AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
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Prison Litigation Reform Act: Filing Fees
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a prisoner who qualifies to proceed in a lawsuit as a pauper has to pay an initial partial court filing fee of 20% of the larger of either the average monthly deposits in their inmate account or the average monthly balance of that account over the last six months, and then pay the rest of the fee in monthly installments of 20% of the last month's income credited to their account. A federal inmate who frequently engages in litigation argued that such monthly payments were not due in a new case until all obligations incurred in a prior case were paid off. A federal appeals court disagreed, holding that monthly payments on a new case were due together with the monthly payments for prior cases. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this ruling. The statute, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1915(b)(2), requires simultaneous rather than sequential payment of multiple monthly installment payments. Bruce v. Samuels, #14-844, 136 S. Ct. 627, 193 L. Ed. 2d 496, 2016 U.S. Lexis 620.
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
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.).
The plaintiff prisoner claimed that he was denied adequate medical care and forced to live in unsanitary conditions. He sought to proceed as a pauper with his lawsuit, showing that his prison trust account was $300 overdrawn, and that he earned $10 a month from his prison job. The court assessed an initial filing fee of $2.02. The prison did not make the $2.02 payment, and the lawsuit was dismissed. The prisoner argued that the prison administrator was at fault, failing to comply with the court's order to pay the fee. Reversing the dismissal, the appeals court noted that there was no rule requiring a prison to process a payment to permit a lawsuit before satisfying a prisoner's debt to the prison. There was a conflict of interest in asking the prison to process a lawsuit fee for a prisoner in a lawsuit against it, and no prisoner can be prohibited from bringing a civil lawsuit because they lack the means to pay the fee. Sultan v. Fenoglio, #14-1376, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 71 (7th Cir.).
A prisoner claimed that prison officials and medical personnel acted with deliberate indifference to his need for medical treatment for his epilepsy. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice because he did not pay the initial partial filing fee, which was $8.40, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. He claimed to have had no money or income when the fee was due, and also asserted that any money received in his account was automatically deducted by the prison to pay for the costs of printing copies of his complaint. A federal appeals court found that the trial court had not abused its discretion by setting the initial filing fee at $8.40, even though there was only two cents in the prisoner's account at the time, but the lawsuit was improperly dismissed without a determination of whether the plaintiff was at fault for not paying. Thomas v. Butts, #12-2902, 745 F.3d 309 (7th Cir. 2014).
Dismissal of prisoner's civil rights lawsuit against correctional officials was justified under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1915(b) for his repeated failure to make monthly partial payments towards the court filing fee. Cosby v. N.R. Meadors, No. 02-1540 (10th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act's rules concerning the payment of filing fees, a prisoner attempting to proceed in a federal civil rights lawsuit as a pauper could not postpone payment of the full filing fee until after he was released, and was required to make installment payments of at least 20 percent of the monthly income credited to his prisoner account until the fee was paid. Ippolito v. Buss, 293 F. Supp. 2d. 881 (N.D. Ind. 2003). [N/R]
Trial court was not required to give a reason for denying a prisoner's motion to proceed without paying filing fees after prisoner failed to comply with the Prison Litigation Reform Act's requirements for a waiver of fees. Massey v. Inmate Grievance Office, No. 2229, 837 A.2d 1040 (Md. App. 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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