Levy v. Louisiana, No. 508

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
Citation88 S.Ct. 1509,391 U.S. 68,20 L.Ed.2d 436
Decision Date20 May 1968
Docket NumberNo. 508
PartiesThelma LEVY, etc., Appellant, v. LOUISIANA, etc., et al

391 U.S. 68
88 S.Ct. 1509
20 L.Ed.2d 436
Thelma LEVY, etc., Appellant,

v.

LOUISIANA, etc., et al.

No. 508.
Decided May 20, 1968.
May 20, 1968.
Rehearing Denied Oct. 14, 1968.

See 89 S.Ct. 65.

Norman Dorsen, New York City, for appellant.

William A. Porteous, III, New Orleans, La., for appellees.

Page 69

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant sued on behalf of five illegitimate children to recover, under a Louisiana statute.1 (La.Civ.Code Ann. Art. 2315 (Supp.1967)) for two kinds of damages as a result of the wrongful death of their mother: (1) the damages to them for the loss of their mother;

Page 70

and (2) those based on the survival of a cause of action which the mother had at the time of her death for pain and suffering. Appellees2 are the doctor who treated her and the insurance company.

We assume in the present state of the pleadings that the mother, Louise Levy, gave birth to these five illegitimate children and that they lived with her; that she treated them as a parent would treat any other child; that she worked as a domestic servant to support them, taking them to church every Sunday and enrolling them, at her own expense, in a parochial school. The Louisiana District Court dismissed the suit. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that 'child' in Article 2315 means 'legitimate child,' the denial to illegitimate children of 'the right to recover' being 'based on morals and general welfare because it discourages bringing children into the world out of wedlock.' 192 So.2d 193, 195. The Supreme Court of Louisiana denied certiorari. 250 La. 25, 193 So.2d 530.

The case is here on appeal (28 U.S.C. § 1257(2)); and we noted probable jurisdiction, 389 U.S. 925, 88 S.Ct. 290, 19 l.Ed.2d 276, the statute as construed having been sustained against challenge under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

We start from the premise that illegitimate children are not 'nonpersons.' They are humans, live, and have their being.3 They are clearly 'persons' within the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 4

Page 71

While a State has broad power when it comes to making classifications (Ferguson v. Skrupa, 372 U.S. 726, 732, 83 S.Ct. 1028, 1032, 10 L.Ed.2d 93), it may not draw a line which constitutes an invidious discrimination against a particular class. See Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541—542, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 1113—1114, 86 L.Ed. 1655. Though the test has been variously stated, the end result is whether the line drawn is a rational one. See Morey v. Doud, 354 U.S. 457, 465—466, 77 S.Ct. 1344, 1349—1351, 1 L.Ed.2d 1485.

In applying the Equal Protection Clause to social and economic legistion, we give great latitude to the legislature in makig classifications. Williamson v. Lee Optical, 348 U.S. 483, 489, 75 S.Ct. 461, 465, 99 L.Ed. 563; Morey v. Doud, supra, 354 U.S., at 465—466, 77 S.Ct., at 1349—1351. Even so, would a corporation, which is a 'person,' for certain purposes, within the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause (Pembina Consol. Silver Mining & Milling Co. v. Pennsylvania, 125 U.S. 181, 188, 8 S.Ct. 737, 740, 31 L.Ed. 650) be required to forgo recovery for wrongs done its interests because its incorporators were all bastards? However that might be, we have been extremely sensitive when it comes to basic civil rights (Skinner v. State of Oklahoma, supra, 316 U.S., at 541, 62 S.Ct., at 1113; Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 669—670, 86 S.Ct. 1079, 1082 1083, 16 L.Ed.2d 169) and have not hesitated to strike down an invidious classification even though it had history and...

