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The main provision of the modem federal in forma pauperis statute enables indigents to file civil actions in the federal courts without paying a filing fee Thus the federal courts are at least theoretically open to even the most impoverished litigants The in forma pauperis statute however is conditional a court may dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint if satisfied that the action is frivolous This nebulous condition has spurred considerable disagreement This Article explores the restrictions and controls that district courts can legitimately place on unpaid actions The ambiguous language and the unhelpful legislative history of the statute have created four problems for the courts First how should the courts define frivolous in section 1915d Second should the courts allow any financially eligible person to proceed in forma pauperis under section 1915a or should the courts also examine the merits of an action under section 1915d before granting in forma pauperis status Third should the courts require issuance and service of process whenever an in forma pauperis complaint is filed Fourth when should the courts allow an in forma pauperis plaintiff to amend a frivolous complaint The last part of the Article explores the constitutional ramifications of treating in forma pauperis plaintiffs differently from paying plaintiffs

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