Family Law Keyed to Weisberg

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Bradwell v. Illinois

Citation. Bradwell v. Illinois C. G. R. Co., 562 F.2d 561, 1977 U.S. App. LEXIS 11524 (8th Cir. Iowa Sept. 19, 1977)

Brief Fact Summary. Mrs. Myra Bradwell brought suit challenging Illinois denial of her right to practice law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Separate spheres ideology allowed Illinois to prohibit women from practicing law. Women’s admission to the bar is not protected by the Fourteenth Amendment is a matter reserved to the states.

Facts. Mrs. Myra Bradwell was denied an application to practice law in the Illinois Supreme Court. Her petition included the requisite certificate attesting to her good character and qualifications. The United States Supreme Court affirmed.

Issue. Does the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provide that one of the privileges and immunities of women as citizens is to engage in any profession?

Held. The admission to the bar is a matter reserved to the states and Bradwell’s right to practice law is not protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Concurrence. Justice Bradley. The Illinois Supreme Court requires a certificate from the court of some county of his good moral character, and is otherwise left to the discretion of the court. The court found itself bound by two limitations: to promote the proper administration of justice not to admit any class of persons not intended by the legislature to be admitted, even though not expressly excluded by statute.
Historically the right to engage in every profession has not been one of the established fundamental privilege and immunities of the sex. The law has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. The harmony of interests and views that belong to the family institution is repugnant to the idea of a woman adopting a distinct and independent career from her husband.

Historically women had no legal existence, and were incapable of making binding contracts without her husband’s consent. This played heavily in the Supreme Court of Illinois’ decision. The paramount destiny of women is to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother.

Discussion. The purpose of this concurring opinion is to demonstrate a classic statement of separate spheres ideology.