LOCATION: New Jersey State Legislature
DOCKET NO.: 76-1057
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: District of Columbia Court of Appeals
CITATION: 434 US 59 (1977)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1977
DECIDED: Nov 14, 1977
Carl F. Bauersfeld - for appellees
Floyd Willis, III - for appellants
Leo Pfeffer - for American Jewish Congress as amicus curiae urging affirmance
Paul S. Berger - for American Jewish Congress as amicus curiae urging affirmance
Facts of the case
Media for Key v. DoyleAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1977 in Key v. Doyle
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - November 14, 1977 in Key v. Doyle
Warren E. Burger:
The judgment and opinion of the Court in number 76-1057, Key and others against Doyle will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.
This case was brought here -- this case is brought here on a -- by way of appeal from the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
A woman by the name of Sallye French died in the district of Columbia just 20 days after executing a will, leaving most of her estate to certain churches in the district.
A section of the D.C. Code makes void any devise or bequest to a religious institution made within 30 days of death.
Faced with this provision of the code, the appellee, Michael M. Doyle, asked for instructions in the probate division of the superior court of the district of Columbia.
Both that court and ultimately the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that the law is unconstitutional.
The decedent's heirs and next of kin brought an appeal to this Court under a Section of volume 28 of the United States Code that provides for review by appeal in cases "where is drawn in question the validity of a statute of the United States and the decision is against its validity."
We postponed consideration of the question of our appellate jurisdiction until the hearing of the case on the merits.
For the reasons set out in considerable detail in the court's written opinion filed with the clerk today, we have concluded that a law applicable only in the District of Columbia is not a statute of the United States for purposes of the jurisdictional provision in question.
Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction.
Treating the papers as a petition for writ of certiorari as we are required by law to do, we deny the petition.
Mr. Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion which has been joined by the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Blackmun and Mr. Justice Powell.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you, Mr. Justice Stewart.