In forma pauperis (IFP) proceedings are those cases in which the Supreme Court allows an indigent party to file a petition for writ of certiorari without paying its $300 filing fee or preparing printed booklets (to learn about filing IFP Briefs in Opposition, click here).

A petition worthy of certiorari is generally thought to contain legal issues that: (1) have national importance; (2) have divided federal courts of appeals or state courts; and (3) have not been decided by the Supreme Court.

A copy of the Court’s Rules, which establish the procedures that must be followed, is available here.  Be sure to read the following sections carefully:

  • Rules 10-14 (Petitioning for certiorari)
  • Rule 30 (Computation and extension of time)
  • Rule 39 (Proceeding in forma pauperis)
  • Rules 33.2 and 34 (8 ½ by 11-inch format briefs)

What to File

  • One signed original and 10 copies of a motion for leave to proceed IFP (available here).
  • One signed original and 10 copies of an affidavit or declaration in support thereof (available here).
  • One signed original and 10 copies of a petition for a writ of certiorari with an appendix.

The Petition

You will use your petition to set out the issues, facts, history of the case, and the reasons why the Supreme Court should review the decision of the court below.  You must file your petition within 90 days from the date of the entry of the final judgment in the United States court of appeals or highest state appellate court, or 90 days from the denial of a timely-filed petition for rehearing.

The following sections must be included in your 8 ½ by 11-inch format IFP petition:

  • Cover

You should not copy the caption of the case as it appeared in the lower court, unless it accurately identifies who the petitioner(s) and respondent(s) are in the Supreme Court.

  • Question(s) Presented

Your questions should be “expressed concisely in relation to the circumstances of the case

[and] without unnecessary detail…. [They] should be short and not argumentative or repetitive.” The question(s) may be prefaced by a short introductory statement to set the scene, so that they may be understood.

  • List of Parties

If all parties appear on the cover, this section is not needed.

  • Table of Contents

List the parts of your petition, organized by the order in which those parts appear.

  • Table of Appendices

List the items in your appendix.

  • Table of Authorities

List the cases, statutes, and secondary sources cited in the body of your petition.

  • Opinions Below

Indicate whether the opinions of the lower courts in your case have been published, and if so, provide their citation(s).

  • Statement of Jurisdiction

Establish the statutory source of Supreme Court jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. §1254(1) for federal cases and 28 U.S.C. §1257(a) for state cases).

  • Constitutional and Statutory Provisions Involved

Provide the wording of the relevant portions of constitutional provisions, statutes, and regulations involved in your case.

  • Statement of the Case

Provide a concise factual and procedural history of the underlying case.  The statement should follow chronologically and is limited to only relevant facts.

  • Reasons for Granting the Petition

Use this section to demonstrate errors in the lower court’s decision and the national importance of having the Supreme Court decide the question(s) involved.  The reasons should be as concise as possible.

  • Conclusion

Reiterate the relief sought.

  • Appendix

The appendix must contain all items required by Rule 14.1(i).  Append the opinions and orders entered in conjunction with the judgment sought to be reviewed.  You must also include any other relevant opinions and orders (including Magistrate Reports and Recommendations) entered in the case by intermediate and/or trial courts, and the highest court’s order on rehearing (if applicable).

  • Proof of Service

Use the form available here for your proof of service.

  • Mailing Address

All documents must be addressed to:

Clerk, Supreme Court of the United States

1 First Street, NE

Washington, D.C. 20543

If you have questions regarding your IFP filing, or if the Court denies your application for leave to proceed IFP, contact Cockle Legal Briefs to discuss your options at 1(800) 225-6964 or