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Samarripa v. Ormond

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 4, 2019

David Samarripa (17-6048/6260); Stephon Mason (17-6166); Jose Adrian Hernandez (17-6213); Arnulfo Torres Perez (17-6299); Timmie D. Cole, Sr. (17-6333), Petitioners-Appellants,
v.
J. Ray Ormond, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued: January 30, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky at London; No. 6:17-cv-00086-Danny C. Reeves, District Judge; Nos. 6:17-cv-00072 & 6:17-cv-00082-Karen K. Caldwell, Chief District Judge; No. 6:17-cv-00081-David L. Bunning, District Judge; No. 6:17-cv-00150-Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, District Judge.

         ARGUED

          Katherine B. Wellington, HOGAN LOVELLS U.S. LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.

          Edward Himmelfarb, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. James R. Saywell, JONES DAY, Cleveland, Ohio, as Amicus Curiae.

         ON BRIEF

          Katherine B. Wellington, HOGAN LOVELLS U.S. LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.

          Edward Himmelfarb, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. James R. Saywell, JONES DAY, Cleveland, Ohio, as Amicus Curiae.

          Before: SUTTON, GRIFFIN, and LARSEN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Indigent individuals may seek permission in the district court to appeal adverse judgments without prepayment of appellate filing fees. At issue in today's five consolidated cases, each filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, is whether district courts may grant such motions in part by requiring litigants to prepay some, but not all, of the $505 appellate court filing fee. The law at issue says that a federal court "may authorize the commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without prepayment of fees" by a person who "is unable to pay such fees." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Nothing about this language deprives a district court of discretion to require partial prepayment of appellate filing fees, and nothing about it alters the pre-1996-amendment practice of doing just that. For these reasons and those elaborated below, we agree with the district courts' partial fee rulings.

         I.

         David Samarripa, Stephon Mason, Jose Hernandez, Arnulfo Perez, and Timmie Cole- federal prisoners all-filed petitions for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, arguing that their respective sentences are too long under federal law. All five men paid the $5 habeas filing fee in the district court. Id. § 1914(a). And each of them lost his petition on the merits. Each man filed a timely notice of appeal and a motion to proceed as a pauper on appeal, seeking to avoid prepaying the $505 appellate filing fee. Id. §§ 1913, 1917. After examining each petitioner's financial status, the district courts granted the motions in part under § 1915(a)(1), requiring each petitioner to make a one-time, partial prepayment of the fee: $50 for Samarripa and Cole, $350 for Hernandez, and $400 for Mason and Perez.

         Each of them renewed his motion in this court, in effect challenging the district courts' determinations. See Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(5) and advisory committee's note. We consolidated the five motions to consider whether federal courts have the statutory authority to require petitioners to prepay a partial filing fee on appeal of a ...


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