Commencement of Actions

Commencement of Actions.—A state may impose certain conditions on the right to institute litigation. Access to the courts has been denied to persons instituting stockholders' derivative actions unless reasonable security for the costs and fees incurred by the corporation is first tendered.913 But, foreclosure of all access to the courts, through financial barriers and perhaps through other means as well, is subject to federal constitutional scrutiny and must be justified by reference to a state interest of suitable importance. Thus, where a State has monopolized the avenues of settlement of disputes between persons by prescribing judicial resolution, and where the dispute involves a fundamental interest, such as marriage and its dissolution, the State may not deny access to those persons unable to pay its fees.914

913 Cohen v. Beneficial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541 (1949). Nor was the retroactive application of this statutory requirement to actions pending at the time of its adoption violative of due process as long as no new liability for expenses incurred before enactment was imposed thereby and the only effect thereof was to stay such proceedings until the security was furnished.

914 Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371 (1971). See also Little v. Streater, 452 U.S. 1 (1981) (state-mandated paternity suit); Lassiter v. Department of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18 (1981) (parental status termination proceeding); Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982) (permanent termination of parental custody).

In older cases, not questioned by the more recent ones, it was held that a State, as the price of opening its tribunals to a non-resident plaintiff, may exact the condition that the nonresident stand ready to answer all cross actions filed and accept any in personam judgments obtained by a resident defendant through service of process or appropriate pleading upon the plaintiff's attorney of record.915 For similar reasons, a requirement of the performance of a chemical analysis as a condition precedent to a suit to recover for damages resulting to crops from allegedly deficient fertilizers, while allowing other evidence, is not deemed to be arbitrary or unreasonable.916

Amendment of pleadings is largely within the discretion of the trial court, and unless a gross abuse of discretion is shown, there is no ground for reversal. Accordingly, where the defense sought to be interposed is without merit, a claim that due process would be denied by rendition of a foreclosure decree without leave to file a supplementary answer is utterly without foundation.917

915 Young Co. v. McNeal-Edwards Co., 283 U.S. 398 (1931); Adam v. Saenger, 303 U.S. 59 (1938).

916 Jones v. Union Guano Co., 264 U.S. 171 (1924).

917 Sawyer v. Piper, 189 U.S. 154 (1903).

Pages: 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56