Skip to main content

M. L. B. v. S. L. J. 519 U.S. 102 (1996)

M. L. B. v. S. L. J. 519 U.S. 102 (1996)

A Mississippi trial court terminated M. L. B.'s parental rights to two minor children. When she sought to appeal, the state insisted on advance payment of some $2,300 in fees for preparation of the trial record; because she lacked the money to pay the fees, her appeal was dismissed. The Supreme Court held, 6–3, that conditioning appeal from a trial court termination of parental rights on a parent's ability to pay violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the fourteenth amendment.

Writing for the Court, Justice ruth bader ginsburg recognized that previous decisions had not extended the rule of griffin v. illinois (1957) to guarantee access to the courts in all civil cases. She noted, however, that in cases "involving controls or intrusions on family relationships" the Court had been more receptive to both due process and equal protection claims. Mississippi's policy was not an ordinary refusal to subsidize the exercise of a constitutional right. Here, by analogy to a criminal case, M. L. B. sought "to be spared from the State's devastatingly adverse action." Justice anthony m. kennedy, concurring, would have placed the decision solely on due process grounds.

Dissenting, Justice clarence thomas relied on the argument of the second Justice john marshall harlan in his dissent in Griffin: that due process did not require an appeal, and that equal protection was not violated by a state's failure to make up for an indigent's ability to pay for a service necessary to secure an appeal. Chief Justice william h. rehnquist and Justice antonin scalia joined in this part of the dissent. Thomas, joined only by Scalia, also said he would be inclined to overruleGriffin.

Kenneth L. Karst

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"M. L. B. v. S. L. J. 519 U.S. 102 (1996)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . 18 Apr. 2019 <>.

"M. L. B. v. S. L. J. 519 U.S. 102 (1996)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . (April 18, 2019).

"M. L. B. v. S. L. J. 519 U.S. 102 (1996)." Encyclopedia of the American Constitution. . Retrieved April 18, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.