AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
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Prison Litigation Reform Act: Similar State Laws
A California intermediate
appeals court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by an inmate complaining
about the medical treatment he received from an optometrist under contract
to provide services to prisoners. The prisoner failed to properly exhaust
available administrative remedies and no acceptable excuse for that was
provided. The court rejected the argument that the requirement to exhaust
administrative remedies did not apply when the defendant was an independent
contractor rather than a government employee.
Parthemore v. Col, #C072611, 2013 Cal. App.
Wisconsin, like a number of other states, has a state law that is similar to the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act, with one of its provisions aimed at deterring inmates who repetitively file meritless and frivolous lawsuits, a "three strikes" provision, denying such frivolous litigants the right to proceed as a pauper in the court, avoiding the payment of court costs and prepayment of filing fees. In a recent case, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled that the fact that a prisoner had had portions of four prior lawsuits dismissed, i.e., particular claims stricken, did not count as "strikes" for purposes of the "three strikes" rule, since in each instance the prisoner had not had his entire action dismissed. State of Wis. Ex Rel. Henderson v. Raemisch, #2009AP1850, 2010 Wisc. App. Lexis 567 (4th Dist.).
A Pennsylvania prisoner filed a lawsuit claiming that a phone company violated various statutory and constitutional provisions by charging increased local call charges and engaging in price gouging, double taxing, hidden fees, and selling prepaid phone cards at inflated prices. He also contended that the Governor's Office of Administration failed to provide necessary safeguards or oversight to protect prisoners from such practices. The court ruled that the lawsuit was essentially over issues of prison conditions, and therefore subject to the requirements of a state Prison Litigation Reform Act. Under that Act, the lawsuit was properly dismissed, as the plaintiff was an abusive litigator, having "three strikes" because two prior lawsuits were dismissed for failure to state a cause of action, and a third prior lawsuit was dismissed for failure to prosecute. Smolsky v. Governor's Office of Administration and Globel Tel*Link Corporation, #207 M.D. 2009, 2010 Pa. Commw. Lexis 114.
When fourteen of the prisoner's prior lawsuits concerning prison conditions had been dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or not stating a viable claim, his lawsuit challenging the mail policy at the facility where he was incarcerated was properly dismissed under the "three strikes" rule of a state Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 Pa. C.S. Secs. 6601-6608. The court rejected arguments that this rule violated the prisoner's federal or state constitutional rights to equal protection of law. Additionally, the court could properly consider lawsuits filed by the prisoner prior to the passing of the PLRA as strikes for purposes of the rule. Jae v. Good, No. 1750 C.D. 2007, 2008 Pa. Commw. Lexis 174.
Prisoner who sued warden for damages for alleged wrongful denial of early work release failed to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing suit, as required by the Louisiana law. His notes to the warden asking for a "few moments" of his time and complaining about changes in work release screening, and his letter to a state official asking for assistance in relationship to his request for work release did not amount to the required compliance with the procedures available for administrative review of denials of work release under Louisiana law. Coleman v. Thompson, No. 2005-857, 923 So.2d 889 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 2006). [N/R]
Prisoner's lawsuit, seeking court review of decision disciplining him for destruction of property (for allegedly depositing feces on cafeteria food trays), was properly dismissed for failing to comply with Texas state statute concerning procedural requirements for inmate lawsuits. Prisoner failed to show that he exhausted available administrative remedies by filing an affidavit concerning the date he filed a grievance and when the decision on his grievance was received. Comeaux v. Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice, No. 01-04-01184-CV, 193 S.W.3rd 83 (Tex. App. 1st Dist. 2006). [N/R]
Amendments to Louisiana state statutes, creating administrative remedies which prisoners must exhaust prior to pursuing lawsuits against prison officials did not apply retroactively to lawsuits pending at the time they were enacted. Prisoner could, therefore, continue to pursue his negligence claim for damages against prison officials for injuries suffered from falling off of a trailer-mounted water tank during a prison work assignment. Dailey v. Travis, No. 2004-CC-0744, 892 So. 2d 17 (La. 2005). [N/R]
A provision in the Wisconsin state Prison Litigation Reform Act, W.S.A. 814.25(2), which prohibits the award of costs against the state in lawsuits brought by inmates was not a violation of equal protection. State government could rationally decide that inmates who were prevailing plaintiffs should not be reimbursed for their costs from public funds since public funds already provide them with law libraries, paper, and pens to use to draft legal documents in lawsuits. State Ex Rel. Harr v. Berge, No. 03-2611, 681 N.W.2d 282 (Wis. App. 2004). [N/R]
