Lane v. Johnston
Order denying 7 MOTION to Appoint Counsel filed by Thomas Lane. Denying 6 MOTION to set his case for trial and stating he has not money to pay the filing fee filed by Thomas Lane. Disposition Deadline set to 12/12/2013 for Plf to remit the $4.00 partial filing fee or to SHOW CAUSE why he is unable to pay the partial filing fee, as further set out. Signed by Magistrate Judge Katherine P. Nelson on 11/21/2013. copy mailed. (sdb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JOSEPH S. JOHNSTON,
Civil Action No. 13-00491-KD-N
In this pro se § 1983 action, two motions have been referred to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)
and Local Rule 72.2(c)(4): Plaintiff Thomas Lane’s motion to set his case for trial,
stating that he has “no money and [does not] expect to get any money[,]” but if he
does, he will “send it to [the Court]” (Doc. 6); and motion for appointment of counsel
(Doc. 7). For the reasons explained below, both motions are due to be and are
Motion to proceed without payment of a partial filing fee
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)
The undersigned construes Lane’s first motion (Doc. 6) as a response to the
Court’s October 28, 2013 Order (Doc. 5), in which Lane was ordered to remit $4.00
no later than November 18, 2013 as a partial filing fee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(b)(1). (See Doc. 5 at 1 (explaining, “Plaintiff’s motion [Doc. 4] indicates that a
partial filing fee must be paid by Plaintiff before this action proceeds further.”).)
As the Court made clear to Lane in its previous order, the Prison Litigation
Reform Act of 1995 (the “PLRA”)
“clearly and unambiguously requires that ‘if a prisoner brings a civil
action or files an appeal in forma pauperis, the prisoner shall be
required to pay the full amount of a filing fee.’” Hubbard v. Haley, 262
F.3d 1194, 1197 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)), cert.
denied, 534 U.S. 1136 (2002). Nevertheless, the PLRA provides that
“[i]n no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action
or appealing a civil or criminal judgment for the reason that the
prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial
filing fee.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4). Accordingly, the impecunious
defendant, although liable for the entire fee, may pay his or her entire
fee in installments. Id. § 1915(3)(b)(1); see McGore v. Wrigglesworth,
114 F.3d 601, 606 (6th Cir. 1997) (observing that “the only issue [in
IFP fee determination] is whether the inmate pays the entire fee at the
initiation of the proceeding or over a period of time under an
installment plan”); see also Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d 481, 483 (8th
Wilson v. Sargent, 313 F.3d 1315, 1318 (11th Cir. 2002) (internal citation modified).
Once the district court assesses an initial partial filing fee, the inmate
is liable for its payment. See § 1915(b)(1). If the prisoner’s account
does not contain the full amount assessed as an initial partial filing
fee, the inmate must ensure that any available portion of that initial
fee is withdrawn from his account and transmitted to the clerk of the
district court. See Hatchet v. Nettles, 201 F.3d 651, 653 (5th Cir. 2000).
Once the entire initial partial filing fee is paid pursuant to §
1915(b)(1), the PLRA requires that the prisoner make monthly
payments equivalent to 20 percent of the preceding month’s income
credited to his or her account each time the balance exceeds $10, until
the entire remainder of the filing fee is paid. Id. § 1915(b)(2).
Id. at 1320 (citation modified and footnote omitted). The Court has also already
conveyed this information Lane, in the order granting his motion to proceed without
prepayment of fees. (See Doc. 5 at 1.)
Lane, through his current motion, is not refusing to ever pay the initial
partial filing fee of $4.00, previously assed by the Court, but is instead requesting
that the Court let his case proceed before he pays that amount. That is, of course,
not an option under the PLRA. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Thus, Lane’s request
raises the issue of when the Court can dismiss this matter for his failure to pay the
initial partial filing fee.
And Wilson v. Sargent, in which the plaintiff
unconditionally refused to pay the initial partial filing fee (of $7.16) pursuant to §
1915(b)(1), see 313 F.3d at 1320-21, is instructive.1 There, the Eleventh Circuit held
that before dismissing a prisoner’s complaint for failure to comply with
an IFP order directing the prisoner to pay an initial partial filing fee
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the district court must take reasonable
steps . . . to determine whether the prisoner complied with the order by
authorizing payment by prison officials.
