335 U.S. 331 (1948), 1, Adkins v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 1, Misc.
Citation:335 U.S. 331, 69 S.Ct. 85, 93 L.Ed. 43
Party Name:Adkins v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Inc.
Case Date:November 22, 1948
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 331

335 U.S. 331 (1948)

69 S.Ct. 85, 93 L.Ed. 43



E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Inc.

No. 1, Misc.

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 22, 1948

Argued October 18, 1948




1. Under the Act of July 20, 1892, 27 Stat. 252, as amended, 28 U.S.C. (1946 ed.) § 832 et seq. (now 28 U.S.C. § 1915), and Rule 75(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal court is not without power to protect the public from having to pay heavy costs incident to the inclusion of unnecessary matters in the record in an in forma pauperis appeal. P. 337.

(a) It may deny leave to appeal in forma pauperis if the applicant wrongfully persists in including in the record on appeal masses of matter plainly irrelevant to the issues raised on appeal. P. 337.

(b) Under Rule 75(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it may save the costs of printing by providing for a typewritten record. P. 337.

2. On a motion in a federal district court to allow an appeal in forma pauperis, claimants filed affidavits estimating that the cost of printing the record would be $4,000 and stating that each of them was unable to pay or give security for the costs.

Held: the court was justified in looking further to see if the costs really should have been $4,000, and, if not, in requiring affidavits made with an appreciation of the lesser amount of expense. Pp. 338-339.

3. On a motion in a federal court for leave to appeal in forma pauperis, an affidavit is sufficient which states that affiant cannot, because of poverty, "pay or give security for costs . . . and still be able to provide" himself and dependents "with the necessities of life." One need not be absolutely destitute to enjoy the benefit of the in forma pauperis statute. Pp. 339-340.

4. In a suit in a federal district court, one of several claimants cannot be denied a right of appeal in forma pauperis merely because other claimants will neither give security for costs nor sign an affidavit of poverty. P. 340.

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5. Counsel employed on a contingent fee basis to represent a poor plaintiff in a federal district court need not file affidavits showing that they are unable on account of poverty to pay or give security for costs in order for their client to be allowed to appeal in forma pauperis. Pp. 340-344

In a suit for overtime, pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Executive Order No. 9240, as amended, the District Court and the Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Plaintiff petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari and moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. On June 1, 1948, this Court entered an order assigning the motion for argument on October 18, 1948, and stating that it desired

to hear argument upon the questions presented by the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, including the question as to the validity of a contingent fee agreement in connection with a suit brought pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

This Court now grants certiorari (p. 336), vacates the orders denying appeal in forma pauperis, and remands the case to the District Court. P. 344.

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BLACK, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The questions presented chiefly involve the scope and application of the statute which authorizes a citizen to prosecute or defend actions in federal courts

without being required to prepay fees or costs or for the printing of the record in the appellate court . . . 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 or of such writ of error or appeal, or to give security for the same. . . .1

This action was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma by P. V. Adkins. Mr. Adkins died while the litigation was pending, and his wife, having been appointed administratrix of his estate, was substituted as plaintiff. The original complaint claimed overtime compensation, damages and attorneys' fees on behalf of Mr. Adkins and twelve other employees of the respondent2

under and pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (Title 29, U.S.C. Secs. 201-219) and Executive Order #9240 as amended (Title 40 U.S.C. following Sec. 326). . . .3

From a dismissal of her complaint in the District Court and the denial by that court of her motion to set the dismissal aside and grant a new trial, petitioner filed in the District Court a motion to appeal to the United States

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Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. She also filed a motion that the appeal be allowed in forma pauperis. Her affidavit in support of this motion stated that petitioner was a widow 74 years of age; the estimated costs of the appeal record would be approximately $4,000; all she had was a home, inherited from her husband, appraised at $3,450; her only source of income was rent from parts of her home, and, without such income, she would not be able to purchase the necessities of life. No objection appears to have been filed to her motion to appeal in forma pauperis, but the motion was denied by the court. Apparently, denial was for two reasons: (1) she could not proceed in forma pauperis where there were twelve other claimants involved who had no affidavits of poverty; (2) the court assumed that petitioner's [69 S.Ct. 87] lawyers were employed on a contingent fee basis, and was of opinion that she therefore could not appeal in forma pauperis unless the lawyers either prepaid the costs, gave security for costs, or filed an affidavit of their poverty along with petitioner and all other claimants.

Petitioner then filed an application for appeal in forma pauperis in the United States Court of Appeals. This application was denied. The denial, so the record indicates, was on the ground that, to appeal in forma pauperis, Mrs. Adkins, the twelve employees, and all the members of the law firm representing her would have to make affidavits of poverty.

Petitioner then went back to the District Court. Ten of the twelve employees filed affidavits, in each of which this statement appeared:

. . . because of my poverty, I am unable to pay or give security for the costs ($4,000) of such appeal and still be able to provide myself and my dependents with the necessities of life.

An affidavit with identical language was filed by one member of the firm of lawyers representing petitioner. The affidavit

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also stated that the firm's interest in all fees from this litigation had been assigned to affiant. No affidavit of poverty were filed by the other members of the firm. An affidavit was filed for the firm, however, stating a belief that the claims were meritorious, that appeal costs had been estimated at about $4,000, and that the total liquid assets of the firm did not exceed $2,000. One of...

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