Prohibiting Nonaccess Testimony by Spouses: Does Lord Mansfield’s Rule Protect Illegitimates?

Not surprisingly, there has been widespread disagreement concerning the validity of the policies advanced in support of Lord Mansfield’s Rule and the efficacy of the rule to promote those policies. This Note assesses the validity of this rule of evidence in order to determine whether it is the most appropriate method of safeguarding the interests affected by the litigation of legitimacy. First, the historical development and justifications for Lord Mansfield’s Rule are identified, and, in section II, the extent of the current acceptance of the rule in the United States is delineated. Section III analyzes traditional arguments advanced in support of the rule, including the rule’s impact on society’s marital and parent-child role models, the financial obligations of the states, and the legal status and social welfare of the child whose legitimacy is at issue. Various criticisms of the rule are assessed in section IV, and in the final section a proposal for the modification of the evidentiary structure of legitimacy litigation is submitted.