Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Inmate loses three-strikes PLRA filing fee exception

Under the Prisoners Litigation Reform Act, with narrow exceptions, inmates who bring three frivolous lawsuits cannot bring another lawsuit or appeal in forma pauperis, which allows impoverished people -- including inmates -- to proceed without paying filing fees. (If they want to bring another case, the inmates have to pay the filing fees). The Court of Appeals applies this rule to an inmate who in the past has brought frivolous lawsuits.

The case is Akassy v. Hardy, decided on April 4. Four of plaintiff's cases were dismissed on statutes of limitations grounds. Under settled precedent, those timeliness dismissal qualify as frivolous cases under the PLRA. Plaintiff tries to get around this by arguing that these four  dismissals should count as only one strike because the dismissals were implemented in a single order from the Court of Appeals. Nice try, but the Second Circuit is not buying it. Those cases were consolidated by the Court of Appeals as a single appeal. Those separate appeals did not thereby become a single appeal for purposes of determining if plaintiff has three strikes under the PLRA.

Another way to avoid the three-strikes rule is showing the current lawsuit claims the inmate is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. Plaintiff invokes this rule. The Court frames his argument this way:

Akassy, who seeks to sue his former attorneys, states "my life is in a cl[ea]r and present danger as I have been subjected to abuses, physical assaults and denied my prisoner's rights by overzealous Correctional Officers for filing grievances and reporting abuses to law enforcement authorities and Human Rights Organizations" and "because of the nature of my alleged criminal case and the legal malpractice."
But this not what the imminent physical injury exception was intended to cover. You have to claim  imminent physical injury; if the injuries have already occurred, the statute will not protect you. Also, the purpose of this exception is to allow you to file the lawsuit to redress that imminent physical injury, such that there must be a nexus between the lawsuit and the threat. There is no such nexus here. 

No comments: