Reed v. Reed


In 1971, Idaho maintained a law that stated that the administrators of estates should be male by preference.  Petitioner was a female and sued, seeking an equal right to the administrator-ship.  Under the law, the father of a deceased child automatically becomes the administrator with no consideration of who the child lived or was primarily raised by.  At trial the law was upheld.


Whether a state statute that prefers men to women in the administration of estates violates the equal protection clause.


Yes, the law is unconstitutional.  The court applied a standard referred to as “intermediate scrutiny.”  This standard requires that a law can discriminate based on gender as long as the statute is reasonable and has some “fair and substantial” relation to the goals of the legislation.  The court was told by the state that the goal of the legislation was to give automatic preference to men simply to avoid any sort of hearing as to who should be the estate’s administrator.  The court found that this is plainly discriminator and entirely arbitrary.  The equal protection clause was designed to invalidate arbitrary discrimination and the law is not in any way narrowly tailored so as to avoid discrimination of minority groups.  It’s tailoring is as broad as can be possibly construed.

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