SCOTUS grants a "Motion for reconsideration of order denying leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed by petitioner"

The IFP motion cited Magna Carta. And the Court grants the motion on June 15.


Another post on Monday's fascinating orders list. (My previous posts here, here, and here).

In October 2019, pro se petitioner Deshay Ford filed a petition for a writ of certiorari and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP). On January 13, 2020, the Court denied leave to proceed IFP:

The motion of petitioner for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is denied. Petitioner is allowed until February 3, 2020, within which to pay the docketing fee required by Rule 38(a) and to submit a petition in compliance with Rule 33.1 of the Rules of this Court

Nine days later, Ford submitted a motion for reconsideration denying leave to proceed IFP. He wrote:

The Appellant is a poor destitute Appellant who was fired from his job on 12/2/2019 ( Appendix 1 Appendixes 1, December 2,2019, IABA, termination). The Appellant do not have the available Funds to pay the $300.00 Docket fee. The Docker fee has the effect of preventing poor and destitute American Citizens from access the State and U.S. district Courts, and the United States Supreme Court.( 42 ESC: 1981 Access to the Courts).On 1215 The British's Magna Carter granted to poor English's citizens their Common Law's Rights to access to the Royal Court without paying for their rights under the Magna Carter of 1215.

The motion was distributed at the 2/28/20 conference. And the Court took no action until May 26, when the motion was distributed for the 6/11/20 conference.

And on June 15, the Court grants the motion for reconsideration!

Motion for reconsideration of order denying leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed by petitioner GRANTED. The order entered January 13, 2020, is vacated.

I cannot recall ever seeing a motion for reconsideration of an IFP request granted. Indeed, motions for reconsideration are almost always denied.

What happened here? Methinks Justice Sotomayor was behind this move. Ford's petition has a Gideon's Trumpet vibe to it. She likely found it sympathetic, even if the case lacked merit. And I'd like to think that this date of the order was symbolic. Ford cited Magna Carta. And Magna Carta was signed at Runymede on June 15, 1215.

Alas, Mr. Ford's victory was short-lived. Immediately after the Court granted reconsideration, it denied cert. But this decision was a huge victory for IFP petitioners. It should be cited in all future IFP cases.

NEXT: The Court Calls for the Views of the Solicitor General in Texas v. California, An Original Jurisdiction Case

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  1. “Immediately after the Court granted reconsideration, it denied cert.”

    Sounds more like a big “Screw you!” to me, than any sort of victory.

    1. No, it’s important. Denial of IFP status is how the Court avoids getting lots of petitions from prisoners. A relaxation of the policy is a big change.

      1. I’m sure Ford is consoled by that.

        It’s not a relaxation of the policy until they take the petition and don’t instantly deny cert.

        1. Nonsense. It certainly did relax the policy.

          1. Not in any practical sense, Ford still didn’t get a hearing.

            1. So Ford controls the entire policy? What happens to Ford id a proxy for what happens to everybody, now and in the future?

              I’m sure Ben Franklin was misquoted upon seeing the first hot air balloon.

              1. Like I said, this isn’t a change of policy for any practical purpose, until they take the petition and DO grant cert. It’s just raising a different finger to the petition.

          2. How? What was the old policy and how did this change it?

            This is a meaningless decision that will in all probability have no practical significance for this guy, or for any other litigant.

      2. “Denial of IFP status is how the Court avoids getting lots of petitions from prisoners. ”

        Do you think the S/C is now going to invite “lots of petitions”?

        1. Nope. The petitions are all nipped in the bud, even before summons is issued in civil cases, by sua-sponte-happy federal judges citing such “apposite” cases as _Mary Aku Quartey vs. Barack Obama._

          And let me ask the commenters here a question. Didn’t the Roberts Court recently issue a scotus procedural rule that only licensed attorneys may file and argue before the Supreme Court? If I recall correctly the last person who argued his case before the Supreme Court, pro se, was Ernesto Miranda in _Miranda v. Arizona._ And the case was heard on the briefs, was it not?

          Then there is this rule, harsher than any other, but unwritten: Fewer than 1% of the applications for review before scotus are granted a hearing. No matter how meritorious a petition for cert, in all likelihood it will not be considered for hearing. Ernesto Miranda just had a lucky day.

          1. The Supreme court control their own workload. This has predictable long term implications.

          2. While the Roberts court made it official in 2013, this was standard practice for a long time. The last non-lawyer pro se litigant in the Supreme Court was Samuel H. Sloane in 1978. (He won a unanimous decision, incidentally.)

            Also, Miranda was not a pro se litigant, and there were oral arguments in the case.

          3. Does this rule ban applying for cert, or just require a lawyer after cert? I have the impression that there are hundreds of lawyers that would take almost any case pro bono if they got to argue in front of the Supreme Court.

      3. Denial of IFP status is how the Court avoids getting lots of petitions from prisoners.


      4. Are you sure? My impression from occasional perusal of the orders list is that the court is fairly liberal about granting IFP status and summarily denying the petition. And it doesn’t really seem like that would work—they still have to docket the fee waiver request and the petition, and it takes, if anything, more work to deny the fee waiver than to deny the actual petition, since then they still have to keep the case open to see if they pay. (The situation is different in the lower courts, of course, since their dockets aren’t discretionary.)

  2. To me, the obvious reason is that Ford lost his job prior to the denial, which is a rather significant change in circumstances not known to the court when the initial denial was entered.

  3. Sometimes the old truths are the greatest truths.

    Once after getting poured out on summary judgment, I filed a motion for reconsideration in which my first paragraph was an invocation of the principle of ubi jus, ibi remedium — and my motion was granted. (Alas, we lost the ensuing jury trial, but my client did at least get his jury trial.)

  4. A “Gideon’s Trumpet vibe?” You mean like another opportunity to legislate from the bench, impose additional expenses – and a clear conflict of interest – on voiceless taxpayers, and end run the legislative process? That’s no vibe, that’s a tremolo.
    If the taxpayers are so foolish as to actually want to pay for criminal defense counsel, which “right” is morphing into a “right” of free counsel in certain civil actions, let them decide, not an unelected bunch of guilt-ridden old folks still smitten with the Sixties.

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