Securing Access to Justice for Children
Civil courts are uniquely important to children as democratic citizens. Because children are restricted from many core forms of democratic participation, courts provide a rare forum for children to voice their perspectives and concerns, seek redress for harms, and vindicate their legal rights. Yet, courts also are uniquely inaccessible to many child litigants.
Several age-based procedural barriers restrict children’s access to the courts. Because these barriers impose substantial financial costs, they can operate as an absolute bar to claims by low and moderate-income children. Federal courts bear a special obligation to protect child litigants within civil litigation. Yet, rather than help children surmount procedural barriers, courts frequently dismiss children’s claims altogether, communicating implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, that children are better served by not pursuing justice.
This Article explores the special importance of court access for children themselves and for the democratic system. It examines the doctrinal and philosophical foundations of the procedural barriers that exclude children’s claims. And it proposes specific reforms to eliminate these barriers and facilitate access to civil justice for all children
Published in Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review, Issue 2, Fall 2022, pages 615-656.