United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Civil Rights — In forma pauperis — transcripts
Where a prisoner is barred from suit by the three-strikes rule, he is not entitled to be excused from having to pay the cost of transcripts.
“I am not the first judge to be troubled by the prospect that a litigant with a potentially meritorious claim would forfeit appellate review simply because he can’t pay for a transcript; someone who isn’t poor enough to qualify for in forma pauperis status may still be unable to pay thousands of dollars for a trial transcript. Walker v. People Express Airlines, Inc., 886 F.2d 598, 601 (3d Cir. 1989), responded to this dilemma by holding that in forma pauperis status could be granted for the limited purpose of excusing the plaintiff from having to pay the cost of a transcript required for his appeal, although the court denied such relief in that case. See also Zaun v. Dobbin, 628 F.2d 990, 993 (7th Cir. 1980) (per curiam); In re Stump, 449 F.2d 1297, 1297–98 (1st Cir. 1971) (per curiam). These cases, as noted in Tucker v. Branker, 142 F.3d 1294, 1298–99 (D.C. Cir. 1998), date from the more forgiving era in which a district judge was authorized to waive the filing fee in part or whole if the plaintiff was proceeding in forma pauperis. No longer can the judge do that, though he can allow the fee to be paid in installments. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). But 28 U.S.C. § 753(f), insofar as concerns the government’s paying for transcripts, is unchanged. And so we can assume, though we needn’t decide, that cases like Walker survive the enactment of section 1915(b). But the cases cannot help Maus. He hasn’t been barred from proceeding in forma pauperis by poverty, as in Walker, but by the three-strikes rule, a bar unrelated to ability to finance an appeal. Poverty or affluence is irrelevant to a denial of in forma pauperis status based on such a rule, and there is no compelling reason to require the government to defray litigation expenses of a prisoner who has already burdened the judiciary with repeated meritless suits.”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Randa, J., Posner, J.