determining property rights Page U. Absent a specific constitutional guarantee, it is for that legislature, Page U. In short, we conclude that, in the circumstances presented in this case, there is nothing in the vague generalities of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses Page U. II The rationality and constitutionality of Louisiana's treatment of the illegitimate child can only be analyzed against the background of a proper understanding of that State's law. Rather, the Court simply asserts that "the power to make rules to establish, protect, and strengthen family life, as well as to regulate the disposition of property left in Louisiana by a man dying there, is committed by the Constitution of the United States and the people of Louisiana to the legislature of that State.
The conclusion the Court appears to draw from its itemization of other discriminations among a deceased's Page U. And numerous other cases in this Court establish the general proposition that discriminations that "merely" disadvantage a class of persons or businesses are as subject to Page U.
It is also important not to obscure the fact that the formality of marriage primarily signifies a relationship Page U. Precisely this point was made approvingly by Chancellor Kent, relied upon by my Brother HARLAN, early in the 19th century: "This relaxation in the laws of so many of the states, of the severity of the common law [discrimination Page U.
The Louisiana court Page U. Such denial could encourage marriage only if fathers generally desire to leave their property to their illegitimate children; otherwise, disinheritance Page U. Moreover, Louisiana is the only State in the country that denies illegitimate children rights of inheritance from the mother equal to those of Page U. It is certainly unusual in this country for a person to be legally disadvantaged on the basis of factors over which Page U.
Article of the Louisiana Civil Code specifies the "just causes" for which disinherison is permitted: "The just causes for which parents may disinherit their children are ten in number, to-wit: " "1. If the child has been guilty, towards a parent, of cruelty, of a crime or grievous injury.
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If the child has attempted to take the life of either parent. If the child has refused sustenance to a parent, having means to afford it. If the child has neglected to take care of a parent become insane. If the child refused to ransom them when detained in captivity. If the child used any act of violence or coercion to hinder a parent from making a will. If the son or daughter, being a minor, marries without the consent of his or her parents. The authority cited by the concurrence for this proposition describes early 19th century American law on the subject as follows: "The mother, or reputed father, is generally in this country chargeable by law with the maintenance of the bastard child; and, in New York, it is in such way as any two justices of the peace of the county shall think meet; and the goods, chattels, and real estate of the parents are seizable for the support of such children, if the parents have absconded.
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