U.S. Supreme Court
Bradford v. Southern Ry. Co., 195 U.S. 243 (1904)
Bradford v. Southern Railway Company
Submitted October 19, 1904
Decided November 28, 1904
195 U.S. 243
The Act of July 20, 1892, providing when a plaintiff may sue as a poor
person, does not apply to appellate proceedings.
Federal appellate courts have no power to permit prosecutions in forma pauperis in the absence of a statute.
This case is brought here on the following certificate:
"This was an action of tort. The plaintiff was a citizen of Tennessee, and the defendant a corporation organized under the laws of Virginia. The jurisdiction of the court below was wholly dependent upon diversity of citizenship. There was a jury and verdict against the plaintiff in error, and a judgment accordingly."
"The plaintiff in error sued out this writ of error, and has lodged with the clerk of this Court, within the time required by law, a full transcript of the record in the court below. The
clerk refusing to docket same unless the plaintiff would deposit with him the sum of $35 as security for taxable costs, as required by Rule 16 of this Court, the plaintiff has filed her petition, duly verified, praying to be allowed to prosecute her writ in forma pauperis, and that the clerk be required to docket said transcript, and that the rule requiring a deposit to cover costs be dispensed with. The petition shows a state of facts which entitle the plaintiff to prosecute her writ of error as a poor person, provided the Act of July 20, 1892, 27 Stat. 252, c. 209, applies to appellate proceedings."
"Because this court has doubts as to whether the act of Congress above mentioned applies to appellate proceedings, it is ordered that the foregoing statement be certified to the Supreme Court, and the instruction of that court be requested for the proper decision of the following questions which arise upon the petition and motion of the plaintiff in error:"
" 1. Does the Act of July 20, 1892, 27 Stat. 252, providing when a plaintiff may sue as a poor person, apply to the prosecution of a writ of error from this Court?"
" 2. If that act of Congress does not apply to appellate proceedings, has this court any authority to permit the prosecution of a writ of error in forma pauperis?"
The Act of July 20, 1892, above referred to, reads:
"An Act Providing When Plaintiff May Sue as a Poor Person and When Counsel Shall Be Assigned by the Court."
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that any citizen of the United States entitled to commence any suit or action in any court of the United States may commence and prosecute to conclusion any such suit or action without being required to prepay fees or costs, or give security therefor before or after bringing suit or action, upon filing in said court a statement under oath, in writing, that, because of his poverty, he is unable to pay the costs of said suit or action which he is about to commence, or to give security for the same, and that he believes he is entitled to the redress he seeks
by such suit or action, and setting forth briefly the nature of his alleged cause of action."
"SEC. 2. That after any such suit or action shall have been brought, or that is now pending, the plaintiff may answer and avoid a demand for fees or security for costs by filing a like affidavit, and willful false swearing in any affidavit provided for in this or the previous section shall be punishable as perjury is in other cases."
"SEC. 3. That the officers of the court shall issue, serve all process, and perform all duties in such cases, and witnesses shall attend as in other cases, and the plaintiff shall have the same remedies as are provided by law in other cases."
"SEC. 4. That the court may request any attorney of the court to represent such poor person, if it deems the cause worthy of a trial, and may dismiss any such cause so brought under this act if it be made to appear that the allegation of poverty is untrue, or if said court be satisfied that the alleged cause of action is frivolous or malicious."
"SEC. 5. That judgment may be rendered for costs at the conclusion of the suit, as in other cases: Provided, That the United States shall not be liable for any of the costs thus incurred. "