TRIMBLE v. GORDON

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
75-5952
Appellee 
Gordon
Appellant 
Trimble
Tags
Term:
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.

Question 

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

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Trimble, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that Section 12 was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Applying the "rational relationship" test under the Clause, the Court emphasized that such a standard was not a "toothless" one. The Court then rejected the argument "that a State may attempt to influence the actions of men and women by imposing sanctions on the children born of their illegitimate relationships." The Court also noted that it was likely that Trimble would have inherited a substantial part of Gordon's estate had he written a will before his death.

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TRIMBLE v. GORDON. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 17 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1976/1976_75_5952>.
TRIMBLE v. GORDON, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1976/1976_75_5952 (last visited November 17, 2014).
"TRIMBLE v. GORDON," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 17, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1976/1976_75_5952.