500 U.S. 13
111 S.Ct. 1572
114 L.Ed.2d 15
In re AMENDMENT TO RULE 39. April 29, 1991. djQ PER CURIAM. We are ordering an amendment to this Court's Rule 39 respecting proceedings in forma pauperis. Filings under our paid docket require a not-insubstantial filing fee, currently $300, and compliance with our printing requirements. See Rules 33 and 38. These Rules serve as some disincentive to frivolous paid filings. Furthermore, we have the ability to exercise control over the paid docket under Rule 42.2, which provides for award of "just damages and single or double costs" in the case of a frivolous filing. See Hatch
Reliance Ins. Co., 474 U.S. 1048, 106 S.Ct. 782, 88 L.Ed.2d 761 (1986); Hyde v. Van Wormer, 474 U.S. 992, 106 S.Ct. 403, 88 L.Ed.2d 355 (1985). These controls are not effective with reference to proceedings in forma pauperis. It is vital that the right to file in forma pauperis not be encumbered by those who would abuse the integrity of our process by frivolous filings, particularly those few persons whose filings are repetitive with the obvious effect of burdening the office of the Clerk and other members of the Court staff. In order to preserve meaningful access to this Court's resources, and to ensure the integrity of our processes, we find it necessary and advisable to promulgate this amendment to Rule 39, to provide us some control over frivolous or malicious in forma pau-
peris filings. Sanctions of damages and costs are ineffective to deter such filings as in forma pauperis status is conditioned on an affidavit or declaration that the petitioner is financially unable to pay fees or post security. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and this Court's Rule 39.1. This amendment makes clear that to protect itself from abusive filings the Court may enter orders similar to those entered by the lower federal courts for almost 100 years pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a) and (d), and their predecessors. See Act of July 20, 1892, Ch. 209, § 4, 27 Stat. 252. The Rule applies only to those filings that the Court determines would be denied in any event and permits a disposition of the matter without the Court issuing an order granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Rule 39 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States is amended to add the following: "39.8 If satisfied that a petition for a writ of certiorari, jurisdictional statement, or petition for an extraordinary writ, as the case may be, is frivolous or malicious, the Court may deny a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis." In order to ensure adequate notice to all litigants, the Rule will become effective on July 1, 1991. It is so ordered. djQ Justice MARSHALL, dissenting. This Court's rules now embrace an invidious distinction. Under the amendment adopted today, an indigent litigant may be denied a disposition on the merits of a petition for certiorari, jurisdictional statement, or petition for an extraordinary writ following a determination that the filing "is frivolous or malicious." Strikingly absent from this Court's rules is any similar provision permitting dismissal of "frivolous or malicious" filings by paying litigants, even though paying litigants are a substantial source of these filings.
This Court once had a great tradition: "All men and women are entitled to their day in Court."* That guarantee has now been conditioned on monetary worth. It now will read: "All men and women are entitled to their day in Court only if they have the means and the money." I dissent. djQ Justice STEVENS, with whom Justice BLACKMUN joins, dissenting. In my opinion it is neither necessary nor advisable to promulgate the foregoing amendment to Rule 39. During my years of service on the Court, I have not detected any significant burden on the Court, or threat to the integrity of its processes, caused by the filing of frivolous petitions. It is usually much easier to decide that a petition should be denied than to decide whether or not it is frivolous. Moreover, the cost of administering the amended Rule will probably exceed any tangible administrative saving. Transcending the clerical interest that supports the Rule is the symbolic interest in preserving equal access to the Court for both the rich and the poor. I believe the Court makes a serious mistake when it discounts the importance of that interest. I respectfully dissent. ----------* Our inviolable obligation to treat rich and poor alike is echoed in the oath taken by each Justice prior to assuming office. See, e.g., 389 U.S. ix: "I . . . do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States." (Emphasis added.) In re Demos [111SCt1569,500US16,114LEd2d20] 111 S.Ct. 1569 500 U.S. 16 114 L.Ed.2d 20 In re John Robert DEMOS, Jr. John Robert DEMOS, Jr. v. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR the EASTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON et al. In re John Robert DEMOS, Jr.
Nos. 90-7225, 90-7226 and 90-7296.
April 29, 1991.
Petitioner has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, No. 90-7226, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, No. 90-7225, and a petition for a writ of mandamus, No. 90-7296, all seeking relief from a single order of a lower court, which in turn denied petitioner leave to proceed in forma pauperis and barred petitioner from making further in forma pauperis filings seeking certain extraordinary writs. We deny the petition for a writ of certiorari in No. 90-7226.
