Armstrong v. Manzo

LOCATION: Criminal District Court, Parish of New Orleans

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 380 US 545 (1965)
ARGUED: Mar 09, 1965
DECIDED: Apr 27, 1965

Facts of the case


Media for Armstrong v. Manzo

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 09, 1965 in Armstrong v. Manzo

Earl Warren:

Number 149, R. Wright Armstrong, Jr., Petitioner, versus Salvatore E. Manzo.

Ewell Lee Smith, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Court --

Earl Warren:

Mr. Smith.

Ewell Lee Smith, Jr.:

It is a very high professional honor for me to appear before this Court.

I'd like to say at the beginning that I'm fully aware of the importance of the question to the jurisprudence of our country to be decided here today.

I hope I may be of assistance to the Court and that I may do justice to the cause of my client.

This is an adoption case, first to be considered by this Court on adoption validity.

It is important I think because we are mobile people, historically on the move and adoptions have become very numerous.

It is important because it involves domestic law, one of the chief categories of the law since the Code of Hammurabi and before.

There are two points involved and two of them.

First at Section 6 of Article 46a, Texas' revised statutes is constitution because it purports to dispense with the consent of natural parents in an adoption proceeding without any provision for notice.

Secondly, that we have been deprived of due process of the law that the failure of the Texas Courts to give notice to the natural father of a proceeding to adopt his child.

Not only do I appear here in a representative capacity for the bench and the Bar but our petition for a simple, direct, and specific justice.

I shall address myself first to the facts, secondly to the procedural facts, thirdly to the law, and lastly to the possible and actual consequences of harm from this action.

My client was made rather late in life.

He is the natural father of but one child, a girl, the subject of this adoption.

His wife who had been married once before and had mothered and lost the custody of two children by her former husband, divorced him in Fort Worth, Texas in November of 1959 and received custody of his only child subject to the usual rights of reasonable visitation in my client.

At the time of the divorce, my client suffered complete physical and mental breakdown.

He was carried to the hospital by his just divorced wife.

He was not to recover from this condition for over a year.

His former wife had been moved to El Paso, Texas some 550 miles west of Fort Worth and within four months after the divorce, remade for the third time to a Mr. Manzo, a divorced man with three smaller children.

She took with her Molly, age three, the child of my client is subject to this case.

Now my client Mr. Armstrong is a native of Fort Worth, Texas.

He's lived there for over 40 years.

His parents have lived there for many years before him and all are well-known.

Texas has an adoption statute which provides among other things that no child maybe adopted without the consent of his natural parents unless such parent or parents shall have voluntarily abandoned said child for two years and shall have left the child to the care, custody, and control of others, or in the disjunctive, such parent shall not have contributed substantially to the support of such child during such period of two years, commensurate with his financial ability.

It is the second of this that we're concerned with here today.

When he was divorced, my client was ordered to pay $50 a month child support beginning November 16th, 1959.

It is undisputed that he paid as total sum of $200.

This would have carried him from November 16th, 1959 up until March the 16th, 1960, some four months.