In forma pauperis

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In forma pauperis (/ɪn ˈfɔːrmə ˈpɔːpərɪs/; IFP or i.f.p.) is a Latin legal term meaning "in the character or manner of a pauper".[1] It refers to the ability of an indigent person to proceed in court without payment of the usual fees associated with a lawsuit or appeal.[1]

United Kingdom[edit]

IFP was abolished in the United Kingdom in favor of a legal aid approach as part of the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949.[2][3]

United States[edit]

In the United States, the IFP designation is given by both state and federal courts to someone who is without the funds to pursue the normal costs of a lawsuit or a criminal defense.[1] The status is usually granted by a judge without a hearing, and it entitles the person to a waiver of normal costs, and sometimes in criminal cases the appointment of counsel. While court-imposed costs such as filing fees are waived, the litigant is still responsible for other costs incurred in bringing the action such as deposition[citation needed] and witness fees. However, in federal court, a pauper can obtain free service of process through the United States Marshal's Service.[4]

Approximately two-thirds of writ of certiorari petitions to the Supreme Court are filed in forma pauperis.[5][6] Most of those petitioners are prisoners.[5] Statistically, petitions that appear on the Supreme Court's in forma pauperis docket are substantially less likely to be granted review than others on the docket.[7]

Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), is a landmark case in United States Supreme Court history where in forma pauperis was invoked.[8] In forma pauperis is usually granted in connection to pro se petitioners, but the two concepts are separate and distinct.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Black, Henry Campbell; Nolan, Joseph R.; Nolan-Haley, Jacqueline M. (1990). Black's Law Dictionary (6th ed.). West Publishing. p. 779. ISBN 978-0-314-76271-9.
  2. ^ "The implications for access to justice of the Government's proposals to reform legal aid".
  3. ^ L. C. B. G. (1950). "Legal Aid and Advice Act, 1949". The Modern Law Review. 13 (1): 81–87. JSTOR 1090151.
  4. ^ Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 4(c)(3)
  5. ^ a b Wrightsman, Lawrence S. (2006). The Psychology of the Supreme Court. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-19-530604-0.
  6. ^ Stephens, Otis H.; Scheb, John M. (2002). American Constitutional Law. Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN 978-0-534-54570-3.
  7. ^ Thompson, David C.; Wachtell, Melanie F. (2009). "An Empirical Analysis of Supreme Court Certiorari Petition Procedures". George Mason University Law Review. 16 (2): 237, 241. SSRN 1377522.
  8. ^ Lewis, Anthony (1964). Gideon's Trumpet. U.S.: Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-72312-7.

External links[edit]