government's expense. Second, the policies of the statute as well as two Circuit Court decisions support an expansive view of the statute, while no cases support a restrictive view. Lastly, a restrictive interpretation of section 753 defeats the purpose behind the related in forma pauperis statute which allows indigent litigants with nonfrivolous claims to proceed in forma pauperis. I will address the above reasons in turn.
The language of the statute itself reveals that section 753 does not expressly make any distinction between state and federal proceedings, but rather refers simply to "other proceedings." This general language requires me to interpret the word "proceedings".
In another context, the Third Circuit has construed the term "proceeding" to include "decisions affecting the substantive rights of litigants to an actual case or controversy. " United States v. Sciarra, 851 F.2d 621, 635 (3d Cir. 1988). In this case, Ms. Militello's substantive rights are certainly affected. Therefore, I believe that the definition of "proceeding" used in Sciarra should be adopted here.
Second, the Magistrate's decision conflicts with the policies of the statute and the only precedent available. Where the language and structure of a statute fail to fully reveal its scope, it is appropriate to turn to the statute's underlying purpose. See Bell v. United States, 754 F.2d 490 (3d Cir. 1985); Bartok v. Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., 523 F.2d 941 (2d Cir. 1975). In this instance, it is clear that the statute is aimed at alleviating the disparity that exists as a result of a litigant's financial situation. In light of its remedial purpose, this court is persuaded that the statute's language should be interpreted liberally, not restrictively.
In further support of this interpretation are two recent appellate cases. The Third Circuit has recently held that a district court has the authority to order a free written transcript to be provided to an indigent defendant for use in connection with her appeal of a district court decision, even where she has been provided with an "equivalent [electronic] report of the events at trial." Among the factor the court should consider is whether the underlying proceeding will be lengthy and complex. United States v. Brentley, Crim. No. 91-3520 (3d Cir. April 10, 1992).
In light of my interpretation of the word "proceedings", this policy applies to this matter.
Moreover, in Edward B. v. Paul, 814 F.2d 52 (1st Cir. 1987), the First Circuit intimated, in dicta, in both its majority and concurring opinions that section 753 granted the district court the discretion to order the transcription of administrative proceedings at federal expense. While Edward B. does not constitute controlling authority, it is nonetheless persuasive. I agree with the Edward B. court that providing a written transcript to an indigent party, even if it is a state administrative record provided at federal expense, comports with the purpose of section 753.
In contrast to the above decisions, the Magistrate cites no cases advocating a narrow reading.
Finally, support for my decision that section 753 authorizes the payment of the cost of transcription in this case is provided by the in forma pauperis statute. In this case, I specifically granted plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis after determining that she was indigent and her complaint was not frivolous. "The purpose of § 1915 is to provide an entre, not a barrier, to the indigent seeking relief in the federal court." Walker v. People Express Airlines, Inc., 886 F.2d 598, 601 (3d Cir. 1986) (quoting Jones v. Zimmerman, 752 F.2d 76, 79 (3d Cir. 1985)). In other words, section 1915 "is intended to guarantee that no citizen shall be denied an opportunity to commence, prosecute, or defend an action, civil or criminal, 'in any court of the United States' solely because [her] poverty makes it impossible for [her] to pay or secure the costs." Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 342 (1948).
Although the Magistrate's ruling would not technically preclude the plaintiff from pursuing her appeal, it most certainly places "a barrier" in her appellate route. When Congress enacted the EHA, it expressly provided that a dissatisfied party may appeal the decision of the ALJ to the federal district court. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2). When dealing with a lengthy and complex proceeding, as here, a written transcript of the testimony and evidence adduced before the ALJ is an essential tool for the effective and efficient review of the ALJ's determination. As a result of her inability to procure a written transcript and the practical difficulties associated with pursuing an appeal of a six day proceeding based upon a taped transcript, the plaintiff would be seriously hindered, if not forced to abandon, her appeal. In turn, it would be contrary to the spirit of section 1915 "to force a litigant to abandon what may be a meritorious claim in order to spare [herself] complete destitution." Id. at 340.
Accordingly, I find that this court has discretion in a non-frivolous civil action to order the transcription of a state administrative record at federal expense where the litigant is indigent.
Applying the above factors, I find that ordering the written transcript from the state administrative hearing at federal expense is warranted in the instant case. First, the plaintiff is clearly indigent. Second, Ms. Militello is appealing from a rather lengthy and complex state administrative hearing. Lastly, the nature of her claim (the educational placement of her learning disabled child) suggests that the issues involved will be fairly complex and fact specific. When aggregated, I find that these factors place an undue burden on the plaintiff may force her to abandon her appeal. Therefore, in keeping with the purpose behind sections 753 and 1915, and exercising the inherent authority and discretion granted this court, I order the transcription of the state administrative hearing at federal expense in this matter.
For the reasons stated above, I find that the Magistrate Judge's determination in this matter is clearly erroneous and, therefore, reverse his order.