Adkins v. Du Pont De Nemours Co, No. 1

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation69 S.Ct. 85,93 L.Ed. 43,335 U.S. 331
Docket NumberNo. 1
Decision Date22 November 1948
PartiesADKINS v. E. I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS & CO., Inc

335 U.S. 331
69 S.Ct. 85
93 L.Ed. 43
ADKINS

v.

E. I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS & CO., Inc.

No. 1.

Argued on Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis Oct. 18, 1948.

Decided Nov. 22, 1948.

Page 332

Mr. John W. Porter, Jr., of Muskogee, Okl., for petitioner.

Mr. G. C. Spillers, of Tulsa, Okl., for respondent.

[Syllabus from page 332 intentionally omitted]

Page 333

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.A. Secs. 201—219) and Executive Order #9240 as amended (Title 40 U.S.C.A. following Sec. 326 (note)) * * *.'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

Page 334

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 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

Page 335

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 the twelve claimants could not be located and one refused to sign an affidavit of poverty.

The district judge for the second time denied the motion to permit appeal without security for costs. His grounds seem to have been these. Two of the claimants had signed no affidavit of poverty; unless all signed, there could be no in forma pauperis appeal. The affidavits of petitioner, the ten claimants, and the attorneys were held insufficient in that they failed to show the precise financial condition of affiants, 'whether they were or were not without property.' The judge was not sure just what affiants would have to show as to property, but felt that each should prove a complete inability to pay at least a portion of the costs. All interested in the recovery, he thought, including the lawyers, 'have at least got to chip in to the extent of their ability to pay; and whatever they have, they have got to put in the pot for the purpose of taking the appeal.' The judge was 'inclined to believe but not sure' that before Mrs. Adkins could be permitted to appeal in forma pauperis she must mortgage her home and 'chip in' what she received on the mortgage loan. He construed all the affidavits as showing no more than that it would constitute a hardship to pay or give security for the payment of $4,000 to make the record. This statement as to 'hardship' he thought did not meet the statutory requirement for an affidavit of inability to pay or secure costs due to 'poverty.'

Page 336

Furthermore, the judge thought petitioner had designated more for the record than was needed to decide the dismissal question raised by the appeal. He therefore believed that a $4,000 record was 'wholly unnecessary.' Since the judge believed he was without power directly to limit the contents of the appellate record, he felt 'persuaded to be more technical and more strict' on the type of in forma pauperis affidavits he required.

The Court of Appeals thereafter denied a second motion of petitioner to accept its appeal in forma pauperis. Petitioner then applied to this Court for certiorari to review the actions of the Court of Appeals and of the District Court in denying petitioner leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Petitioner further asked the court for leave to proceed here without giving security for costs. We set the motion down for argument. 68 S.Ct. 1340. The matter has now been submitted on briefs and oral argument. The affidavits of poverty filed to proceed here in forma pauperis are the same as the affidavits filed in the two courts below.

If these affidavits are thought to be insufficient to support her motion, the petitioner urges that we give directions concerning additional requirements. While for our purposes the affidavits would have been more acceptable had they merely followed the language of the statute, our rules have provided no precise requirements. But the only questions presented here relate to the sufficiency of these affidavits in the two courts below. And to reach these questions, which are important, we must either accept the affidavits as sufficient or delay final consideration of the case. We accept the affidavits, grant the petition for certiorari, and the case having been fully argued, we proceed to pass on the questions presented so far as necessary. See Steffler v. United States, 319 U.S. 38, 63 S.Ct. 948, 87 L.Ed. 488.

Page 337

First. We do not think the court was without power to protect the public from having to pay heavy costs incident to the inclusion of 'wholly unnecessary' matters in an in forma pauperis appeal. Sections 1 and 4 of the statutes provide that a court may exercise a limited judicial discretion in the grant or denial of the right and this Court has so held. Kinney v. Plymouth Rock Squab Co., 236 U.S. 43, 45, 35 S.Ct. 236, 237, 238, 59 L.Ed. 457. Rule 75(m) of our present Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A., reads as follows:

'APPEALS IN FORMA PAUPERIS. Upon leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the district court may by order specify some different and more economical manner by which the record on appeal may be prepared and settled, to the end that the appellant may be enabled to present his case to the appellate court.' (329 U.S. 870.)

We know of few more appropriate occasions for use of a court's discretion than one in which a litigant, asking that the public pay costs of his litigation, either carelessly or wilfully and stubbornly endeavors to saddle the public with wholly uncalled-for expense. So here, the court ws not required to grant the petitioner's motion if she wrongfully persisted in including in the appeal record masses of matter plainly irrelevant to the...

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2805 practice notes
  • Dreyer v. Jalet, Civ. A. No. 71-H-973
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • September 18, 1972
    ...to pay costs without undue hardships. Startti v. United States, 415 F.2d 1115 (5th Cir. 1969). In Adkins v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339, 69 S.Ct. 85, 89, 93 L.Ed. 43 (1948), it was stated that a proper showing of poverty, as required by the statute, had been made if "on......
  • Vigil v. Doe, No. CIV 19-0164 JB\JFR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • July 31, 2019
    ...pauperis] was intended for the benefit of those too poor to pay or give security for costs...." Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 344, 69 S.Ct. 85, 93 L.Ed. 43 (1948). While a litigant need not be "absolutely destitute ... [,] an affidavit is sufficient which states that......
  • Bardes v. Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 1:11CV340
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • May 10, 2011
    ...secure the costs.'" Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 953 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 342 (1948)). "Dispensing with filing fees, however, [is] not without its problems. Parties proceeding under the statute d[o] not face the ......
  • Carter v. U.S. Dep't of Def., No. CIV 16-0786 JB/SMV
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • February 28, 2017
    ...was intended for the benefit of those too poor to pay or give security for costs . . . ." Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 344 (1948). While a litigant need not be "absolutely destitute," "an affidavit is sufficient which states that one cannot because of his poverty pa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2797 cases
  • Dreyer v. Jalet, Civ. A. No. 71-H-973
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • September 18, 1972
    ...to pay costs without undue hardships. Startti v. United States, 415 F.2d 1115 (5th Cir. 1969). In Adkins v. E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339, 69 S.Ct. 85, 89, 93 L.Ed. 43 (1948), it was stated that a proper showing of poverty, as required by the statute, had been made if "on......
  • Vigil v. Doe, No. CIV 19-0164 JB\JFR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • July 31, 2019
    ...pauperis] was intended for the benefit of those too poor to pay or give security for costs...." Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 344, 69 S.Ct. 85, 93 L.Ed. 43 (1948). While a litigant need not be "absolutely destitute ... [,] an affidavit is sufficient which states that......
  • Bardes v. Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 1:11CV340
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • May 10, 2011
    ...secure the costs.'" Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 953 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 342 (1948)). "Dispensing with filing fees, however, [is] not without its problems. Parties proceeding under the statute d[o] not face the ......
  • Carter v. U.S. Dep't of Def., No. CIV 16-0786 JB/SMV
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • February 28, 2017
    ...was intended for the benefit of those too poor to pay or give security for costs . . . ." Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 344 (1948). While a litigant need not be "absolutely destitute," "an affidavit is sufficient which states that one cannot because of his poverty pa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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