Anderson v. Jacobs, 80-1688

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Citation428 N.E.2d 419,68 Ohio St.2d 67
Docket NumberNo. 80-1688,80-1688
Parties, 22 O.O.3d 268 ANDERSON, Appellee, v. JACOBS, Appellant.
Decision Date18 November 1981

Syllabus by the Court

The denial of blood grouping tests to an indigent paternity defendant, who is unable to prepay for such tests, and who faces the state as an adversary when the complainant-mother and her child are recipients of public assistance, violates the due process guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Little v. Streater, --- U.S. ----, 101 S.Ct. 2202, 68 L.Ed.2d 627, followed.)

On January 18, 1978, appellee, Susan M. Anderson, an unmarried woman, gave birth to a child. In July 1978, appellee filed a complaint, pursuant to R.C. 3111.01, 1 in the Juvenile Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Huron County, alleging that appellant, James A. Jacobs, was the father of her child.

The Huron County Welfare Department (HCWD) required the identification of the putative father and the commencement of paternity proceedings in order for appellee to remain eligible to receive full Aid to Families with Dependent Children (ADC) benefits. 2 Appellee was also required to assign her interest "in and to any and all support payments" to HCWD pursuant to R.C. 5107.07. 3 Throughout these proceedings appellee has been represented by the Huron County Prosecutor's Office, which, by contractual agreement, handles contested paternity cases for HCWD. 4

Appellant denied that he was the child's father. He was unemployed when the instant paternity action was before the trial court, prompting appellant's counsel 5 to file an affidavit of indigency on behalf of appellant. Appellant moved the trial court to order blood grouping tests, pursuant to R.C. 3111.16, 6 and in the same motion requested, based on his claim of indigency, that the court require the county to pay initially for the blood grouping tests, which customarily must be prepaid, and then assess the sums expended as costs to be borne by the unsuccessful party as authorized by R.C. 3111.16.

The trial court denied appellant's motion, finding "no precedent for the Court to pay for blood tests in this jurisdiction." After trial to the court, appellant was adjudged to be the father of appellee's child. The court ordered appellant to make weekly support payments and to pay $810 for birth and medical expenses. The order also imposed poundage to be applied to support arrearages due the HCWD.

Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeals, assigning as error the trial court's refusal to grant his "Motion for Blood Test at Public Expense." The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in a split decision with the majority taking the view that "because the paternity action * * * is a strictly civil proceeding, the defendant has no right to a blood grouping test at public expense." Judge Potter, dissenting, opined that "where a defendant in a paternity action establishes that he is indigent, the court can order the county to initially pay the cost of defendant's blood test and then tax the cost of this blood test as part of the costs of the paternity proceeding."

The Court of Appeals finding its judgment to be in conflict with the determination of the Court of Appeals for Geauga County in Pulford v. Ashba (January 29, 1979), C.A. No. 773, unreported, 7 certified the report of the case to this court for review and final determination.

Richard B. Hauser, Pros. Atty., and Dennis B. Trimboli, Norwalk, for appellee.

John M. Coyne, Cleveland Heights, for appellant.

SWEENEY, Justice.

On June 1, 1981, the United States Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in Little v. Streater (1981), --- U.S. ----, 101 S.Ct. 2202, 68 L.Ed.2d 627. Little involved a constitutional challenge to Connecticut's paternity procedures. The court held that "in these specific circumstances * * * to deny appellant (an indigent paternity defendant) blood grouping tests because of his lack of financial resources violated the due process guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id. at page ----, 101 S.Ct. at page 2211, 68 L.Ed.2d at page 639 (footnote omitted). The question thus arises as to whether Ohio procedures relating to blood grouping tests in paternity actions are sufficiently similar to Connecticut procedures so as to make Little, supra, binding precedent.


The Fourteenth Amendment provides in relevant part: "(N)or shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Appellant argues that the lower courts' refusal to authorize blood grouping tests without prepayment thereof violated his right to due process. Specifically, appellant claims that the courts below denied him "fundamental fairness" and "a meaningful opportunity to be heard." See Boddie v. Connecticut (1971), 401 U.S. 371, 377, 91 S.Ct. 780, 785, 78 L.Ed.2d 113.

