Thursday, November 14, 2013

Boddie v. Connecticut case brief

Boddie v. Connecticut case brief summary
401 U.S. 371 (1971)

Appellants sought review of a judgment from the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, which held that a State could limit access to its divorce courts by the requirement of a filing fee or other fees, which effectively barred appellants from commencing actions therein.

Appellants, welfare recipients residing in Connecticut, brought an action challenging requirements for payment of court fees and costs for service of process that restricted their access to the courts in an effort to bring an action for divorce. There was no dispute as to the inability of appellants to pay the court fees or costs. The district court found that a state could limit access by the requirement of fees, even when they effectively barred appellants from commencing actions therein. Appellants sought review.


  • The Supreme Court concluded that, given the basic position of the marriage relationship in this society's hierarchy of values and the concomitant state monopolization of the means for legally dissolving this relationship, due process did prohibit a state from denying, solely because of inability to pay, access to its courts to individuals who sought judicial dissolution of their marriages. 
  • Thus, the Court held that a state could not, consistent with the obligations imposed on it by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, pre-empt the right to dissolve this legal relationship without affording all citizens access to the means it had prescribed for doing so.
The Court reversed the judgment of the district court.

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