LOCATION: Haag Hall at University of Missouri – Kansas City
DOCKET NO.: 80-6298
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court
CITATION: 456 US 91 (1982)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 1982
DECIDED: Apr 05, 1982
Lola L. Bonner - for appellee
Michael E. Mankins -
Facts of the case
Media for Mills v. HabluetzelAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 12, 1982 in Mills v. Habluetzel
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 05, 1982 in Mills v. Habluetzel
William J. Brennan, Jr.:
The opinion for the Court in 80-6298, Mills v. Habluetzel will be announced by Justice Rehnquist.
William H. Rehnquist:
Several years ago, on the case ofd Gomez against Perez, we held that once a State posits a judicially enforceable right of children to receive support payments from their natural fathers, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the state from denying that same right to illegitimate children.
After our decision in Gomez, taxes granted to illegitimate children, their right to support from their natural fathers but provided that the suit to enforce that right must be brought within the first year of the child's life.
Suits initiated after the child was one-year-old were barred by a statute of limitations.
This case arose when appellant sued in Texas on behalf of her illegitimate child to obtain support from the child's natural father.
The Texas Court held that the suit was barred because the child was more than one-year-old at the time the suit was brought.
When appellant challenged the one year limitation is unconstitutional, the Texas Court of Civil Appeals held that it did not violate the Equal Protection Clause because it was designed to effectuate the State's legitimate interest in preventing the prosecution of stale or fraudulent claims.
Because the one year limitation is so short that it effectively denies illegitimate children the right to obtain support from their natural fathers and because there is little or no evidence of paternity that would be lost during the child's first year of life, we hold that the one year limitation is not substantially related to the State's interest in the avoidance of stale or fraudulent claim and therefore that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Texas Court of Civil Appeals.
Justice O'Connor has filed a concurring opinion which is joined by the Chief Justice, Justice Brennan, and Justice Blackmun.
Part I of which is joined by Justice Powell.
Justice Powell has filed a statement concurring in the judgment.
William J. Brennan, Jr.:
Thank you Justice Rehnquist.