Dear Justice Corner:
If a litigant reports they receive food stamps (SNAP) on the Supreme Court Rule 298 Application for Waiver of Court Fees, but I suspect they have enough money to pay the court fees, what should I do?
Dear Judge Shouldiwaive:
According to 735 ILCS 5/5-105 (a)(2)(i), litigants who receive one or more means-based public benefit (SSI, AABD, TANF, SNAP, General Assistance, Transitional Assistance or State Children & Family Assistance) are considered indigent and presumed eligible for a fee waiver. The specific eligibility requirements and application procedures vary by program, but all require rigorous screening and regular recertification. Many public benefits recipients work or own property but still live in or near poverty due to low wages, irregular work schedules, household dependents, or declining property values.
By relying on the public benefits eligibility determination, courts can reduce the administrative burden on judges and court staff; reduce redundancy for litigants who have already gone through screening; improve statewide consistency; and avoid the appearance of bias by providing objective criteria. Utilizing public benefits removes subjective criteria or assumptions based on an applicant's appearance (e.g., clothing brand, hairstyle), possessions (e.g., iPhone, car), or demeanor.
-Justice Corner, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice Court Guidance and Training Committee
- Chief Judge Michael J. Sullivan, McHenry County
- Presiding Judge Clarence M. Darrow, Rock Island County
- Presiding Judge Sharon M. Sullivan, Cook County
- Chief Judge Kevin P. Fitzgerald, McLean County
- Judge William G. Schwartz, Jackson County
- David Holtermann, Lawyers' Trust Fund, Chicago
- Joseph Dailing, Legal Aid Consultant, Rockford