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Indiana Court Cannot Reduce 45-Day Filing Fee Time Limit

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of an indigent prisoner’s lawsuit for failing to pay the filing fee within 30 days, when he had complied with state law by paying within 45 days.

Indiana prisoners are required to pay a partial filing fee for state court actions. If the court denies waiver of the fee, it “shall give written notice ... that the ... case will be dismissed if the partial filing fee is not paid” within 45 days of the order, “or within an additional period as the court may, upon request, allow.” IC § 33-37-3-3(d).

Indiana prisoner Charles Davis, Sr. filed a Public Records Act complaint in state court. On March 2, 2016, the trial court denied a waiver of Davis’ filing fee and ordered him to “pay filing fees in the sum of $17.18 within 30 days.”

The court then dismissed Davis’ suit on April 5, 2016 because he had not yet paid the filing fee. The court received Davis’ $17.18 check on April 11, 2016 – 40 days after its March order – but returned it because the case had already been dismissed.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, noting that the “trial court may give the offender more time, but there is nothing in the statute permitting the trial court to afford the defendant less than forty-five days” to pay the partial filing fee.

Given that the trial court received Davis’ filing fee less than 45 days after the March 2, 2016 order, the appellate court reversed the dismissal of his suit and remanded, instructing Davis “to re-send the filing fee of $17.18 within forty-five days of the certification of this decision.” See: Davis v. Phelps, 62 N.E.3d 430 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016). 

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Related legal case

Davis v. Phelps