**** The information written here is not legal advice and the author of this blog is not your lawyer. These posts merely contain ideas to help you plan and organize your legal research and identify potentially helpful sources of law. ****
It does cost money to file a case in court though it does not cost money to file a response to a case whether it is a criminal case or a civil case. When someone comes in to file a case, the court clerk’s office charges a fee just for filing the initial document. Then there is a fee from either the court or the sheriff’s office for delivering a copy of the initial document to the opponent. After the first document in a case, each party in a case has to pay the costs of photocopying and mailing his documents to both the court and the opponent.
Then there are various kinds of costs associated with collecting and presenting evidence: Witnesses have to be paid. Scientists who analyze evidence get paid. Photographs and videotapes cost money to produce. Depositions, which are interviews with witnesses or opponents, have to be transcribed by a court reporter who has to be paid. Copies of pages from medical records can get pricey. The expenses go on and on, at least for people representing themselves or hiring private attorneys.
Litigants represented by legal aid offices, public defenders, or court-appointed attorneys do not have to pay these costs; the law offices will pay for everything. Litigants who do represent themselves in court can at least get the court’s fees waived if the court deems them to be in forma pauperis, in the form of a pauper, without the financial ability to pay the court’s costs. The courts require people seeking in forma pauperis status to file a motion declaring and demonstrating their poverty. Nearly every court clerk’s office and Web site has a fill-in the blank form to use for that procedure in their court. There is also a standard form for claiming in forma pauperis status included in virtually every publication containing the court’s rules. [i]
[i] Federal court forms for in forma pauperis motions are at http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/FormsAndFees/Forms/AO240.pdf. If that particular form doesn’t show up, go to the main forms page for the federal courts. http://www.uscourts.gov/FormsAndFees.aspx State courts’ Web sites can be reached from http://www.ncsconline.org/D_KIS/index.html.