Reed v. Campbell

LOCATION: Nassau County School Board

DOCKET NO.: 85-755
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 476 US 852 (1986)
ARGUED: Apr 30, 1986
DECIDED: Jun 11, 1986

Paul Mc Collum - on behalf of the Appellee
Paul McCollum - for appellee
R. Stephen McNally - for appellant
R. Stephen Mc Nally - on behalf of the Appellant

Facts of the case


Media for Reed v. Campbell

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 30, 1986 in Reed v. Campbell

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. McNally, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

R. Stephen Mc Nally:

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

This is a direct appeal taken from an original probate action in west Texas.

The Appellant was denied inheritance rights from her father on the basis that she was an illegitimate child.

Three questions are presented: first of all, whether this Court's decision in Triable v. Gordon is binding authority where the father died before Trimble was decided and suit was filed afterwards in his open estate; second, whether any sufficient state interest supports enforcement of the naked status of bastardy after the father's death; and third, whether the preference of surviving fathers over surviving mothers is substantially related to any sufficient state interest.

The Appellant in this case is Delynda Ann Ricker Barker Reed.

The Christian names Delynda Ann were chosen for her by her natural father, Prince Ricker, whose surname she had until she was adopted about the time she started elementary school, by Jerry Barker.

The Reed is her married name.

The procedural posture of this case is particularly relevant because we are talking about whether the application of a decision of this Court is defeated by that posture.

This was from an order entered in open probate on which there were five other children of Prince Ricker and the Appellant.

The order excluded the Appellant Delynda from the estate.

The probate of that estate is still going on in open administration in the trial court.

There has never been an order entered declaring who the heirs are to this day.

There has never been an order entered on which any third parties would rely stating who the heirs are.

The probate is still open.

The assets have not been vested by a decree.

In this posture, full precedential authority should be given to the case of Trimble v. Gordon because the statute involved in this case is an insurmountable barrier indistinguishable from the insurmountable barrier struck down in Trimble, and because the estate is still open.

What statute is at issue?

R. Stephen Mc Nally:

Your Honor, the statute at issue regarding inheritance is the 1956 version of Section 42 of the Texas Probate Code.

Section 42 has been amended twice since Prince Ricker Died.

However, under the Texas Constitution, statutes and precedents, it's the statutes which are in effect at the time of his death which determine or under which the passage of title of his estate is determined, and in the case of Lovejoy v. Lillie, the Court looked at this statute, the 1956 version, and struck it down, allowing inheritance to be--

Warren E. Burger:

That was the statute that was in effect when Ricker died?

R. Stephen Mc Nally:


It's the same statute that was in... that passed on in Lovejoy v. Lillie.

And the Texas Supreme Court considered the 1956 statute in Davis v. Jones and admitted that it lacked suitable alternatives to marriage under Trimble.

So there have been at least two state court rulings on this particular 1956 statute as applicable to persons... estates of persons who died before--

And what does Trimble have to do with it?

R. Stephen Mc Nally:

--Your Honor, Trimble... in Trimble this Court struck down the Illinois statute because it made marriage a sine qua non for inheritance by an illegitimate child.

The 1956 statute allowed inheritance only if there had been a marriage between the parents.

There was no other way that the inheritance is allowed under the 1956 statute for an illegitimate child.