Horvitz & Levy LLP, along with the Pepperdine Law School Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic, successfully reversed the dismissal of Maria Escobedo’s Title VII lawsuit on the basis that it was untimely. Ms. Escobedo appealed from the dismissal of her Title VII lawsuit against her employer for wrongful termination after she complained to the EEOC about sexual harassment. Ms. Escobedo represented herself pro se in the district court and lodged her complaint along with a request to proceed without paying a filing fee because her sole source of income was her $210 weekly unemployment payments. The district court found that she should be able to pay the $350 filing fee because her husband also had some social security income. The district court then dismissed her lawsuit after she paid the filing fee because it found that the complaint was then untimely. The Ninth Circuit reversed holding first that the complaint was timely when it was presented to the district court even though it was not officially filed until much later when the filing fee was paid. The Ninth Circuit also found that the District Court abused its discretion in denying Ms. Escobedo’s request to proceed in forma pauperis because her income was too low and it was wrong to consider her husband’s income.
This opinion may have a significant effect on future cases. Until now, there has been no published guidance from an appellate court on when a pro se litigant can qualify to proceed in forma pauperis. This has led to divergent views by individual district judges about who qualifies for a waiver of the filing fee. Today, the Ninth Circuit has made clear what the outer income limits are. This should make the process of deciding in form pauperis petitions more uniform throughout the Circuit.
Horvitz & Levy attorney Jeremy Rosen supervised his students at the Pepperdine Law School Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic in representing Ms. Escobedo pro bono under appointment by the Ninth Circuit.