Michael H. v. Gerald D.

491 U.S. 110, 109 S. Ct. 2333 (1989)



The term "liberty" in the Due Process Clause extends beyond freedom from physical restraint. 


In May 1981, appellant Victoria D. was born to Carole D., who was married to, and resided with, appellee Gerald D. in California. Although Gerald was listed as father on the birth certificate and had always claimed Victoria as his daughter, blood tests showed a 98.07% probability that appellant Michael H., with whom Carole had had an adulterous affair, was Victoria's father. During Victoria's first three years, she and her mother resided at times with Michael, who held her out as his own, at times with another man, and at times with Gerald, with whom they had lived since June 1984. In November 1982, Michael filed a filiation action in California Superior Court to establish his paternity and right to visitation. Victoria, through her court-appointed guardian ad litem, filed a cross-complaint asserting that she was entitled to maintain filial relationships with both Michael and Gerald. The court ultimately granted Gerald summary judgment on the ground that there were no triable issues of fact as to paternity under Cal. Evid. Code § 621, which provided that a child born to a married woman living with her husband, who is neither impotent nor sterile, is presumed to be a child of the marriage, and that this presumption could be rebutted only by the husband or wife, and then only in limited circumstances. The California Court of Appeal, Second District, affirmed, holding that the conclusive presumption statute did not violate the rights of the putative father or the child under the due process clause of the Federal Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment.


Did the conclusive presumption statute violate the rights of the putative father or the child under the due process clause of the Federal Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment?




The United States Supreme Court agreed that the conclusive presumption statute did not infringe on the due process rights of the putative father or the child, or on the child's equal protection rights. According to the Court, Michael did not have a liberty interest traditionally protected by society that would give rise to substantive due process rights, and Victoria's due process claim failed for the same reason.

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