Trimble v. Gordon

LOCATION: Trimble's Residence

DOCKET NO.: 75-5952
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Illinois

CITATION: 430 US 762 (1977)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1976
DECIDED: Apr 26, 1977

James D. Weill - for appellants
Miles N. Beermann - for appellees

Facts of the case

Section 12 of the Illinois Probate Act, while allowing legitimate children to inherit by intestate succession from either their mothers or fathers, allowed illegitimate children to inherit by intestate succession only from their mothers. Consequently, Deta Trimble, the illegitimate daughter of Sherman Gordon, was unable to inherit her father's estate when he died intestate. After losing her challenge to Section 12 in the Illinois Supreme Court, Trimble appealed to the Supreme Court.


Did Section 12 of the Illinois Probate Act violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for Trimble v. Gordon

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 1976 in Trimble v. Gordon

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 26, 1977 in Trimble v. Gordon

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

The next case, Trimble against Gordon, 75-5952, at issue in this case is the validity of a provision of the Illinois Probate Act, which allows illegitimate children to inherit by intestate succession from their mothers but not from their fathers.

Legitimate children, however, may inherit from both their mothers and fathers.

This suite was instituted by a mother on behalf of her illegitimate child.

The father had supported the child, openly acknowledged her and also, have been found to her father in a paternity order issued by an Illinois Court.

He had not had a marital mother or legally adapted a child.

He died without a will and this suite challenged the validity on equal protection grounds of the statute that prevented the child from inheriting.

The Illinois Supreme Court sustained the validity of the statute, relying primarily on the decision of this Court in Labine against Vincent.

A reason stated in an opinion filed today with the clerk, we reverse the judgment of the Illinois Supreme Court, although, we recognize the relevance of Labine, we think its rationale has been substantially undercut by more recent cases.

The Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Stewart, Mr. Justice Blackmun, and Mr. Justice Rehnquist, have filed dissenting statements.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed a dissenting opinion.