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532 practice notes
  • Citizens for Equal Protection, Inc. v. Bruning, No. 4:03CV3155.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Nebraska
    • May 12, 2005
    ...(noting that the law has not "refused to recognize those family relationships unlegitimized by a marriage ceremony"); Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68, 71-72, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436 (1968), and Glona v. American Guarantee & Liability Ins. Co., 391 U.S. 73, 75, 88 S.Ct. 1515, 20 L.Ed.2d......
  • Trimble v. Gordon, No. 75-5952
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 26, 1977
    ...61 Ill.2d, at 52, 329 N.E.2d, at 240. The penultimate paragraph of the opinion in Labine distinguishes that case from Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436 (1968),15 because no insurmountable barrier prevented the illegitimate child from sharing in her father's estat......
  • Severance v. Weinberger, Civ. A. No. 1659-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 2, 1973
    ...Later, in Gomez v. Perez, 409 U.S. 535, at 538, 93 S.Ct. 872, at 875, 35 L.Ed.2d 56, 1973, summarizing Weber and Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436 (1968) the Court Under these decisions, a State may not invidiously discriminate against illegitimate children by de......
  • Estate v. Britel, G049161
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 23, 2015
    ...at p. 737, 93 Cal.Rptr. 411.) The Arizmendi court relied on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Levy v. Louisiana (1968) 391 U.S. 68, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436, which held that a Louisiana statute, as interpreted by its highest court, denied equal protection of the law to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
528 cases
  • Citizens for Equal Protection, Inc. v. Bruning, No. 4:03CV3155.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Nebraska
    • May 12, 2005
    ...that the law has not "refused to recognize those family relationships unlegitimized by a marriage ceremony"); Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68, 71-72, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436 (1968), and Glona v. American Guarantee & Liability Ins. Co., 391 U.S. 73, 75, 88 S.Ct. 1515, 20 L......
  • Trimble v. Gordon, No. 75-5952
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 26, 1977
    ...61 Ill.2d, at 52, 329 N.E.2d, at 240. The penultimate paragraph of the opinion in Labine distinguishes that case from Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436 (1968),15 because no insurmountable barrier prevented the illegitimate child from sharing in her father's estat......
  • Severance v. Weinberger, Civ. A. No. 1659-72.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 2, 1973
    ...Later, in Gomez v. Perez, 409 U.S. 535, at 538, 93 S.Ct. 872, at 875, 35 L.Ed.2d 56, 1973, summarizing Weber and Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436 (1968) the Court Under these decisions, a State may not invidiously discriminate against illegitimate children by de......
  • Estate v. Britel, G049161
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 23, 2015
    ...at p. 737, 93 Cal.Rptr. 411.) The Arizmendi court relied on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Levy v. Louisiana (1968) 391 U.S. 68, 88 S.Ct. 1509, 20 L.Ed.2d 436, which held that a Louisiana statute, as interpreted by its highest court, denied equal protection of the law to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Moving Away From a Strict Scrutiny Standard for Affirmative Action
    • United States
    • American Review of Public Administration, The Nbr. 37-2, June 2007
    • June 1, 2007
    ...Review of Higher Education, 21, 279-302.Johnson v. Santa Clara County Transportation Agency, 480 U.S. 616 (1987).Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68 (1968).Keiser, L. R., Wilkins,V. M., Meier, K. J., & Holland, C. A. (2002). Lipstick and logarithms: Gender, institu-tional context, and representa......
  • Civil Liberties Voting Patterns in the Burger Court, 1975-78
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 34-2, June 1981
    • June 1, 1981
    ...(1971), distinguishing Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966); Labine v. Vincent, 401 U.S. 532 (1971), distinguishing Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68 (1968); Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465 (1976), limiting Fay v. Noia, U.S. 391 (1963) and overruling Kaufman v. U.S., 394 U.S. 217 (1969); Hudg......
  • The Future of Family Law
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 383-1, May 1969
    • May 1, 1969
    ...marriage are deemed legitimate even New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. though the marriage of their parents is 43 Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68 See Krause, Bringing the Bastard into the 40 Rheinstein, Challenge and Response in Great Society, 44 TEXAS L. REV. 829 (1966). Family Law, s......

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