Boddie v. Connecticut 401 U.S. 371 (1971)

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BODDIE v. CONNECTICUT 401 U.S. 371 (1971)

An indigent sought to file for divorce in a state court but was unable to pay the $60 filing fee. The Supreme Court held, 8–1, that the state had unconstitutionally limited the plaintiff's access to the courts. For a majority, Justice john marshall harlan rested decision on a procedural due process theory. The marriage relationship was "basic" in our society, and the state had monopolized the means for legally dissolving the relationship. Justice william o. douglas, concurring, would have rested decision on an equal protection theory.

Two subsequent 5–4 decisions, United States v. Kras (1971) and Ortwein v. Schwab (1971), made clear that Boddie had not implied a general right of access in all civil cases. Boddie 's due process approach, rather than equal protection, has guided the Court's subsequent dealings with wealth discrimination in the civil litigation process.

Kenneth L. Karst
(1986)