Getting Abused and Neglected Children into Court: A Child’s Right of Access Under the Petition Clause of the First Amendment

This Note takes a new approach to the protection of children from abuse and neglect. It argues that children have a right of access to courts guaranteed by the First Amendment’s petition clause. This often overlooked portion of the Federal Constitution overcomes modern jurisprudential obstacles which have refused to extend constitutional protection to child victims of abuse and neglect at the hands of private actors, such as their parents. After a survey of current state practices with respect to the initiation and voluntary dismissal of abuse and neglect proceedings, this Note concludes that restrictions on a child’s right of access to courts to begin abuse and neglect proceedings must be judged under strict scrutiny and that recognition of this right should prevent voluntary dismissal of abuse and neglect proceedings.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.