For purposes of a requirement, in a Texas state Inmate Litigation Act, V.T.C.A. Civil Practice & Remedies Code Secs. 14.002(a) and 14.005(a, b), that a prisoner filed a civil lawsuit within 31 days after he exhausts available administrative remedies on a grievance, a prisoner's lawsuit is deemed to have been filed at the time that prison authorities receive the document for mailing, so long as it is properly addressed and stamped. Warner v. Glass, No. 03-0214, 135 S.W.3d 681 (Tex. 2004). [N/R]
Inmate's lawsuit claiming a "massive conspiracy" against him by nineteen correctional officials or employees was frivolous, and he did not show an exhaustion of available administrative remedies as required under Texas law prior to filing suit. Additionally, his affidavit of prior civil litigation history merely described three prior lawsuits as "dismissed," without informing the court that they had been deemed frivolous or malicious, and he had a pattern of filing frivolous lawsuits which had previously resulted in a federal court barring him "for life" from filing further civil lawsuits against correctional officials and employees without prior written court permission. Bishop v. Lawson, #2-03-076-CV, 131 S.W.3d 571 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2004). [N/R]
Louisiana state statute prohibiting prisoner from seeking damages for mental injury without a showing of physical injury only applies to claims arising after it was enacted. A retroactive application to the plaintiff prisoner's claim against sheriff for unsanitary conditions in disciplinary cells would violate due process, as the prisoner had a vested right to assert the claim not impacted by the statute. Bourgeois v. Wiley, #2002 CA1420, 849 So. 2d 632 (La. App. 2003). [N/R]
Oregon state statute, Or. Rev. Stat. Sec. 30.650, prohibiting an award of non-economic damages to a prisoner who did not establish economic damages did not violate state constitutional guarantees of a remedy for violations of his rights or of a right to trial by jury. Voth v. State of Oregon, #01C-15561, A117697, 78 P.3d 565 (Or. App. 2003). [N/R]
Texas prisoner's failure to file a claim for damages to his personal property by a prison employee searching his cell before the 31st day after he received a written decision from the department's written grievance system required dismissal of his lawsuit under a state statute governing inmate litigation. V.T.C.A. Civil Practice & Remedies Code Sec. 14.005(b). Lewis v. Johnson, No. 13-01-770-CV, 97 S.W.3d 885 (Tex. App. 2003). [N/R]
New York state statute establishing a reduced filing fee for inmates granted poor person status did not discriminate against prison inmates as compared to other poor litigants, as it was rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest in deterring frivolous prisoner litigation. Berrian v. Selsky, 763 N.Y.S.2d 111 (A.D. 3d Dept. 2003). [N/R]
Sections of the Pennsylvania state Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. Sec. 6602(a-c) which absolutely protected inmates from litigating without paying a filing fee was an invalid legislative infringement of the state Supreme Court's exclusive right to prescribe rules of practice and procedure for the courts. Court upholds, however, Sec. 6605(a) requiring that findings of fact be made before entering injunctive orders in prison conditions litigation. Payne v. Com. Dept. of Corrections, 813 A.2d 918 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002). [N/R]
Texas statute requiring indigent prisoners to file an affidavit listing the prior lawsuits they have filed and their disposition, or else face dismissal of their lawsuit as frivolous or malicious, did not violate prisoner's rights under the U.S. or Texas constitution. Plaintiff whose lawsuit was dismissed for failure to file required affidavit was the "veritable poster child" for the rational basis of the statute, court comments, with over 175 prior lawsuits and 16 prior published appellate decisions in which he was the appellant. the claims asserted have already been litigated. Thomas v. Bilby, No. 06-00-00113-CV, 40 S.W.3d 166 (Tex. App. 2001). [2002 JB Mar]
298:152 Wisconsin state statute required prisoner to exhaust available administrative remedies before suing in state court to challenge prison regulations prohibiting possession of pornographic materials and cassette tapes/players; no exceptions to the statute existed for any court actions challenging conditions of confinement. Hensley, State Ex Rel, v. Endicott, #00-0076, 629 N.W.2d 686 (Wis. 2001).
287:167 Maryland high court rules that prisoner did not have to exhaust available administrative remedies before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a prison's private contractor medical services provider; state statute requiring exhaustion of remedies only was intended to apply to claims against governmental entities. Adamson v. Correctional Medical Services, Inc., No 78, Sep. Term, 1999, 753 A.2d 501 (Md. 2000).
287:169 Wisconsin appeals court upholds state "three strikes" statute requiring that a prisoner, even if indigent, prepay the full filing fee before proceeding with a state civil rights lawsuit against prison officials once it was shown that he had previously had three lawsuits dismissed as frivolous or otherwise improper. Khan, State Ex Rel. v. Sullivan, No. 99-2102, 613 N.W.2d 203 (Wis. App. 2000).
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