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Derr to be remembered at celebration memorial tonight

Allen Derr, the Boise attorney who won a landmark case in the U.S. Supreme Court to halt systemic discrimination against women and who left a legacy for Idaho journalists of standing up for openness in government, will be remembered tonight at a celebration memorial at the Barber Park Event Center, from 7-9:30 p.m. Allen died June 10 at the age of 85; you can read his obituary here

The longtime Idaho Press Club director, who earned both journalism and law degrees from the University of Idaho, asked that donations in his memory go to his favorite program at the University Of Idaho College Of Law, the Pro Bono Program, P.O. Box 442321, Moscow, ID 83844-2321. From his obituary: “He believed with all of his heart that more young people studying law needed to understand that it isn’t always about making money; sometimes you just have to do the right thing for the sake of justice and your client.”

Allen Derr dies at 85

Allen Derr, an Idaho lawyer who won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling to bolster anti-discrimination protections for women, died today in Boise; he was 85.

On Nov. 22, 1971, the Supreme Court justices issued their Reed vs. Reed decision, holding states cannot discriminate against people because of their gender. It marked a departure from the era when courts often excluded women from full participation in important civil affairs. His client, Sally Reed, a woman challenging her estranged husband over which of them should be appointed to oversee their son's estate following his suicide, was fighting to overturn an Idaho courts' decision based on an 1864 Idaho law: If more than one person claimed to be equally entitled to be trustee, “males must be preferred to females.” The decision in Reed vs. Reed has been celebrated in the 2001 book by historians Alan Brinkley and James McPherson, “Days of Destiny,” as among a handful of uncelebrated events that nonetheless changed the course of history.

Derr was a founding member of the Idaho Press Club and longtime member of its board of directors; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Boise attorney Allen Derr honored for landmark gender-equity case

Marking the 40th anniversary of the landmark “Reed vs. Reed” case, Boise attorney Allen Derr is being honored both in Idaho and in Washington, D.C. Derr, 83, who still practices law, represented Sally Reed of Boise when she sought control over her son's estate rather than yield that to her abusive ex-husband, despite an Idaho law declaring males to be favored over females in such proceedings. Derr pressed the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled the Idaho law unconstitutional under the equal protection clause; joining him in the case at the Supreme Court was then-attorney, now-Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Last week, Derr was a guest at a panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. along with Ginsburg. Next week, Derr will be honored by the University of Idaho College of Law, from which he graduated in 1959, with a reception Nov. 30 at the Idaho Water Center, 322 E. Front St., Ste. 590, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.; RSVP to Eric White at 364-4560 or emwhite@uidaho.edu.

The National Women's Law Center calls Reed vs. Reed “a landmark decision,” and says it opened the door for successful challenge of numerous other discriminatory laws under the equal protection clause. In Reed vs. Reed, the high court's unanimous decision called the Idaho law in question “the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” You can read more about the case here, and click below for a report from AP reporter John Miller.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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