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Department of Mental Hygiene v. Kirchner, 380 U.S. 194 (1965)

Department of Mental Hygiene of California v. Kirchner

No. 111

Argued January 19, 1965

Decided March 8, 1965

380 U.S. 194


Petitioner sued the administratrix of the estate of a deceased daughter of an adjudged incompetent for the cost of support furnished the incompetent in a state mental institution, and recovered a judgment which was reversed by the Supreme Court of California. That court found that the state statute creating support liability "violates the basic constitutional guaranty of equal protection of the law. . . ."

Held: since the California court did not specify whether its holding was based on the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution or the equivalent provision of the state constitution, or both, this Court cannot be certain that the judgment below was not based on an adequate and independent nonfederal ground. In light of the doubt as to this Court's jurisdiction, the judgment is vacated and the case remanded. Pp. 380 U. S. 195-201.

60 Cal. 2d 716, 381 P.2d 720, judgment vacated and case remanded.

Page 380 U. S. 195

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