CLARK v. JETER

Print this Page
Case Basics
Docket No. 
87-5565
Petitioner 
Clark
Respondent 
Jeter
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

A Pennsylvania law required illegitimate children to prove paternity before seeking support from their fathers. The statute of limitations on suits seeking to establish paternity was six years from the birth of the illegitimate child. However, the state allowed legitimate children to seek support from their parents at any time. Cherlyn Clark sought child support from Gene Jeter, whom she claimed was the father of her daughter, Tiffany. Blood tests indicated that there was a 99.3% probability that Jeter indeed was Tiffany's father. A state court dismissed Clark's suit because it was initiated after the statute of limitations had expired.

Question 

Did the Pennsylvania law violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Clark, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection

The Court found that the statute violated the Constitution. Citing the test which the Court developed in Mills v. Habluetzel (1982) to evaluate equal protection challenges to statutes of limitations in paternity suits, Justice O'Connor held that the Pennsylvania law did not "provide a reasonable opportunity to assert a claim on behalf of an illegitimate child." Furthermore, since, in some circumstances, Pennsylvania permitted paternity suits involving illegitimate children to be initiated after six years, there was no reason why the law in question was necessary to deter the litigation of "stale or fraudulent claims," a legitimate state interest.

Cite this Page
CLARK v. JETER. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 19 June 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_87_5565>.
CLARK v. JETER, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_87_5565 (last visited June 19, 2014).
"CLARK v. JETER," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 19, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_87_5565.