"Equal Justice Under Law" is carved in the architrave over the entrance to the Supreme Court. A majority of the court's justices have now changed that, in effect, to "Equal Justice Under Law for Those Who Can Afford Court Fees."
The court changed its rules to forbid "frivolous" indigents from availing themselves of the traditional right to petition for review of a lower court order without paying a docketing fee. "Frivolous filings . . . calculated to disrupt the orderly consideration of cases" will not be accepted by the clerk of the court, the court said in an unsigned order by its six conservative members.
In the particular case, there was no agreement that the petitioner was in fact acting frivolously or attempting to disrupt.
The court majority said he was responsible for 32 "pauper's filings" in the past three terms of the Supreme Court. But as Justice Thurgood Marshall said for himself and Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens in dissent, only four of those were of the type the court was concerned about and banned.