End of an era for “abusive” IFP filings?
Nearly twenty years ago, in Martin v. District of Columbia Court of Appeals (1992), the Court denied a request by pro se petitioner James L. Martin — whom the per curiam opinion described as “a notorious abuser of this Court’s certiorari process” — to proceed in forma pauperis. Citing the need “to prevent pro se petitioners from filing repetitious and frivolous requests for extraordinary relief,” the Court prospectively barred Martin from filing “any further petitions for certiorari . . . in noncriminal matters unless he pays the docketing fee required by Rule 38 and submits his petition in compliance with Rule 33.”
Justice Stevens, joined by Justice Blackmun, dissented. In his view, the “theoretical administrative benefit the Court may derive from an order of this kind is far outweighed by the shadow it casts on the great tradition of open access that characterized the Court’s history.” In the years that followed, Justice Stevens repeatedly dissented when similar orders (see, e.g., pages 71 et seq.) were entered. With his retirement, however, it does not appear that Elena Kagan or any other Justice is likely to assume his mantle. Rather, in yet another reflection of the end of an era at the Court, today’s order list contained several such prohibitions on future IFP filings (see, e.g., pages 77 et seq.) without any dissent.