Reed v. Reed
Decided on Nov. 22, 1971; 404 US 71


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Equal protection, discrimination

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does the mandatory preference given to males over females, in the Idaho Code regulating the administration of estate, constitute a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Richard Lynn Reed, a minor, died intestate in Ada County, Idaho, on March 29, 1967. His adoptive parents, who had separated sometime prior to his death, are the parties to this appeal. Approximately seven months after Richard's death, his mother, appellant Sally Reed, filed a petition in the Probate Court of Ada County, seeking appointment as administratrix of her son's estate. Prior to the date set for a hearing on the mother's petition, appellee Cecil Reed, the father of the decedent, filed a competing petition seeking to have himself appointed administrator of the son's estate.

The probate court held a joint hearing on the two petitions and thereafter ordered that letters of administration be issued to appellee Cecil Reed upon his taking the oath and filing the bond required by law. The court treated 15-312 and 15-314 of the Idaho Code as the controlling statutes and read those sections as compelling a preference for Cecil Reed because he was a male."

Sally Reed appealed the order of the probate court to the District Court. The District Court held that the section violated the Equal Protection Clause and returned the matter to the Probate Court. Cecil Reed appealed the District Court order to the Idaho Supreme Court which sided with the Probate Court.

On appeal the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Idaho Supreme Court.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Brief of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by J. Lee Rankin and Norman Redlich for the City of New York; by Martha W. Griffiths, Phineas Indritz, Leo Kanowitz, Marguerite Rawalt, Sylvia Roberts, and Faith Seidenberg for American Veterans Committee, Inc., et al.; and by Birch Bayh for the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc.

Allen R. Derr argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs were Melvin L. Wulf, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Pauli Murray, and Dorothy Kenyon.

Charles S. Stout argued the cause for appellee. With him on the brief was Myron E. Anderson.


IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Section 15-314 is restricted in its operation to those situations where competing applications for letters of administration have been filed by both male and female members of the same entitlement class established by 15-312. In such situations, 15-314 provides that different treatment be accorded to the applicants on the basis of their sex; it thus establishes a classification subject to scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause."

"Having examined the record and considered the briefs and oral arguments of the parties, we have concluded that the arbitrary preference established in favor of males by 15-314 of the Idaho Code cannot stand in the face of the Fourteenth Amendment's command that no State deny the equal protection of the laws to any person within its jurisdiction."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Idaho Supreme Court.

Justice Vote: 9 Pro vs. 0 Con
  • Burger, W. Pro (Wrote unanimous opinion)
  • Blackman, H. Pro
  • Black, H. Pro
  • Douglas, W. Pro
  • Brennan, W. Pro
  • Stewart, P. Pro
  • White, B. Pro
  • Marshall, T. Pro
  • Harlan, J. Pro
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as counsel of record, urged reversal of the judgment of the Idaho Supreme Court; the US Supreme Court reversed the lower court's ruling in a 9-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.