GR 34 Waiver of Court and Clerk's Fees and Charges in Civil Matters on the Basis of Indigency (a) Any individual, on the basis of indigent status as defined herein, may seek a waiver of filing fees or surcharges the payment of which is a condition precedent to a litigant's ability to secure access to judicial relief from a judicial officer in the applicable trial court. (1) The application for such a waiver may be made ex parte in writing or orally, accompanied by a mandatory pattern form created by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) whereby the applicant attests to his or her financial status or, in the case of an individual represented by a qualified legal services provider ("QLSP") or an attorney working in conjunction with a QLSP, a declaration of counsel stating that the individual was screened and found eligible by the QLSP. (2) The court shall accept an application submitted in person, by mail and where authorized by local court rule not inconsistent with GR 30, electronic filing. The process for presentation of the application shall conform to local court rules and clerk processes not inconsistent with the rules of this court for presenting ex parte orders to the court directly or via the clerk. All applications shall be presented to a judicial officer for consideration in a timely manner and in conformity with the local court's established procedures. There shall be no locally imposed fee for making an application. The applicant or applicant's attorney filing by mail, shall provide the court with a self-addressed stamped envelope for timely return of a conformed copy of the order. COMMENT This rule establishes the process by which judicial officers may waive civil filing fees and surcharges for which judicial officers have authority to grant a waiver. This rule applies to mandatory fees and surcharges that have been lawfully established, the payment of which is a condition precedent to a litigant's ability to secure access to judicial relief. These include but are not limited to legislatively established filing fees and surcharges (e.g., RCW 36.18.020(5)); other initial filing charges required by statute (e.g., family court facilitator surcharges established pursuant to RCW 26.12.240; family court service charges established pursuant to RCW 26.12.260; domestic violence prevention surcharges established pursuant to RCW 36.18.016(2)(b)); and other lawfully established fees and surcharges which must be paid as a condition of securing access to judicial relief. (3) An individual who is not represented by a qualified legal services provider (as that term is defined below) or an attorney working in conjunction with a qualified legal services provider shall be determined to be indigent within the meaning of this rule if such person, on the basis of the information presented, establishes that: (A) he or she is currently receiving assistance under a needs-based, means-tested assistance program such as the following: (i) Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); (ii) State-provided general assistance for unemployable individuals (GA-U or GA-X); (iii) Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI); (iv) Federal poverty-related veteran's benefits; or (v) Food Stamp Program (FSP); or (B) his or her household income is at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline; or (C) his or her household income is above 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline and the applicant has recurring basic living expenses (as defined in RCW 10.101.010(4)(d)) that render him or her without the financial ability to pay the filing fees and other fees or surcharges for which a request for waiver is made; or (D) other compelling circumstances exist that demonstrate an applicant's inability to pay fees and/or surcharges. (4) An individual represented by a QLSP, or an attorney working in conjunction with a QLSP that has screened and found the individual eligible for services, is presumptively deemed indigent when a declaration from counsel verifies representation and states that the individual was screened and found eligible for services. (5) As used in this rule, "qualified legal services provider" means those legal services providers that meet the definition of APR 8(e). COMMENT The adoption of this rule is rooted in the constitutional premise that every level of court has the inherent authority to waive payment of filing fees and surcharges on a case by case basis. Each court is responsible for the proper and impartial administration of justice which includes ensuring that meaningful access to judicial review is available to the poor as well as to those who can afford to pay. (b) Nothing in this rule shall prohibit or delay action on the underlying petition upon the court's approval of a waiver and presentation of an original petition may accompany the initial fee waiver. [Adopted effective December 28, 2010.]
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