Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371 (1971)
Due process requires a state to waive court fees for an indigent person in a divorce case if that is the only way to get a divorce in that state.
An indigent individual named Boddie sought to start a divorce proceeding. The state of Connecticut declined to waive the $45 filing fee and the $15 fee for service of process. Boddie could not file for divorce as a result and claimed that this infringed on due process rights.Opinions
- John Marshall Harlan II (Author)
- Warren Earl Burger
- Potter Stewart
- Byron Raymond White
- Thurgood Marshall
- Harry Andrew Blackmun
The courts are necessary when seeking a divorce in any state, even when both spouses agree to the divorce. The denial of a fee waiver to an indigent person thus can be equated with refusing that person the opportunity to be heard on the right to divorce. The state must show an important countervailing justification to deny this due process right, and the state in this case failed to do that.
- Hugo Lafayette Black (Author)
The precedents on which the majority grounds its reasoning come from the criminal context. Lesser constitutional protections should be accorded to civil matters.
- William Orville Douglas (Author)
- William Joseph Brennan, Jr. (Author)
To waive the court fees, parties must demonstrate that they cannot afford them, not simply that it would be inconvenient or difficult. This very narrow decision applies so far only to divorce.
U.S. Supreme CourtBoddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371 (1971)
Boddie v. Connecticut
Argued December 8, 1969
Reargued November 17, 1970
Decided March 2, 1971
401 U.S. 371
In view of the basic position of the marriage relationship in our society and the state monopolization of the means for dissolving that relationship, due process of law prohibits a State from denying, solely because of inability to pay court fees and costs, access to its courts to indigents who, in good faith, seek judicial dissolution of their marriage. Pp. 401 U. S. 374-383.
286 F. Supp. 968, reversed.
HARLAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 401 U. S. 383. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, post, p. 401 U. S. 386. BLACK, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 401 U. S. 389.