Power of the States to Regulate Procedure

Generally.—As long as a party has been given sufficient notice and an opportunity to defend his interest, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not generally mandate the particular forms of procedure to be used in state courts.908 The States may regulate the manner in which rights may be enforced and wrongs remedied,909 and may create courts and endow them with such jurisdiction as, in the judgment of their legislatures, seems appropriate.910 Whether legislative action in such matters is deemed to be wise or proves efficient, whether it works a particular hardship on a particular litigant, or perpetuates or supplants ancient forms of procedure, are issues which ordinarily do not implicate the Fourteenth Amendment. The function of the Fourteenth Amendment is negative rather than affirmative911 and in no way obligates the States to adopt specific measures of reform.912

908 Holmes v. Conway, 241 U.S. 624, 631 (1916); Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Schmidt, 177 U.S. 230, 236 (1900). A State "is free to regulate procedure of its courts in accordance with it own conception of policy and fairness unless in so doing it offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental." Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105 (1934); West v. Louisiana, 194 U.S. 258, 263 (1904); Chicago, B. & Q. R.R. v. Chicago, 166 U.S. 226 (1897); Jordan v. Massachusetts, 225 U.S. 167, 176, (1912). The power of a State to determine the limits of the jurisdiction of its courts and the character of the controversies which shall be heard in them and to deny access to its courts is also subject to restrictions imposed by the contract, full faith and credit, and privileges and immunities clauses of the Constitution. Angel v. Bullington, 330 U.S. 183 (1947).

909 Insurance Co. v. Glidden Co., 284 U.S. 151, 158 (1931); Iowa Central Ry. v. Iowa, 160 U.S. 389, 393 (1896): Honeyman v. Hanan, 302 U.S. 375 (1937). See also Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56 (1972).

910 Cincinnati Street Ry. v. Snell, 193 U.S. 30, 36 (1904).

911 Some recent decisions, however, have imposed some restrictions on state procedures that require substantial reorientation of process. While this is more generally true in the context of criminal cases, in which the appellate process and post-conviction remedial process have been subject to considerable revision in the treatment of indigents, some requirements have also been imposed in civil cases. Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371 (1971); Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56, 74-79 (1972); Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982). Review has, however, been restrained with regard to details. See, e.g., Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. at 64-69.

912 Ownbey v. Morgan, 256 U.S. 94, 112 (1921). Thus the Fourteenth Amendment does not constrain the States to accept modern doctrines of equity, or adopt a combined system of law and equity procedure, or dispense with all necessity for form and method in pleading, or give untrammelled liberty to amend pleadings. Note that the Supreme Court did once grant review to determine whether due process required the States to provide some form of post-conviction remedy to assert federal constitutional violations, a review which was mooted when the State enacted such a process. Case v. Nebraska, 381 U.S. 336 (1965). When a State, however, through its legal system exerts a monopoly over the pacific settlement of private disputes, as with the dissolution of marriage, due process may well impose affirmative obligations on that State. Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 374-77 (1971).

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