Kirchberg v. Feenstra

LOCATION:White House

DOCKET NO.: 79-1388
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 450 US 455 (1981)
ARGUED: Dec 10, 1980
DECIDED: Mar 23, 1981

Alan F. Schoenberger – on behalf of the Appellant Pro Hoc Vice
Barbara Hausman-Smith – for appellees
Barbara Hausman-Smith – on behalf of the Appellee

Facts of the case


Media for Kirchberg v. Feenstra

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 10, 1980 in Kirchberg v. Feenstra

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 23, 1981 in Kirchberg v. Feenstra

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Kirchberg against Feenstra will be announced by Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

This is case is here on appeal from the Circuit Court of the Fifth Circuit.

In this case, we consider rather a new — and now superseded Louisiana statute which gave the husband a unilateral power to dispose a community property without the knowledge or consent of his wife violated the Equal Protection Clause.

This statute allowed appellee’s husband to execute a mortgage in favor of appellant on the home he jointly owned with appellee.

When the appellant attempted to foreclose on the mortgage and evict the appellee, she brought this challenge to the federal court to the validity of the mortgage and on the ground that it was executed pursuant to a statute that unconstitutionally discriminated on the basis of sex.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the appellee, finding the Louisiana statute unconstitutional and the mortgage invalid.

Appellant then appealed to this Court, the reasons for our decision are more fully set out an opinion filed with the clerk today would suffice it to say that we hold it under our decisions.

When a statute discriminates on the basis of sex, the burden rests on the party defending the statute to show that it’s substantially furthers an important governmental objective.

Because the appellant failed to carry this burden, we affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals with this Fifth Circuit in validating the Louisiana statute and the mortgage executed pursuant to it.

Justice Stewart has filed an opinion concurring in the result in which Justice Rehnquist joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Marshall.