Kirchberg v. Feenstra
United States Supreme Court
450 U.S. 455 (1981)
Joan Feenstra (defendant) filed a criminal complaint against her husband, Harold Feenstra, for allegedly molesting their minor daughter. While incarcerated on the charge, Harold retained attorney Karl Kirchberg (plaintiff) for representation. In exchange for Kirchberg’s legal services, Harold signed a $3,000 promissory note in favor of Kirchberg. Harold then executed a mortgage in favor of Kirchberg, using the home jointly owned by Harold and Joan as security on the note. A Louisiana statute, known as the head-and-master rule, allowed Karl, as the husband, to manage jointly held real property without Joan’s knowledge or consent. Joan was unaware of the mortgage, which was signed solely by Harold. Joan later dropped the criminal charge against Harold, but the Feenstras did not reunite. Harold moved out of the home, and the Feenstras separated. Harold failed to pay the $3,000 owed to Kirchberg, and after Joan learned of the promissory note’s existence, she also refused to pay. Consequently, Kirchberg obtained an order directing the local sheriff to seize and sell the Feenstras’ home. Kirchberg then filed suit in federal district court, seeking a declaratory judgment against Joan that he was not required to disclose to her the existence of the mortgage that he held on her home. Joan counterclaimed, asserting that Kirchberg was required to make that disclosure and that the Louisiana statute establishing the head-and-master rule, was unconstitutional. The State of Louisiana and its governor were joined as third-party defendants on the constitutionality claim. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Joan appealed. The court of appeals reversed and held that the head-and-master rule violated the Equal Protection Clause. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 173,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,000 briefs, keyed to 188 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.