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Pre-PLRA (Prison Litigation Reform Act) Survey Reflects Courts' Experiences With Assessing Partial Filing Fees in In Forma Pauperis Cases

NCJ Number
FJC (Federal Judicial Center) Directions Issue: 9 Dated: (June 1996) Pages: 25-32
M Cordisco
Date Published
8 pages
This article presents the findings from a survey of courts' experiences with assessing partial filing fees for in forma pauperis cases, prior to enactment of the Federal Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) on April 26, 1996.
Under the PLRA, an inmate who wishes to proceed in forma pauperis is required to submit an affidavit that states all of his/her assets, along with a copy of his/her trust fund account, and must pay the full filing fee. For prisoners with insufficient funds to pay the full fee, the act contains a formula for payment of the filing fee in installments. Even before the 1996 legislation mandated payment of filing fees by prisoners, about half the district courts had adopted rules or established informal policies that provided for partial payment of filing fees by inmates who wished to proceed under section 1915 of 28 U.S. Code. A survey was conducted by the Federal Judicial Center prior to the enactment of the PLRA (1994) to determine the experiences of the 47 districts (half of all Federal district courts) that required partial filing fees in some form. The table of survey findings shows the local rule or standing order that governed the imposition of partial fees for each circuit or the informal policy to impose partial fees. In 21 of the districts, local rules or orders established a variety of procedures and formulas for assessing partial filing fees. An additional 26 districts reported informal policies that allowed assessment of partial filing fees, almost always on an ad hoc basis, with the amount left to the judge's discretion after reviewing the petitioner's financial affidavit. Also discussed are reasons cited by some districts for discontinuing or abandoning efforts to adopt partial filing fee plans. The districts with formal plans for assessing partial filing fees reported the most satisfaction. 7 notes


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