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What if I Can't Afford an Appeal?- FAQs

How much does an appeal cost?

When are the filing fee and cost bond waived?

What is "in forma pauperis" relief?

How do I prove that I am entitled to in forma pauperis relief?

How do I request in forma pauperis relief?

How do I request "in forma pauperis" relief in an appeal from a criminal proceeding?

How much does an appeal cost?

In most civil cases, the appealing party must pay a filing fee of $550 and post a cost bond of $500 in the district court.  Instead of posting a cost bond (which must be purchased from an insurance or bonding company), the appealing party can deposit $500 with the district court administrator.  See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 107.01.  The cost bond or deposit provides security for the payment of costs that may be awarded to the other parties, if the decision is affirmed on appeal. 

In addition, if there was a hearing or trial in the district court, a typed version of the arguments and testimony presented may be required.  This is called a transcript, and the appealing party must pay the court reporter to prepare the transcript and pay for all the required copies.  The court reporter must file one original and one copy of the transcript with the district court (these will come to the Court with the rest of the file, and will be considered on appeal) and must also deliver copies of the transcript to all of the parties.

The appealing party will also have to pay for the copying and binding of his or her written arguments on appeal (called briefs), unless the court grants a motion to submit briefs that are stapled instead of bound.

When are the filing fee and cost bond waived?

No filing fee is required for certain types of appeals, including appeals from civil commitment proceedings under Minn. Stat. chapter 253B, public assistance appeals under Minn. Stat. chapter 256, or appeals from the denial of unemployment benefits under Minn. Stat. chapter 268 (Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.01, subd. 1).  A filing fee also is not required for an appeal from an order in a criminal case ruling on a petition for postconviction relief (Minn. Stat. § 590.06).

The $500 cost bond is not required in a criminal case, a case arising in juvenile court (including juvenile delinquency and juvenile protection matters), a civil commitment proceeding under Minn. Stat. chapter 253B, a public assistance appeal pursuant to Minn. Stat. chapter 256, or an appeal from the denial of unemployment benefits under Minn. Stat. chapter 268 (Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 107.02).  In an appeal from an order denying a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, a filing fee is required, but a cost bond is not (Minn. Stat. § 589.29).

No filing fee or cost bond is required when the appealing party has been authorized to proceed in forma pauperis under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 109.  You must obtain a new order to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal; an order that was issued when district court proceedings began is not sufficient, even if your financial circumstances are the same.  You must obtain a new order from the judge whose decision you are appealing.

What is "in forma pauperis" relief?

A party who cannot pay the expenses of the appeal may apply to the district court for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.  If this relief is granted, the district court may waive the filing fee and the cost bond, and may require the state to pay the costs of preparing and copying the transcript.  See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 109.01.  The parties can make a motion to the Court of Appeals for permission to file stapled briefs to avoid paying a printer to bind the briefs.

How do I prove that I am entitled to in forma pauperis relief?

To proceed in forma pauperis, a party must establish that (a) he or she is indigent and (b) the appeal is not frivolous.  To prove that a person is indigent, the district court will require proof that the person is receiving public assistance, is represented by legal aid or a volunteer attorney program based on low income, or does not have annual income in excess of 125% of the federal poverty guidelines (Minn. Stat. § 563.01, subd. 3).  The federal poverty guidelines are based on total annual income and household size (number of people living together).  The court administrator's office at the district level may have a chart showing the maximum income for a family of a specified size, or they may refer callers to the local public defender's office.  The district court will usually require that the person seeking to proceed in forma pauperis fill out a "supplemental affidavit," and you should ask for that form in the county where your case was heard.

How do I request in forma pauperis relief?

In civil cases, the procedure for seeking in forma pauperis relief is set out in Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 109.02.  A motion to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal must be made to the district court or agency that issued the decision from which the appeal is taken, and it must be made at or before the time you file the appeal.  Note that you must return to the same judge who issued the decision you are appealing.

The motion must include (a) an affidavit showing the party's inability to pay and (b) a copy of the party's Form 133 statement of the case showing the issues that will be raised on appeal.  Most district courts have specific forms that they require for in forma pauperis applications.  Be sure to include a copy of the motion that was filed with the district court or agency with your appeal papers when you file the appeal with the Clerk of the Appellate Courts. The Court of Appeals will not rule on your motion, but we need to know that you have made one in the district court.

In a civil case, a finding that the appealing party is indigent is not enough to allow in forma pauperis relief.  The district court or agency must also find that the appeal is not frivolous.  You do not have to prove that you will win on appeal, but your statement of the case must set out issues that will convince the district court, or the agency that handed down the decision, that the appeal has a sound basis and is not frivolous.

If the district court or agency denies a motion to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal, the party must (a) pay the $550 filing fee, post the $500 cost bond, and file a completed transcript certificate certifying that financial arrangements have been made with the court reporter; or (b) serve and file a motion in the Court of Appeals to review the order denying in forma pauperis status.  These things must be done within 10 days of the order denying relief.  If a motion is filed in the Court of Appeals, the party will not be allowed to present new information, so it is important that you provide complete information about your income and the issues you will raise on appeal to the district court with the motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

How do I request "in forma pauperis" relief in an appeal from a criminal proceeding?

An indigent defendant may be entitled to representation by the State Public Defender's Office on appeal from a judgment of conviction or from an order denying postconviction relief.  Even if the Public Defender's Office is not required to represent the appealing party, a determination by the Public Defender's Office that the party is indigent will result in waiver of the filing fee and the Public Defender's Office may pay transcript expenses. 

State Public Defender's Office
540 Fairview Avenue North, Suite 300
St. Paul, MN 55104
(651) 201-6700