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Louisiana - In Forma Pauperis--When You Can't Afford Court Costs

Louisiana - In Forma Pauperis--When You Can't Afford Court Costs

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Published by: ForeclosureGate.org Library on Apr 01, 2011
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LawHelp.Org/LA is Administered by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
 
LawHelp/LA Home Page>Housing>Evictions Print Close Larger Text
 
In Forma Pauperis--When You Can't AffordCourt Costs
by: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services
Q.
What if I can't afford to pay court costs?
 
A.
You usually have to pay a fee to the clerk of court to file a civil lawsuit. You oftenhave to pay a fee to file other important papers with the court.There are exceptions. Here are two: it is free to file for a protective orderagainst domestic violence and it is free to file a petition for judicial review if youare denied unemployment compensation benefits.If a court clerk tries to charge you a fee for one of these lawsuits, ask to speakwith a supervisor. There is more information below.For most other lawsuits, you must pay a filing fee unless you can show the courtthat you are too poor to pay the fee. This is called filing "
in forma pauperis
."Some of the major laws about in forma pauperis are in the Louisiana Code of CivilProcedure, at articles 5181 - 5188.Depending on your situation, the court may let you file in forma pauperis insteadof paying your court fees in advance.Keep reading for more information, plus a link to the in forma pauperisapplication form posted on the website for the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Q.
How can I tell if I might qualify for in forma pauperis?
 
A.
Louisiana law has some general guidelines about who should qualify for in formapauperis. The cout has to look into your situation and decide if you qualify, andthe law says that your opponent or the clerk of court can challenge your requestto file or proceed in forma pauperis.The law about who qualifies for in forma pauperis is in the Louisiana Code of CivilProcedure at article 5183 (B). That law says you get a "rebuttable presumption"that you qualify if you give the court "supporting documentation" to show thecourt one or both of these two things:
that you receive "public assistance benefits;"
your income is less than or equal to 125% of the "federal poverty level."
If you have papers to show you get publicassistance (SSI, welfare, food stamps, etc.) orto show your income is less than 125% of thefederal poverty level, it is important to attachcopies of those papers to the in forma pauperisapplication.
 For 2011 the
yearly
figures that amount to 125% of the federal poverty level areroughly:
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By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (NewOrleans office)
more...
Page 1 of 6LawHelp State Frequently Asked Questions3/31/2011http://www.lawhelp.org/LA/showdocument.cfm/County/%20/City/%20/demoMode/=%20...
 
 
2011 Poverty Guidelines
L
EGAL
S
ERVICES
C
ORPORATION
2011 I
NCOME
G
UIDELINES
*
 
* The figures in this table represent
125%
of the poverty guidelines by household size as determined by theDepartment of Health and Human Services.
 
Size of household 48 Contiguous States and the District ofColumbia1 ...................................................................................................................................... $13,6132 ...................................................................................................................................... 18,3883 ...................................................................................................................................... 23,1634 ...................................................................................................................................... 27,9385 ...................................................................................................................................... 32,7136 ...................................................................................................................................... 37,4887 ...................................................................................................................................... 42,2638 ...................................................................................................................................... 47,038For each additional member of the household in excess of 8, add: .............................. 4,775Mar<:33 Jan 28, 2011 Jkt 223001 PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700E:\FR\FM\31JAR1.SGM1 oDSK8KYBLC1PROD with RULES
 Source: Federal Register: January 31, 2011 (Volume 76, Number 20. Financial help from friends or relatives who have no duty to support you does notcount toward your income.
Hollier v. Broussard
, 220 So. 2d 175, 177 (La. App. 3dCir. 1969);
State in Interest of Garrison,
242 So.2d 110, 111 (La. App. 4th Cir.1970).
Links:
 2011 Federal Register Notice -- Poverty Guidelines
Q.
How do I ask the court for
in form a pauperis 
status?
 