Petitioner has made 32 in forma pauperis filings in this Court since the beginning of the October 1988 Term, many of which challenge sanctions imposed by lower courts in response to petitioner's frivolous filings. Petitioner's method of seeking relief here—filing three petitions for relief from a single order of a lower court—could only be calculated to disrupt the orderly consideration of cases. Petitioner has abused the system, and we find it appropriate to deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis to petitioner in these two petitions for extraordinary relief, Nos. 90-7225 and 90-7296, and in all future petitions for extraordinary relief. See In re Sindram, 498 U.S. 177, 111 S.Ct. 596, 112 L.Ed.2d 599 (1991); In re McDonald, 489 U.S. 180, 109 S.Ct. 993, 103 L.Ed.2d 158 (1989).
If petitioner wishes to have one or both of these petitions considered on its merits, he must pay the docketing fee required by Rule 38(a) and submit a petition in compliance with Rule 33 of the Rules of this Court before May 20, 1991. The Clerk is directed not to accept any further petitions from petitioner for extraordinary writs unless he pays the docketing fee required by Rule 38(a) and submits his petition in compliance with Rule 33. Petitioner remains free under the present order to file in forma pauperis requests for relief other than an extraordinary writ, if he qualifies under this Court's Rule 39 and does not similarly abuse that privilege.
It is so ordered.
Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BLACKMUN and Justice STEVENS join, dissenting.
Today, this Court blacklists another indigent pro se litigant. The order issued today, which bars future in forma pauperis filings for extraordinary writs by John Demos and hints that restrictions on other filings by Demos might be forthcoming, marks the third such proscription the Court has initiated in the last two years. See In re Sindram, 498 U.S. 177 (1991); In re McDonald, 489 U.S. 180 (1989). Yet, as in Sindram and McDonald, the Court fails to identify any statute or rule giving it the extraordinary authority to impose a permanent ban on an indigent litigant's in forma pauperis filings. Nor does the Court satisfactorily explain why it has singled out an indigent litigant for having lodged frivolous filings when paying litigants often are guilty of the same sin.
I continue to oppose this Court's unseemly practice of banning in forma pauperis filings by indigent litigants. See In re Sindram, supra, at 181 (MARSHALL, J., dissenting; In re McDonald, supra, at 185 (1989) (Brennan, J., dissenting, joined by MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ.). As I have argued, the Court's assessment of the disruption that an overly energetic litigant like Demos poses to "the orderly consideration of cases," ante, at 17, is greatly exaggerated. See In re Sindram, supra, at 181 (dissenting opinion). The Court is sorely mistaken if it believes that the solution to the problem of a crowded docket is to crack down on a litigant like Demos.
Two years ago, Justice Brennan sagely warned that in "needlessly depart[ing] from its generous tradition" of leaving its doors open to all classes of litigants, the Court "sets sail on a journey whose landing point is uncertain." In re McDonald, supra, at 188 (dissenting opinion). The journey's ominous destination is becoming apparent. The Court appears resolved to close its doors to increasing numbers of indigent litigants -- and for increasingly less justifiable reasons.* I fear that the Court's action today portends even more Draconian restrictions on the access of indigent litigants to this Court.
In closing its doors today to another indigent litigant, the Court moves ever closer to the day when it leaves an indigent litigant with a meritorious claim out in the cold. And with each barrier that it places in the way of indigent litigants, and with each instance in which it castigates such litigants for having "abused the system," ante, at 17, the court can only reinforce in the hearts and minds of our society's less fortunate members the unsettling message that their pleas are not welcome here.
Indeed, the ban the Court imposes on Demos' in forma pauperis filings for extraordinary writs seems particularly unjustifiable. The Court makes much of the fact that Demos has made 32 in forma pauperis filings since 1988. Yet, according to the records of the Clerk of the Court, only four of those filings have been for extraordinary writs, the sole subject of the ban announced today. It cannot be seriously contended that these four filings in the last three years have so disrupted the orderly administration of this Court's business as to require barring any such future filings. More likely, the Court's ban on Demos' in forma pauperis requests for extraordinary writs is but a poorly disguised penalty for his more numerous petitions for certiorari. See also In re Sindram, 498 U.S. 177, 183 (1991) (BLACKMUN, J., dissenting, joined by MARSHALL, J.) (noting that Court's ban upon petitioner's in forma pauperis filings for extraordinary relief "appears to nothing more than an alternative for punishing [petitioner] for the frequency with which he has filed petitions for certiorari and petitions for rehearing").
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