Attocknie v. Udall - Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)
In Attocknie v. Udall, 261 F.Supp. 876, 882 (W.D.Okla.1966), rev'd on jurisdictional grounds, 390 F.2d 636 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 833, 89 S.Ct. 104, 21 L.Ed.2d 104 (1968), a Comanche Indian stated in his will, "I leave nothing to Willis Attocknie because he is not my son."
Although the Secretary of the Interior found that Willis was the illegitimate son of the testator, he nonetheless approved the will against claims that Attocknie was insanely deluded into believing that Willis was not his son.
In upholding the Secretary, the federal district court found no authority for application of a rule that would find an insane delusion simply on the basis of the incongruity of the language of the will and actual evidence of paternity. 261 F.Supp. at 881. "Proof of a change of attitude toward paternity is not ... evidence of an insane delusion. Further, it is equally absurd to suggest that the inconsistency between the language in the will and the original findings of fact tends to prove an 'insane delusion.' " Id. at 882.
The court then focused on the disputed evidence as to paternity and stressed that it could not determine that Attocknie truly had a false belief that Willis was not his son.
Although upholding the Secretary's findings as to paternity under a substantial evidence standard, the court concluded that the paternity findings could be false or, even if true, not shared by the testator.
Heavy emphasis was placed on the fact that where the child is illegitimate, some rational doubt as to paternity may linger.