Tripati v. Tucker (CA2 7/29/09)

This little case shows nice thinking by the defendants in giving the trial judge a tool to deal with a situation. They’re happier to get those than they’re ever able to tell you.

Tripati, an inmate, filed several civil actions (he apparently doesn’t flinch from being called a vexatious litigant). He avoided the filing fee by claiming indigence. After the actions were consolidated, the defendants challenged his indigence claim. He is one of those inmates who has a following and there have been, the opinion tells us, books and websites about him, advertisements, etc. Apparently, the defendants showed all this to the court and argued that it was Tripati’s burden to show that, despite all these other things being paid for, he didn’t have or couldn’t get the money to pay filing fees. The trial court agreed and ordered him to pay the fees. He didn’t; the court dismissed his cases. He appealed; the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Tripati cited a criminal case holding that the court can’t consider donations by supporters in determining whether an accused is entitled to a free transcript on appeal. The opinion distinguished the case because there is a constitutional right to pursue a criminal appeal. The court pointed out that the statute(A.R.S. 12-302)  does not limit the kind of evidence that can be offered about a claim of indigence.

The court ruled that the burden of proof was indeed on Tripati; the statute  doesn’t actually say so but that’s what it seems to mean. But just in case, the court also ruled that Tripati would lose even if the defendants had the burden. His application for fee deferral didn’t mention that he was married and that his wife, family, and friends finance whatever he needs.

The court declined to address one of Tripati’s issues on appeal: ““Judge O’Neil by his Order has Energized Tripati’s Supporters to Cripple Arizona’s Economy Due to Corrupt Judges.” This was not, said the court, a “legally cognizable assertion of error.” Those who have dealt with them will recognize that it is, though, an absolutely classic pro se argument.