Legislation Requiring Child To Support Mother in State Asylum Is a Denial of Equal Protection-Department of Mental Hygiene v. Kirchner

The California Department of Mental Hygiene brought suit under section 6650 of the state’s Welfare and Institutions Code, a provision commonly known as a relative support statute, against the administratrix to recover 7,500 dollars from the intestate’s estate. This amount represented the cost of food, housing, and treatment received by intestate’s mother in a state mental hospital during the four years she had been confined there following a civil sanity hearing. Plaintiff was granted judgment on the pleadings. On appeal to the California Supreme Court, held, reversed. Since mental hospitals serve a proper public function, it is a denial of equal protection of the law within the meaning of the fourteenth amendment to burden arbitrarily one class of society, e.g., an incompetent’s children, with a patient’s expenses. Department of Mental Hygiene v. Kirchner, 60 Cal. 2d 716, 388 P.2d 720, cert. granted, 85 Sup. Ct. 39 (1964).