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Zablocki v. Redhail Case Brief

Summary of Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978)

Facts: Redhail, and unmarried high school student was ordered to pay support for his child by WI.  However, from 1972 until 1974 he was unemployed, indigent, and unable to pay.  In Sept 1974 he applied for a marriage license and was denied under WI law for failing to have court permission to marry by showing current on support and the child was “not then” and “not likely thereafter to become public charge.” His prospective spouse was pregnant and expecting in March 1975.

Issue(s): Whether WI statute violates the E.P. and DP rights secured by the 1st, 5th, 9th, and 14th Amendments by denying Redhail the right to marry?

Holding: Since the means selected to achieve the state’s interests unnecessarily burden the right to marry, it is invalid, even though the state’s interests are legitimate. WI law denying a marriage license to anyone with children, unless they provided proof of support, was invalid under equal protection b/c the classification interfered w/ right to marry.

Procedure: Redhail filed class action in fed. district court that held law invalid under the Equal Protection Cl of the 14th and the U.S.S.Ct Affirmed.

Rule(s): 14th Amendment incorp 1st , 5th, and 9th Amendments.

Rationale: First, an inquiry under EPCl begins by determining what burden of justification the classification created must meet. This is accomplished by looking at the nature of the classification and the individual rights affected.

Past decision held the right to marry as a fundamental right.  The classification at issue significantly interferes with the exercise of that right strict scrutiny of the state’s interests advanced in support of the classification apply.

The Right to marry is placed in the same class as decisions to procreate, childbirth, child-rearing, and family relationship. Here, Redhail’s right to procreate means nothing unless he has a right to enter the only relationship that WI allows sexual relations legally to take place. This does not mean every state regulation related to marriage is subject to rigorous scrutiny.  Rbl regs that do not significantly interfere with the decision to enter marriage may legitimately imposed.

WI must support its significant interference by legit state interest, that is closely tailored to accomplish its interests.  Yet, the law does not require or provide counseling, or provide automatic permission to marry by the court, and thus it is not justified as a means for ensuring counseling. The collection device fails against the broad infringement.  Those who are unable to pay, the law bars marriage w/o giving any money to the child, and it makes no provision for inability or willingness to meet the requirements.  WI has other means in place to collect support w/o denying the right to marry, and therefore it can adjust those criterion to achieve its interests.

DISSENT: The statute need only pass Rational Basis Test -EPCl.; and DP rational relation to permissible objective.

WI’s A: 2 interest are served a) permission to marry proceeding give opportunity to counsel applicant on need to fulfil support obligations; and b) the welfare of out-of-custody child is protected. *A: the law protects the ability of marriage applicants to meet support obligation to prior children by preventing them from incurring new support obligations.

Summary of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002)

Facts: After the federal injunction placed Cleveland Dist under state control, OH enacted regulation providing$ assistance to students residing w/i that failed district. Two kinds of assist:  tuition and tutorial.  Parents could elect to remain at public school or seek private schools, and based on the economic need of the family, the state would pay a portion of the cost.  Any private school w/i district could participate, but must agree not to discriminate, advocate or teach hatred of any person or group based on. . .religion.   Public schools can participate and would rec’v $2250 per student in addition to the Amt already rec’v.  IF elect to remain in public w/i district, students are eligible for $360 to $270, based on need, reimbursement toward tutorial assistance.

All public schools did not participate.  Of the 56 private schools, 46 were religiously affiliated.

Issue(s): Whether a state program to provide tuition and tutorial aid to disadvantaged students residing in a district under injunctive control offends the Est Cl b/c it purpose produces an effect of advancing or inhibiting religion?

Holding: No, where Govt Aid program is neutral w/ respecting religion, and provides assist directly to a broad class of people who then direct that Aid to religious schools as a result of a genuine and Indy private choice, the program does not have the effect of advancing religion by the Govt.

Procedure: 1995 Fed ct issued an injunction placing Cleveland Sch Dist under state control b/c it failed to meet the state’s minimum standards.  1999 Respond filed action to enjoin the program and D Ct granted Summary to Respond. Ct of App Affirmed; U.S.S.Ct Reversed.

Rule(s): 1st and 14th Amend.

Rationale: Must first distinguish btwn Govt programs that provide direct aid to sectarian schools and programs of true private choice-where aid reaches religious schools through genuine and Indy choices of private parties.

The program is a program of true private choice.   Perception of endorsement is not the standard, rather would a Rble observer think a neutral program involving private choice, carries with it the official mark of Govt endorsement.  Regardless if 46 out of 56 are religiously affiliated, the question is whether the parents are being coerced to send their children to religious schools.  Here, they are not b/c the option to send them to public schools has the same incentive.

Nyquist does not apply b/c the program was not neutral, and thus Nyquist does not apply to neutral educational assistance programs that offer aid to a broad class of recipients defined w/o regard to religion. OH’s program is completely neutral with respect for religion.

DISSENT: a law that authorized use of public funds to pay for the indoctrination of religious beliefs is a law respecting the establishment of religion. Everson no tax of any Amt can be levied to support any religious activity or institution.

Pl’s A: (Respon) W/o financial incentives for parent to send their kids to religious schools, this program creates a public perception that Govt is endorsing religious practices and beliefs.   Under Nyquist, a school program that funds religion is invalid.



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