The United States Supreme Court analyzed the due process claim in Little with reference to the three-pronged standard enunciated in Mathews v. Eldridge (1976), 424 U.S. 319, at page 335, 96 S.Ct. 893, at page 903, 47 L.Ed.2d 18. 8

" * * * * (I)dentification of the specific dictates of due process generally requires consideration of three distinct factors: First, the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally, the Government's interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail."

Before applying the Eldridge test the court briefly reviewed these three relevant matters: "the unique quality of blood grouping tests as a source of exculpatory evidence, the State's prominent role in the litigation, and the character of paternity actions under Connecticut law." Little, supra, --- U.S. at pages ----, ----, 101 S.Ct. at page 2205, 68 L.Ed.2d at pages 632-633.

With respect to the evidentiary value of blood grouping test results, the Supreme Court, --- U.S. at page ----, 101 S.Ct. at page 2206, 68 L.Ed.2d at page 633, cited the following comment on their widespread acceptance in legal and scientific circles:

" 'As far as the accuracy, reliability, dependability-even infallibility-of the test are concerned, there is no longer any controversy. The result of the test is universally accepted by distinguished scientific and medical authority. There is, in fact, no living authority of repute, medical or legal, who may be cited adversely.... (T)here is now ... practically universal and unanimous judicial willingness to give decisive and controlling evidentiary weight to a blood test exclusion of paternity.' 1 S. Schatkin, Disputed Paternity Proceedings § 9.13 (1975)."

The court also emphasized the state's involvement in the litigation:

" * * * Because appellee's child was a recipient of public assistance, Connecticut law compelled her, upon penalty of fine and imprisonment for contempt, 'to disclose the name of the putative father under oath and to institute an action to establish the paternity of said child.' * * * The State's Attorney General automatically became a party to the action, and any settlement agreement required his approval or that of the Commissioner of Human Resources or Commissioner of Income Maintenance. * * * The State referred this mandatory paternity suit to appellee's lawyer 'for prosecution' and paid his fee as well as all costs of the litigation. * * * In addition, the State will be the recipient of the monthly support payments to be made by appellant pursuant to the trial court's judgment * * *. 'State action' has undeniably pervaded this case." Id. at pages ---- - ----, 101 S.Ct. at page 2207, 68 L.Ed.2d at pages 634-635.

Regarding the character of Connecticut paternity proceedings, the court looked to the " 'quasi-criminal' overtones," as exemplified by the language of the statute (if a putative father "is found guilty") and by the possible imprisonment of adjudged fathers who fail to comply with support orders. Id. at ----, 101 S.Ct. at 2207, 68 L.Ed.2d at 635. The court also discussed an "unusual evidentiary obstacle" facing defendants in Connecticut paternity actions. Under Connecticut law if the complainant mother "continues constant in her accusation, it shall be evidence that the respondent (defendant) is the father of such child." Conn.Gen.Stat. Section 46b-160 (1981). As interpreted by the Connecticut courts this statute "places upon the reputed father the burden of showing his innocence of the charge * * * by other evidence than his own." Mosher v. Bennett (1929), 108 Conn. 671, 674, 144 A. 297. The United States Supreme Court noted that " * * * (i)n substance, the State has created an adverse presumption regarding the defendant's testimony by elevating the weight to be accorded the mother's imputation of him. If the plaintiff has been 'constant' in her accusation of paternity, the defendant carries the burden of proof and faces severe penalties if he does not meet that burden and fails to comply with the judgment entered against him." Little, supra, at page ----, 101 S.Ct. at page 2208, 68 L.Ed.2d at page 636.

Reviewing these matters from an Ohio perspective it first becomes evident that blood grouping tests competently administered in Ohio will provide no less accurate and probative evidence than blood tests performed in Connecticut. The pervasiveness of state involvement in the instant case is comparable to Connecticut's involvement in Little, although there are certain points of distinction in the practices of the respective states. 9

Paternity proceedings in Ohio differ somewhat from Connecticut paternity actions in that an Ohio putative father is not subjected to the conclusive presumption of paternity established by Conn.Gen.Stat. Section 46b-160 (1981). Moreover, Ohio law is less imbued...

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