Id. at 1321 (citing Hatchet, 201 F.3d at 654); but see id. at 1321 n.7 (cautioning that
nothing in Wilson v. Sargent “precludes a court from inquiring further into the
inmate’s account activity after entry of the IFP order. For example, if the court
determines that [an inmate] is unable to pay the partial filing fee at the time of
collection because he intentionally depleted his account to avoid payment, the court
There, the plaintiff, Wilson, argued that he was “excused from payment of his
initial partial filing fee of $7.16 because he lack[ed] funds.” Id. at 1320. The Eleventh
According to § 1915(b)(1), the prisoner must pay the initial fee “when funds
become available.” Even if the account contains less than $10, the inmate
must pay to the clerk of the district court any and all existing funds up to and
including the amount of the initial partial filing fee; the ten-dollar rule of §
1915(b)(2) applies only after the initial partial filing fee is paid. Once
ordered to pay the $7.16, Wilson therefore was required to pay that
amount as soon as funds became available. For example, if he had $7.16
in his account, he was required to pay the entire amount. If he had $5.00, he
was required to pay $5.00, and to withdraw and pay funds from any
subsequent deposits into his account up to and including $2.16. Thus, Wilson
would be excused from making payments on his initial partial filing fee only
if his account balance was $0.00 and no further deposits were made to his
Id. at 1320 (internal citations omitted and emphasis added).
in its sound discretion may dismiss the action.” (citation omitted)).2
Accordingly, Lane’s motion to proceed without payment of the filing fee
(Doc. 6) is DENIED. See, e.g., McGore, 114 F.3d at 606. In light of Wilson v.
Sargent, however, Lane is afforded additional time to comply with the Court’s
previous order (Doc. 5). And it is ORDERED that, no later than December 12,
2013, Lane shall either (1) REMIT to the Clerk of this Court the $4.00 partial filing
fee through a money order made payable to “Clerk, U.S. District Court” or (2)
SHOW CAUSE in writing why he is unable to pay the partial filing fee. If Lane
chooses to show cause in writing, he SHALL include in his response a financial
statement from his institution reflecting his account activity dating back to August
14, 2013 (the start date for the statement he previously provided (see Doc. 4 at 6-7)).
Lane is further CAUTIONED that the failure to comply with this order
could result in a recommendation to the District Judge that his lawsuit be
dismissed for failure to comply with an order of the Court and/or failure to
prosecute his case.3
Motion for appointment of counsel
For example, in Walker v. Powell, 351 Fed. App’x 384 (11th Cir. Oct. 30, 2009)
(per curiam), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an inmate’s § 1983 case for
failure to make payments on his court fees where the record revealed that the plaintiff
failed to adequately explain purchases he made with funds that could have been used to
pay court-ordered filing fees. See id. at 386 (noting, “The Plaintiff’s failure to comply with
the terms of his in forma pauperis petition and the District Court’s 20 October order are
sufficient justification for the District Court to dismiss the case.”).
Should nonpayment of the initial partial filing fee remain a problem, the
undersigned will explore the alternatives set out in Wilson v. Sargent, 313 F.3d at 1321-22,
before recommending that this matter be dismissed.
Lane has no right to appointment of counsel in this civil action. See Fowler v.
James, 899 F.2d 1088, 1096 (11th Cir. 1990) (“Appointment of counsel in a civil case
is not a constitutional right.”).
Rather, “[t]he appointment of counsel is [ ] a
privilege that is justified only by exceptional circumstances.” McCall v. Cook, 495
Fed. App’x 29, 31 (11th Cir. Oct. 31, 2012) (per curiam) (quoting Poole v. Lambert,
819 F.2d 1025, 1028 (11th Cir. 1987)). Determining “whether such circumstances
exist” is within this Court’s “discretion.” Steele v. Shah, 87 F.3d 1266, 1271 (11th
Cir. 1996) (citations omitted); see also Bass v. Perrin, 170 F.3d 1312, 1320 (11th Cir.
1999) (“A plaintiff in a civil suit has no constitutional right to counsel. A court may,
however, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), appoint counsel for an indigent
plaintiff. The district court has broad discretion in making this decision, and
should appoint counsel only in exceptional circumstances.” (internal citation
omitted and emphasis added)). “The primary exceptional circumstance arises when
‘the facts and legal issues are so novel or complex as to require the assistance of a
Caffey v. Mobile Police Dep’t, Civil Action No. 12–0400–WS–
M, 2012 WL 5399094, at *3 (S.D. Ala. Nov. 5, 2012) (quoting Poole, 819 F.2d at
1028). At this initial stage of the proceeding, the Court is simply not in a position to
assess whether this case presents exceptional circumstances that necessitate
appointment of counsel. Therefore, Lane’s motion (Doc. 7) is premature and due to
DONE and ORDERED this the 21st day of November, 2013.
/s/ Katherine P. Nelson
KATHERINE P. NELSON
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?