Little v. Streater

LOCATION: 1980 Democratic National Convention, Madison Square Garden

DOCKET NO.: 79-6779
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 452 US 1 (1981)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 01, 1981

Jon C. Blue - on behalf of the Appellant
Stephen J. McGovern - on behalf of the Appellee

Facts of the case


Media for Little v. Streater

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1981 in Little v. Streater

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Little v. Streater.

Mr. Blue, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Jon C. Blue:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

From time to time in the history of our country technological innovations have played a decisive role in the formation of constitutional doctrine.

This is a paternity case in which an indigent defendant was denied access to a blood grouping test that conclusively exonerates more than 90 percent of all falsely accused putative fathers.

A Connecticut statute categorically restricts access to this test to those defendants able to purchase it in advance of trial.

Potter Stewart:

In your statement of facts... and I was troubled in reading the brief too... I thought in a negative way, if it exonerated putative fathers, it exonerated them 100 percent.

Jon C. Blue:

It exonerates 90 percent of innocent putative fathers 100 percent of the time.

In other words, if you have 100 accused putative fathers, none of whom are the actual fathers.

The blood test, standard blood test available everywhere, will conclusively show that 91 or 93, depending on the race, of those men are not the father.

With the other seven to nine percent, the test will simply be inconclusive.

Potter Stewart:

Well, I had thought that... maybe the technology has gone beyond my previous knowledge... but I had thought that if you showed that the putative, the accused father had blood of a type different from the child, that he could not be the father.

Jon C. Blue:

That is exactly correct.

Potter Stewart:

It's just impossible for him to be the father.

Jon C. Blue:

And when the blood test--

Potter Stewart:

But if he had the same, it didn't prove that he was or wasn't.

Jon C. Blue:

--That is exactly correct.

The capability of medical science is simply that it will prove that exclusion to approximately 91 or 93 percent.

Potter Stewart:

Well, I thought it was 100 percent.

Jon C. Blue:

No, it is not.

It is approximately 91 to 93 percent, but with those innocent defendants, there is no doubt, it is 100.

The proof with those defendants rises to 100 percent.

But the others are simply inconclusive.

Potter Stewart:

In any event, it's conceded, without getting into the details--

Jon C. Blue:

Certainly, in fact--

Potter Stewart:

--That it's very probative and useful evidence in this kind of case.

Jon C. Blue:

--Oh, absolutely, and the State does not--

Potter Stewart:

Not question this; right.

Jon C. Blue:

--question this in its own brief.