Fee waivers in civil appeals
In most civil cases, you have to pay a fee to file a notice of appeal or other paper that starts the proceeding. If you are a respondent in a proceeding in the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court, in most cases, you will have to pay a fee when you file your first paper in that court. You may also have to pay other court fees in these proceedings, such as fees to prepare or get a copy of a clerk's transcript or for the court to hold a deposit for a court reporter’s transcript. If you can't afford the filing fee or other court costs, you may qualify to have these fees and costs waived by the court.
Who qualifies for a fee waiver
You qualify for a fee waiver if:
You receive public benefits
For example, you qualify if you receive Medi-Cal, Food Stamps (Cal Fresh), Cal-Works, General Assistance, SSI, SSP Tribal TANF, IHHS, CAPI, WIC, or unemployment benefits. You will need to list which benefit you receive to qualify this way.
Your household income, before taxes, is below a set amount
The set amount is listed on Request to Waiver Court Fees (form FW-001) in item 5b. You will need to give the court information about your household income to qualify this way.
You can't meet your household's basic needs and pay the filing fees
You will need to give the court information about your income and expenses to qualify this way.
The appellate and trial courts will waive fees
The appellate court will waive:
- The appellate or petitioner's filing fee for a notice of appeal, petition for a writ, or petition for review
- The filing fee for the first document filed in the appellate court by a party other than the party who filed the notice of appeal or petition
- Any court fee for having your oral argument by telephone
The trial court will waive:
- The appellant's cost for preparing, copying, and certifying the clerk's transcript, sending the original to the appellate court and a copy to you, and processing the deposit required under California Government Code section 68926.1
- The respondent's cost for a copy of the clerk's transcript
- Any fees for making a transcript or copy of an official electronic recording under California Rule of Court 8.835
When it grants a fee waiver, the trial court also may, but is not required to, waive other necessary court fees or expenses upon request.
Reporter's transcript fees are not waived
Even if you qualify for a fee waiver, the court can't waive the fees for preparing a reporter's transcript in a civil case because this is a fee charged by the reporter, not the court. There is a special fund called the "Transcript Reimbursement Fund" that may help you pay for your transcript. If you can't pay for a reporter's transcript, you can prepare a record of the oral proceedings in other ways.
Let the court know if your financial situation changes
If your finances improve or you can now afford to pay the court fees and costs, you have to tell the court within 5 days. Fill out a Notice to Court of Improved Financial Situation or Settlement (form FW-010) and file it with the clerk of the court handling your case.
Also, you may get a Notice to Appear for Reconsideration of Fee Waiver (form FW-011). This is a notice from the court to go to a hearing to reconsider your fee waiver. The court sends this notice if it thinks your financial situation may have changed or you are abusing the fee waiver. Make sure you go to this court date, or your fee waiver may be canceled and you may have to repay fees that were waived.
Fee waivers expire 60 days after the judgment or dismissal or after the case is finished in some other way. Waivers can also end if the court finds that you are no longer eligible for one.
Your fee waiver application may be denied for 1 of 3 reasons:
- It is incomplete
- From your application, the court decided you are not eligible for the fee waiver
- The court has a substantial question about whether you are eligible for the fee waiver
The judge will indicate the reason for denying your request on the court’s fee waiver order.
If your fee waiver is denied, you have 10 days from the date the order is mailed or personally delivered to you to either:
- Pay your fees
- Do what the court ordered in the fee waiver order, like filing a new fee waiver request or providing additional information requested by the court.
If you do not do 1 of these 2 things within the 10 days and you are the appellant, your appeal may be dismissed.
If the court denies your fee waiver but sets a hearing
If the court wants more information to make a decision on your fee waiver, the court may set up a hearing date for you. The information about the hearing (like the date, time, and location) will be on the fee waiver order.
Make sure you go to that hearing. Bring with you any documents that the court tells you to bring. The court will tell you what documents it wants you to bring on the fee waiver order.
If you do not go to this court hearing, your fee waiver application will be denied and you will have to pay your fees in 10 days.