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Judges deny prisoner’s request to appeal without paying fees

March 13, 2013

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a man’s argument that he and other prisoners do not need to pay appellate filing and docketing fees, and so a District Court’s certification of appeal is irrelevant.

In Kelly S. Thomas v. Dushan Zatecky, superintendent, Pendleton Correctional Facility, 13-1136, Kelly Thomas sought to appeal the denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Southern District of Indiana. He filed the petition after the state court affirmed his murder conviction on appeal. Judge Sarah Evans Barker declined to issue a certificate of appealability and certified that the appeal had been taken in bad faith. Because of that, Thomas has to pay the $455 in appellate fees to appeal or convince the 7th Circuit that he should be allowed to proceed in forma pauperis.

Thomas believed, based on the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, he doesn’t have to pay the appellate fees. But his argument rests on “the mistaken premise that the appellate fees have their genesis in the PLRA,” Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote. “They do not. They are authorized by 28 U.S.C. Section 1913, which long predates the PLRA.”

The judges also pointed out the portions of Section 1915 and 1915A applicable exclusively to prisoners’ civil actions do not apply to collateral attacks on criminal judgments.

“When a district court grants permission under §1915(a)(1) to litigate in forma pauperis, that permission carries over to the appeal unless the district court itself revokes the permission after deciding the merits,” he wrote. “Section 1915(a)(3) says: ‘An appeal may not be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies in writing that it is not taken in good faith.’ We do not see any reason why that provision should not apply to collateral proceedings, in common with all of the other litigation to which §1915(a)(1) refers.”

They denied his request to file his appeal without paying the fee, but he is entitled to contest the propriety of Barker’s declaration that the appeal was taken in bad faith. He has 21 days to file in the 7th Circuit a motion for permission to proceed in forma pauperis and a certificate of appealability. Failure to meet this schedule will result in a dismissal.

 

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