Sai v. TSA et al., No. 15-2526 (1st Cir.), cert. forthcoming & Sai v. TSA, No. 16-5004 (D.C. Cir.), No. 16-287 (SCOTUS) [IFP]

Full case documents: 1st, DC, cert | previous SCOTUS cert | Other TSA litigation

Filed 2015-12-15 (1st Cir.) and 2016-01-19 (D.C. Cir.), these two cases appeal the D. MA. and D. D.C. courts' denials of my IFP privacy motion, asking the court to allow me to file for in forma pauperis (aka "broke enough to waive court fees and appoint free lawyer") status with my affidavit under seal (protected from the public) and ex parte (protected from the other side — in this case, including the US government).

I am represented in these cases pro bono by the William & Mary Appellate and Supreme Court Law Clinic and Tillman Breckenridge of Bailey Glasser, who also represented me in a previous cert. petition on the same issue.


Next update: TBD (1st Cir. cert. pet. forthcoming)


Plain English explanation of current issue (Cohen / collateral order jurisdiction)

Before my lawyers can even ask the appeals courts to let me have privacy when asking for a lawyer, they first have to convince the court that it's even appealable in the first place (a.k.a. "jurisdiction").

If you're too poor to afford an attorney, ask for one, and get denied — like I did — in about half the country, you can't appeal that denial immediately.

Instead, you have to first do the entire case yourself (being sure to carefully preserve the issue for appeal, get a final judgment, make no prejudicial errors, etc). If you don't know what those things mean, you probably won't be able to do so.

Only after all that will they hear the appeal. If you win the appeal, then they might try to retroactively get you an attorney and a "do-over"… if that is even possible any more. (If it isn't, too bad for you.)

The 5th, 8th, & Federal Circuits think you can appeal immediately; the 3rd and 9th Circuits think you can do so for some cases but not others; the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 10th, 11th, & D.C. Circuits think you can't. I have the unfortunate luck of being in two of the latter group.

Right now, my lawyers are appealing the question whether or not I get to appeal immediately. Yes, it's very meta.

Case law

Collateral appeal doctrine: Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, 546 (1949)

Circuit split re whether denial of counsel is collaterally appealable:

Other cases:

Law reviews:

Appointment of counsel statutes: