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What if the clerk denies my Affidavit of Indigency?

The Law

Massachusetts state law requires that if the Affidavit of Indigency appears regular and complete on its face, and indicates that you are eligible, the affidavit should be granted. See General Law Chapter 261 section 27(C)(2).

The Supreme Judicial Court’s Instructions

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued instructions to court clerks that say:

  • If you file an Affidavit of Indigency under Category A or B, and complete it correctly, the clerk should not ask you for more information or refer you to a judge.
  • If you file an Affidavit of Indigency under Category C, the clerk can approve it. The clerk only needs to send you to a judge if they have a serious question about whether you meet the standard under Category C.
  • A clerk should not tell you to complete a Supplement to the Affidavit form if you check Category A or B. You only have to complete the Supplement if you check Box C.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts also says that the clerk must file and date your court documents when you give them to the clerk. If the clerk has a question and you need to see a judge to get the affidavit approved, the clerk must still file your papers on the day you give them to the clerk. The instructions say, “all papers offered for filing must be dated and accepted when they are first presented, and must be processed without delay.” “No papers may be rejected because the filer has not yet obtained waiver of the filing fee.”

See the the Supreme Judicial Court's memo and Instructions to Courts.

Produced by Merrimack Valley North-Shore Legal Services, Inc.
Last Updated September 2013

If the clerk does not approve your Affidavit of Indigency, he or she must send it to the judge to decide.

The judge can:

  • approve your Affidavit of Indigency,
  • order that you pay a partial fee, or
  • order that you pay the entire fee.

If you disagree with the judge, you can appeal to the next court level.

There are short deadlines, so you must act quickly. Ask the clerk's office for information about how to appeal.

Produced by Merrimack Valley North-Shore Legal Services, Inc.
Created August 2013

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