Michael H. v. Gerald D. Case Brief

Summary of Michael H v. Gerald D., 491 U.S. 110 (1989)

Facts: 1978, two years after GD and CD were married, CD began an adulterous affair w/ MH. Three years later she gave birth to V. Blood tests shoed MH was the biological father. CD and V had lived between both GD and MH, and another man for three years. When visits were denied by CD in 1982, MH filed an action in CA to establish paternity. 1983 CD filed summary, but she returned to MH and removed the motion. 1984 CD and MH signed stipulation that MH was V’s natural father, but 2 mos later CD left to live with GD in NY and the stip was not filed. MH sought visitation on his and V’s behalf. GD intervened.

Issue(s): Whether the relationship btwn MH and V has been treated as a protected family unit under our society’s historic practices, or if it deserves protection under any other basis?

Holding: Impossible. Historic traditions have refused to acknowledge parental rights to those like MH. It is a question of legislative policy and NOT Const’l law if Calif. will allow the presumed parent desiring to retain the child conceived in and born into that marriage, to be rebutted.

Procedure: GD summary granted b/c no triable issues under statute and found GD and CD were cohabitating and married at time of conception and birth. So’L had expired for MH to challenge paternity. MH denied visitation pending appeal b/c was not in “best interest of child." CA Ct App Affirmed; CA S.Ct denied discretionary review. U.S.S.Ct Affirmed.

Rule(s): DP affords only those protections so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked fundamental. Synder v. Mass., 291 U.S. 97, 105 (1934).

Rationale: First, what MH seeks and what he was denied. Seek legal recognition as a dual father, without which he is denied all parental rights, including visitation. MH Procedural DP A: fail b/c the conclusive presumption provision denies someone a hearing, and therefore it is not the adequacy of the procedures, but the adequacy of the “fit" involving the classification and the policy that classification serves–it is a substantive claim.

A liberty interest exists in our traditions by way of biological fatherhood, but our traditions have protected the marital family against the claims of those similarly situated like MH. Presumption of legitimacy was a fundamental principle of the CL, rebuttable only w/ proof the husband was incapable or had no access to his wife. BoP is on MH to assert parental rights where th efather has established a relationship. Assuming arguendo MH could prove he possesses a parental right deeply embedded in tradition, (Standing to challenge), MH must show that our country has afforded such individuals parental rights, or at least not denied them. MH Fails. VD’s DP right to maintain a filial relationship with MH is weaker and fails for the same reason.

DISSENT: Plurality classified the case as a Subst.D.P case B4 it considered the nature of the interest at stake, and they failed to recognize that the defect in a conclusive presumption is a procedural one. State must provide a hearing to terminate MH and V’s relationship before the Court can claim the case is not a procedural matter.

MH’s A: 1) Procedural DP prevent the state from terminating liberty interest of MH in his child w/o affording him an opportunity to demonstrate paternity in a evidentiary hearing.

The matter falls under Sub.DP b/c MH established a parental relationship w/ V, and protection of GD and CD’s marriage is an insufficient state interest to support termination of that relationship.

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