MICHAEL H. v. GERALD D.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
87-746
Appellant 
Michael H. et al.
Appellee 
Gerald D.
Advocates
(argued the cause for the appellants)
(argued the cause for the appellee)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Gerald D. was the presumptive father of Victoria D. since she was born to his wife Carole D.. However, Carole had an adulterous partner, Michael H., who obtained blood tests indicating that he was likely the biological father. When Michael obtained visitation rights in a California state court, Gerald argued that Michael had no ground under California law to challenge Gerald's paternity since more than two years had passed since Victoria's birth. According to Cal. Evid. Code 621, the child is "presumed to be a child of the marriage" and another man can only challenge this presumption within two years of birth. The court ruled in favor of Gerald and canceled Michael's visitation rights. Michael claimed that Code 621 violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by denying him an opportunity to establish his paternity. A California Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Code 621.

Question 

Does Cal. Evid. Code 621 violate the Due Process Clause by denying a possible biological father the chance to establish his paternity of a child after two years have passed since the child's birth?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Gerald D., 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process

No. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the judgment for a 5-4 court. Based on its analysis of common-law tradition, the plurality opinion found that a possible biological father does not have a fundamental right to obtain parental rights after the presumptive father has exercised significant responsibility over the child. Therefore due process protection does not apply. Code 621 was based on common-law precedent which showed "an aversion to declaring children illegitimate" and supported "the interest in promoting the 'peace and tranquility of States and families.'" Restricting Michael's parental rights achieved this by granting Gerald the sole responsibility to play the role of Victoria's father.

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MICHAEL H. v. GERALD D.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 14 December 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_87_746>.
MICHAEL H. v. GERALD D., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_87_746 (last visited December 14, 2014).
"MICHAEL H. v. GERALD D.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed December 14, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_87_746.