Constitutional Right of Free Access to the Courts

| Mar 23, 2015 | Constitutional Rights |

Recently the Massachusetts Appeal Court was asked to decide whether the Court may order that the parties engage in and pay for court-directed mediation before either may file any subsequent action in the Probate Court. 

In Ventrice v. Ventrice, the former husband challenged this provision on the grounds that the provision violates his right of free access to the courts under Article 11 of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution.

The court held that the provision was an unconstitutional burden to the parties because it delays an objecting party’s right to file a complaint in our courts, and also because it forces the parties to bear a likely costly expense for court ordered mediation services. In particular, this precondition could discourage or even prevent one of the parties from seeking to modify the divorce judgment if a material change in circumstances or the best interests of the parties’ children so required. 

Article 11 of the Declaration of Rights guarantees each person the right “to obtain right and justice freely, and without being obliged to purchase it; completely, and without any denial; promptly, and without delay; conformably to the laws.”

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