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What if I cannot afford the $400.00 fee for filing a new complaint?

If you cannot afford the filing fee, you may ask the court to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”).  This term refers to one’s inability to pay the fees for filing and serving a complaint. On the court's self representation forms page there are two forms for filing a motion to proceed in forma pauperis: one for prisoners and one for non-prisoners.  These forms include instructions that will help you give the presiding judge the information he or she needs to decide whether you can afford the fee and other costs that may be involved in the litigation.  You can find out more information about filing IFP by reading 28 U.S.C. § 1915. 

  • Non-Prisoners: If you are not a prisoner and you are unable to pay the filing fee, you must file an application to proceed in district court without prepaying fees or costs.  If the court finds that you cannot afford to pay the filing fee and grants your IFP application, you will not be required to pay the filing fee in order to proceed with your lawsuit and the court may waive other costs. If the court denies your IFP application, you will be required to pay the $400.00 filing fee.
     
  • Prisoners: If you are a prisoner and you are unable to pay the full filing fee at the time of filing, you must submit a motion to proceed in forma pauperis AND a certified copy of your inmate trust fund account statement (or institutional equivalent) for the six-month period immediately before you file the lawsuit; you may obtain this from the trust account office at each prison at which you have been confined during the six-month period. If the court determines that you are unable to pay the full filing fee at the time of filing, you will be granted IFP status.  Prisoners are still required to pay the full amount of the filing fee in installments even if granted IFP status.

Prisoners’ filing fees are collected through the following installment plan:

  • First, the court will assess and collect an initial partial filing fee;
  • After payment of the initial partial filing fee, you will be required to make monthly payments of 20% of the preceding month’s income credited to your account.