Statutory Interpretation PLRA Three Strikes Rule.


Byline: Derek Hawkins

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Fabian Greyer, et al. v. Illinois Department of Corrections, et al.

Case No.: 18-1290; 18-1458

Officials: WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Statutory Interpretation PLRA Three Strikes Rule

One of Congress's expressed goals when it passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") was to rein in the flood of prisoner litigationall too often frivolous or vexatious, it thoughtclogging the courts. See Margo Schlanger, Inmate Litigation, 116 HARV. L. REV. 1555, 163334 & nn. 26970 (2003) (citing Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 525 (2002); and 141 CONG. REC. 514, 627 (daily ed. Sept. 29, 1995) (statement of Sen. Hatch)). Of the many tools the law introduced to serve that purpose, one of the most potent is the so-called "three strikes" provision. See 28 U.S.C. 1915(g). The statute specifies that a prisoner may not proceed in forma pauperis if she "has, on [three] or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted ." Id.

So far, so good. But no legislation spells out everything, and the PLRA is no exception. Our concern here is with the way in which courts administer the three-strikes rule. Many have created elaborate forms requiring prisoner-litigants to list their entire litigation histories. NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, Complaint Under the Civil Rights Act, Title 42, Section 1983 U.S. Code, or Complaint Under the Constitution ("Bivens" Action), Title 28 Section 1331 U.S. Code (federal defendants), https://www.ilnd.uscourts. gov/_assets/_documents/_forms/_online/1983EDForm092007 .pdf. By collecting this information, a district court reviewing an indigent prisoner's complaint can ensure itself that the prisoner plaintiffhas not "struck out."


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