Rivera v. Minnich

LOCATION: Oglala Sioux Tribe

DOCKET NO.: 86-98
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

CITATION: 483 US 574 (1987)
ARGUED: Mar 25, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1987

Mary Louise Barton - on behalf of the Appellee
William Watt Campbell - on behalf of the Appellant

Facts of the case


Media for Rivera v. Minnich

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 25, 1987 in Rivera v. Minnich

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments next in No. 86-98, Gregory L. Rivera versus Jean Marie Minnich.

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

William Watt Campbell:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, the issue in this case is whether a man can be determined to be the father of an illegitimate child with the associated stigma and impact on himself and his family by the same quality of proof as is used in the ordinary civil case.

The paternity case is not like an ordinary civil case about money, as my opponents would have you believe.

A paternity case is not like a collection case or a slip and fall case.

If you look at the effects of the judgment entered and the parties involved, you will see the difference.

First of all, this judgment is enforced by jail.

This is not a judgment which is enforced just against the debtor's property, but it is enforced against him.

Once the order is entered, the court monitors his address and his employment for the remainder of the effect of that order.

There is a wage attachment provision, and this is a provision that does not exist in any other civil judgments in Pennsylvania.

Week to week, paycheck to paycheck, the effect of this judgment is felt.

There is no relief in bankruptcy.

The defendant loses the freedom to change his employment based on a court's perception of his earning capacity.

He can't go from a salaried position to self-employment.

He can't bankrupt out of this judgment, but none of these deal with the most important effect of this judgment.

This judgment makes a permanent decision as to who is the father of this child.

The parties involved... I will get back to that.

The parties involved are entirely different.

Plaintiff's interest, as my opponents concede, is purely economic, getting money.

But the child has what has been termed in Little versus Streeter as a compelling interest in the accuracy of the determination and so does the defendant.

The government weighs in heavily on the side of the plaintiff in every support and paternity case, not just the welfare cases, as here, but through the 4D program, this plaintiff and all plaintiffs in support actions have been afforded postponed and reduced filing fees, streamlined pleading systems, subsidized costs of prosecution, and there are two examples in this case which are of particular interest.

In this case the government provided the plaintiff with an attorney and the government flew in the blood test expert for the trial at no cost to the plaintiff.

William H. Rehnquist:

What do the four D's stand for, Mr. Campbell?

William Watt Campbell:

Chief Justice Rehnquist, the 4D program is the popular name for the provision of the Social Security Act through which the Federal Government funds the child support enforcement programs in the 50 states.

William H. Rehnquist:

Oh, it refers to a section of the statute?

William Watt Campbell:

It is a title of the statute, Chief Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

It is not like 4R?

William Watt Campbell:


No, sir.

And finally, with reference to the difference in the nature of the parties in a civil action, the child, who is the one who is supposed to be the beneficiary of the money, and the one who bears the effect of the decision of paternity, is not even a party.