Proceedings in Forma Pauperis

In forma pauperis is the appeal that comes before the court from litigants who cannot afford to pay court costs are known as in forma pauperis petitions.  In forma pauperis proceedings are available in federal and state level.  When a party is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis, the U.S. Supreme Court can dispense with the requirement of printing the jurisdictional statement and also a motion to print record at public expense and to dispense with payment of clerks’ fees

In forma pauperis is allowed for an appeal as a whole and not for any particular claims.  A person who is allowed to proceed in forma pauperis is relieved from paying certain fees such as docket fee, fee for transcript, fee for certification and copying, and fee for issuance of process and certificates.  There are certain procedures followed by a person who wishes to file in forma pauperis.  S/he must file a motion for leave to proceed, with affidavit or declaration in accordance with the federal statute in the prescribed form.[i] The affidavit must be made by the person himself/herself and not by his/her attorney.

When the required papers are presented to the clerk, it will be placed on the docket without the payment of any docket or other fees.  Every paper or document presented must be clearly legible.  The clerk can refuse to take any document that does not comply with the Supreme Court rules, or when the documents appears to be jurisdictionally out of time.[ii]

The person who proceeds with in forma pauperis has to respond in the same time and manner as in any other case of similar nature.  S/he can challenge the grounds for motion in a separate document.[iii] Whenever the court appoints counsel for an indigent party, the briefs on the merits submitted by that counsel will be prepared under the supervision of the clerk.  The clerk will also reimburse appointed counsel for any necessary travel expenses [iv]

If certiorari is granted, probable jurisdiction noted, or postponed, then the court can appoint a counsel to represent a party who is financially unable to afford an attorney to the extent authorized by the Criminal Justice Act of 1964, or by any other applicable federal statute.[v] However, the court can deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis if it finds that a petition or a writ of certiorari, jurisdictional statement, or petition for an extraordinary writ is frivolous or malicious in nature.

[i] USCS Supreme Ct R 39

[ii] Id

[iii] USCS Supreme Ct R 39.5

[iv] USCS Supreme Ct R 39.6

[v] USCS Supreme Ct R 39.7


Inside Proceedings in Forma Pauperis