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Amdt14.S1.5.8.1 Parental and Children's Rights and Due Process

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Supreme Court has applied the Due Process Clause to require certain procedural protections in cases involving parental rights. In a case arising from a state proceeding to terminate the parental rights of an indigent without providing her counsel, the Court recognized the parent’s interest as “an extremely important one.” 1 However, the Court also noted the state’s strong interest in protecting the welfare of children. Thus, as the interest in correct fact-finding was strong on both sides, the proceeding was relatively simple, no features were present raising a risk of criminal liability, no expert witnesses were present, and no “specially troublesome” substantive or procedural issues had been raised, the litigant did not have a right to appointed counsel.2 In other due process cases involving parental rights, the Court has held that due process requires special state attention to parental rights.3

Lassiter v. Department of Social Services of Durham County, N.C., 452 U.S. 18, 31 (1981). back
452 U.S. at 32. back
See, e.g., Little v. Streater, 452 U.S. 1 (1981) (indigent entitled to state-funded blood testing in a state-mandated paternity action); Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982) (imposition of higher standard of proof in case involving state termination of parental rights). back