Stanley v. Illinois, 405 US 645 - Supreme Court 1972 - Google Scholar.pdf

Stanley v. Illinois, 405 US 645 - Supreme Court 1972 - Google Scholar.pdf

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405 U.S. 645 (1972) STANLEY v. ILLINOIS. No. 70-5014. Argued October 19, 1971. Decided April 3, 1972. CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS. Supreme Court of United States. *646 Patrick T. Murphy argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioner. 646 Morton E. Friedman, Assistant Attorney General of Illinois, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were William J. Scott, Attorney General, and Joel M. Flaum, First Assistant Attorney General. Jonathan Weiss and E. Judson Jennings filed a brief for the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law as amicus curiae urging reversal. Calvin Sawyier and Richard L. Mandel filed a brief for the Child Care Association of Illinois, Inc., as amicus curiae. MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court. Joan Stanley lived with Peter Stanley intermittently for 18 years, during which time they had three children. [1] When Joan Stanley died, Peter Stanley lost not only her but also his children. Under Illinois law, the children of unwed fathers become wards of the State upon the death of the mother. Accordingly, upon Joan Stanley's death, in a dependency proceeding instituted by the State of Illinois, Stanley's children [2] were declared wards of the State and placed with court-appointed guardians. Stanley appealed, claiming that he had never been shown to be an unfit parent and that since married fathers and unwed mothers could not be deprived of their children without such a showing, he had been deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed him by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Illinois Supreme Court accepted the fact that Stanley's own unfitness had not been established but rejected the equal protection claim, holding that Stanley could properly be separated from his children upon proof of the single fact that he and the dead mother *647 had not been married. Stanley's actual fitness as a father was irrelevant. In re Stanley, 45 Ill. 2d 132, 256 N. E. 2d 814 (1970). 647 Stanley presses his equal protection claim here. The State continues to respond that unwed fathers are presumed unfit to raise their children and that it is unnecessary to hold individualized hearings to determine whether particular fathers are in fact unfit parents before they are separated from their children. We granted certiorari, 400 U. S. 1020 (1971), to determine whether this method of procedure by presumption could be allowed to stand in light of the fact that Illinois allows married fathers—whether divorced, widowed, or separated —and mothers—even if unwed—the benefit of the presumption that they are fit to raise their children.
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I At the outset we reject any suggestion that we need not consider the propriety of the dependency proceeding that separated the Stanleys because Stanley might be able to regain custody of his children as a guardian or through adoption proceedings. The suggestion is that if Stanley has been treated differently from other parents, the difference is immaterial and not legally cognizable for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. This Court has not, however, embraced the general proposition that a wrong
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