Why Do the Poor Not Have a Constitutional Right to File Civil Claims in Courts Under Their First Amendment Right to Petition the Government for Redress of Grievances?
16 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2021
Date Written: January 18, 2021
Since 1963, the United States Supreme Court has recognized the constitutional right of entities and persons to pursue civil legal claims in American courts under the First Amendment right to petition government for redress of grievances. However, in a series of three cases decided by the Supreme Court in the early 1970’s - Boddie v. Connecticut, United States v. Kras and Ortwein v. Schwab - the Court inexplicably declined to address the appellants’ claims that they have a constitutional right to access the courts to seek resolution of their civil legal claims. In each of these three cases, the indigent appellants had been initially denied the right to pursue their civil legal claims because they could not afford to pay the applicable civil filing fees. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decisions in these three cases, some poor persons in America can constitutionally be denied access to American courts to pursue their civil legal claims if they cannot afford to pay the court filing fees.
The author contends that all Americans, including the poor, have a constitutional right under the first Amendment right to petition government to seek redress of grievances, including the right to file civil legal claims in courts. Like the right to vote, the exercise of this First Amendment right should not be limited by a person’s financial inability to pay a government fee. When this First Amendment right is made available to all Americans regardless of their ability to pay court filing fees, then the poor will be able to access the judicial branches of government to seek redress of their grievances.
Keywords: Constitutional Law, First Amendment
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation