AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law
for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities


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Filing Fees

     An indigent state prisoner who filed lawsuits as a pauper owed a filing fee of $350 to a federal trial court and $505 to a federal appeals court. He asserted that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. 1915(b)(2) only mandated that there be a monthly 20% deduction for the filing fees until both fees were paid, and that the deductions should be used to pay off the two filing fees in the order in which they were incurred. The government, in opposition, argued that there should be a 20% deduction for each filing fee owed, or 40% a month, with half being used to pay each fee. A federal appeals court upheld the prisoner's position, ordering that only 20% of his account be deducted each month to pay off the two filing fees in sequential recoupment. Siluk v. Merwin, #11-3996, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 5824 (3rd Cir.).
     A plaintiff prisoner who filed three separate lawsuits against prison officials had his status of proceeding as a pauper revoked because he had received around $6,000 in past-due Social Security benefits that he had not reported to the court. That revocation was improper, however, since the federal No Social Security Benefits for Prisoners Act of 2009, 42 U.S.C. 404(a)(1)(B)(ii), barred him from accessing those funds while incarcerated, so he could not have used them to pay filing fees. The fact that he later, after the complaints were filed, also received separate deposits totaling $350 into his prisoner trust account and spent $243.11 of the money on consumer goods (which were arguably not necessities) rather than filing fees did not alter the result. He was only required to report his available assets at the time that he filed the lawsuits to qualify to proceed as a pauper, and his later receipt of additional funds did not render him ineligible. There was no indication that he did not make the required installment payments of 20% of the income in his trust account in the months he received the additional deposits. Arzuaga v. Quiros, #13-4586, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 4544 (2nd Cir.).
     A Louisiana state statute providing for an automatic stay on lawsuits filed by indigent prisoners until all court costs are paid did not violate equal protection of law or unconstitutionally bar the prisoner's right of access to the courts. Court rules that the statute applies both to new lawsuits filed and those pending at the date of its enactment. Rhone v. Ward, No. 39,701, 902 So. 2d 1258 (La. App. 2nd Cir. 2005). [N/R]
     Idaho state statute requiring prisoners to pay civil lawsuit filing fees when they have funds to do so is not an unconstitutional denial of access to the courts. Trial court, however, should not have dismissed prisoner's lawsuit for failure to pay a filing fee, as his inmate account statement showed a negative balance, which, if true, meant he should not be required to pay the fee until he had funds to do so. Madison v. Craven, No. 30605, 105 P.3d 705 (Idaho App. 2005). [N/R]
     Massachusetts inmate's lawsuit against prison superintendent and the Commissioner of Corrections was properly dismissed for his failure to pay a reduced filing fee of $25 ordered by the trial court. Despite the fact that his account had been frozen to pay his restitution, a state statute required the prison superintendent to disburse funds for such costs to the court for inmates claiming to be indigent, and the plaintiff failed to submit a written request to the superintendent for such payment. Cepulonis v. Superintendent, Mass. Corr., #03-P-1452, 813 N.E.2d 882 (Mass. App. Ct. 2004). [N/R]
     Louisiana prisoner's lawsuit seeking damages and injunctive relief concerning alleged improper retaliation against him for challenging the results of a disciplinary hearing would be stayed until all accrued filing fees and costs are paid, since there was no indication that he was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. Nichols v. Cain, 871 So. 2d 654 (La. App. 1st Cir. 2004). [N/R]
     Wisconsin inmate incarcerated in an out-of-state facility was not a "prisoner" eligible under Wisconsin state statute for a waiver of court costs and filing fees and his claim for further review of denial of his request for a change in his security status and transfer to a lower security facility therefore could not be pursued. State Ex. Rel. Labine v. Puckett, No. 02-2642-W, 676 N.W.2d 424 (Wis. 2004). [N/R]
     Prisoner's application to proceed in his lawsuit against prison officials as a pauper without the payment of filing fees was properly denied when the record failed to support his application, but under Nebraska state law, the trial court acted improperly in then dismissing the lawsuit, since the prisoner was entitled to a 30 day period within which he could decide to proceed with the lawsuit and pay the filing fee and costs. Martin v. McGinn, 657 N.W.2d 217 (Neb. 2003). [N/R]
     A prisoner who was allowed under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1915(a)(1), (b)(1,2) to make installment payments on litigation filing fees had no obligation to pay the remaining balance of the fee upon his release from prison. The released prisoners' obligations, if any, to pay filing fees would be determined by the general legal rules about proceeding as a pauper, not the special terms imposed on prisoners under the PLRA. DeBlasio v. Gilmore, #01-7025, 315 F.3d 396 (4th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
     The filing fee provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1915, does not require several prisoners who joined together to file a single lawsuit as paupers to each pay the full filing fee. Burke v. Helman, 208 F.R.D. 246 (C.D. Ill. 2002). [N/R]
     296:120 Man confined in a state mental hospital based on a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity was not a "prisoner" for purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act's filing fee or "three strikes" rules; no rule prohibited him from pursuing federal civil rights claim himself rather than through his court-appointed guardian. Kolocotronis v. Morgan, No. 01-1308WM, 247 F.3d 726 (8th Cir. 2001).
     [N/R] Prisoner's claims against jail nurse were properly dismissed due to his failure to pay costs of a previous suit. Esposito v. Piatrowski, No. 99-3011, 223 F.3d 497 (7th Cir. 2000).

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