Jafar v. Webb states once an individual has been found to be indigent, and GR 34 sets the standard for indigency, the court must waive all fees and charges.
By Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski, Family Lawyers
This case arose when Abeda Jafar filed an action in Snohomish County to establish a parenting plan. The respondent took no position on the issues raised in this appeal, but the Washington Association of County Officials, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Northwest Justice Project, Benton-Franklin Legal Aid Society, Snohomish County Legal Services, The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, the Statewide Poverty Action Network, and the Family Assistance Program at Solid Ground all appeared as amicus.
The courts have long held that they had the authority to waive filing fees and clerk’s charges for indigent litigants. General Rule 34, which was adopted by the court in December of 2010, established the process for waiver of civil filing fees and surcharges for indigents, and set forth certain presumptions for indigent status, including the receipt of TANF funds as well as household incomes at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
The Snohomish court granted a partial waiver to Ms. Jafar, and also ordered her to pay the court facilitator as well as a “judicial stabilization surcharge.” The Supreme Court said “it’s all or nothing.” Once an individual has been found to be indigent, and GR 34 sets the standard for indigency, the court must waive all fees and charges. There is no such thing as a partial waiver, nor are there particular charges that can be singled out and ordered to be paid by an indigent litigant.
Christina A. Meserve and Charles E. Szurszewski practice family law in Olympia, Washington with the law firm of Connolly Tacon & Meserve.