A.
You must apply to the court to ask for a court order letting you go ahead and fileyour case in forma pauperis.You also have to apply for in forma pauperis to get an order to let you file othercourt papers without paying fees in advance. For example, you need to pay or getan in forma pauperis order if the clerk charges fees to file an answer a lawsuit orto file papers about some other legal proceeding or court action.For the clerk to file your papers with the court, you have to have either thesigned court order letting you file in forma pauperis or the money to pay the filingfees. Make sure you have the in forma pauperis order or you have paid thefees before any deadline.When you ask the court for an in forma pauperis order, you must submit theform, which has two affidavits. One part of the form is your affidavit where youswear that you can't afford to pay court costs in advance. Another part of theform is an affidavit from your witness, often a relative or friend, who is over 18and who knows enough about your money situation to swear that he or shebelieves that you cannot pay court costs in advance.Generally, you should use the
in forma pauperis
affidavit form posted on thewebsite of the Louisiana Supreme Court for all state district courts.Click here toget a copy of the form posted on the website of the Louisiana Supreme Court. You can also look at Appendix 8 to the Louisiana District Court Rules onwww.lasc.org.You can also get an in forma pauperis application form at one of your localcourts. Some clerk's offices have their own in forma pauperis forms they preferto use.
 
Page 2 of 6LawHelp State Frequently Asked Questions3/31/2011http://www.lawhelp.org/LA/showdocument.cfm/County/%20/City/%20/demoMode/=%20...
 
If you are on public assistance or have income less than 125% of the federalpoverty level, attach papers to your in forma pauperis application that explainthis to the court. These extra papers could be things like your public assistanceaward letter or a pay stub. You should black out your Social Security Numberon wage stubs or public assistance papers or other documents that you attach toyour in forma pauperis application.The added papers you attach to your in forma pauperis application help show thecourt that there is a legal presumption that you qualify for in forma pauperis.If you are involved in a case that is already going on, you can apply at any laterstage of the case if you then become unable to pay the court costs.
Bates v.Dept. of Culture,
694 So. 2d 294 (La. App. 1st Cir. 1996). You should applybefore the costs are due from you.
Q.
Can I qualify for
in form a pauperis 
if my income is above 125% of thefederal poverty level?
 
A.
Even if your income is more than 125% of poverty, you may qualify for
in formapauperis.
The court that gets your in forma pauperis application is supposed to look atwhether you really can pay court fees and costs in advance.The Louisiana Supreme Court said this when finding that a person did not have toget rid of a modest home and its furniture to come up with the money for courtcosts: "the courts have taken a realistic view as to the litigant's actual ability toadvance or secure court costs out of net income available for that purpose, afterpayment of reasonable living expenses and debts, and in view of unencumbered[no mortgages or liens] property other than a modest family residence."
Benjamin v. National Super Markets, Inc.
, 351 So. 2d 138, 140 (La. 1977).
Q.
Who decides my application for in forma pauperis?
 
A.
Generally, the court will review your
in forma pauperis
application and enter anorder either granting or denying it.
Q.
What if the court says no and denies my in forma pauperis application?
 
A.
You may apply to the correct appellate court for "supervisory writs" to try to getthat higher court to overturn the trial court's denial of your in forma pauperisapplication.The appellate court must consider your supervisory writ application on an
informa pauperis
denial without asking you to pay a filing fee.
Riebow v. Riebow
,705 So.2d 1086 (La. 1998).A writ application should be filed quickly. In cases involving district or city courts,a supervisory writ application must be filed by the earlier of the deadline set bythe trial court or 30 days after the date of the court's ruling. Be sure to file within30 days of the court's first ruling to be on the safe side.
Q.
What costs are covered if the court says yes to my in forma pauperisapplication?
A.
Virtually all costs. For example, the fees of the clerk, sheriff, court reporter,witness fees, jury costs and costs of a devolutive appeal and supervisory writs arecovered by law.
See
Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure, Article 5185(A).In a Louisiana state court lawsuit,
in forma pauperis
status will not entitle you toa suspensive appeal without a bond or an interlocutory injunction which requiresa bond.
Page 3 of 6LawHelp State Frequently Asked Questions3/31/2011http://www.lawhelp.org/LA/showdocument.cfm/County/%20/City/%20/demoMode/=%20...

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