for Publication April 28, 2016.
from Houston Circuit Court. (CV-14-71). Brady E. Mendheim,
Appellant: Mitchell D. Dobbs of Legal Services Alabama, Inc.,
Thomas, and Donaldson, JJ., concur. Moore, J., dissents, with
writing, which Thompson, P.J., joins.
Alabama Medical Center (" SAMC" ) sued Jaquala
Wilson in the Houston District Court, small-claims division,
seeking a judgment for past-due medical bills Wilson had
failed to pay. The district court entered a judgment in favor
of SAMC, and Wilson filed a notice of appeal to the Houston
Circuit Court, together with an affidavit of financial
hardship seeking a waiver of the requirement of prepayment of
the filing fee, also known as a request to proceed in forma
pauperis (" IFP request" ), on July 23,
also filed a demand for a trial by jury. The circuit court
denied Wilson's IFP request on July 23, 2014, and it
ordered that she pay the filing fee for her appeal within 14
days. Wilson paid what she characterized as the $100
jury-demand fee, but, on August 7, 2014, she sought
reconsideration of the circuit court's denial of her IFP
request. The circuit court refused to reconsider its denial
of Wilson's IFP request, and it ordered that Wilson pay
the " balance" of the filing fee within 30 days.
filed a motion for a summary judgment on August 19, 2014.
Wilson filed a second motion seeking reconsideration of the
circuit court's denial of her IFP request on September 8,
2014. On the same date, the circuit court refused to
reconsider its denial of Wilson's IFP request, but it
granted Wilson an additional 14 days to pay the "
remainder" of the filing fee. Wilson responded to
SAMC's motion for a summary judgment on September 25,
2014, and the trial court entered an order on September 29,
2014, stating that it would consider the summary-judgment
motion once Wilson paid the " remainder" of the
filing fee. That same order required Wilson to pay the "
remainder" of the filing fee within 30 days or face
dismissal of her appeal.
November 3, 2014, the circuit court entered an order
dismissing Wilson's appeal for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction, stating specifically that it lacked
jurisdiction over the appeal because Wilson had not paid the
required filing fee. Wilson timely appealed the dismissal of
her appeal to the circuit court to this court, arguing that
the circuit court erred in failing to grant her IFP request
and in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over her
appeal. We affirm.
first consider Wilson's argument that the circuit court
erred by failing to grant Wilson's IFP request. A trial
court's decision to deny an IFP request is reviewed for
an abuse of discretion. See Ex parte Wyre, 74 So.3d
479 (Ala. 2011); Ex parte Holley, 883 So.2d 266, 269
brief on appeal, Wilson first argues that the denial of her
IFP request conflicts with former Ala. Code 1975, §
30-5-5(f), which, before its amendment in 2003, governed the
determination of IFP
status for plaintiffs seeking relief under the Protection
from Abuse Act, codified at Ala. Code 1975, § 30-5-1 et
seq. Former § 30-5-5(f) stated that receipt of "
Aid to Families with Dependent Children payments, food
stamps, or Supplemental Security Income shall serve as prima
facie evidence demonstrating substantial hardship on the part
of the plaintiff." Wilson acknowledges that §
30-5-5(f) has since been amended, but she argues that the
former statute embodied a legislative policy " to be
employed by courts when considering affidavits of substantial
hardship and requests for waiver of filing fees. Receiving
food stamps should serve as prima facie evidence
demonstrating financial hardship." Section 30-5-5(f) no
longer refers to food stamps or other aid as a benchmark for
determining IFP status. Even if § 30-5-5(f) read as it
did before its 2003 amendment, however, Wilson's argument
would still be unconvincing. Section 30-5-5(f), before its
amendment in 2003, governed the assessment of filing fees for
petitions seeking protection from abuse. Wilson is pursuing
an appeal from a debt-collection action, not a
protection-from-abuse order. Thus, we cannot agree that
former § 30-5-5(f) provides a basis for reversal of the
circuit court's denial of Wilson's IFP request.
next argues that constitutional law provides a basis for
reversal of the denial of her IFP request. She relies mainly
on Boddie v. Connecticut,401 U.S. 371, 91 S.Ct.
780, 28 L.Ed.2d 113 (1971), in which the United States
Supreme Court held that indigent litigants could not be
foreclosed from pursuing divorce actions by the requirement
that they prepay a filing fee. Wilson's
constitutional arguments were not raised in the circuit
court; thus, we need not consider Wilson's constitutional
arguments further. See Robinson v. State, 587 So.2d
418, 419 (Ala.Civ.App. 1991) (stating that an appellate court
will not consider a constitutional issue that was not first
presented to the trial court). We note, however, that
Wilson's argument is unavailing, in part ...