WEST v. COPELAND et al
ORDER DENYING 201 Motion for Leave to Appeal in forma pauperis. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE MARC THOMAS TREADWELL on 5/3/2017. (tlh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
Sergeant TEMPLE, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:14-CV-86 (MTT)
Plaintiff Kevin West has filed a motion for leave to appeal IFP. Doc. 201. West
appeals from a January 10, 2017 jury verdict in favor of the Defendants in this civil
rights action. Docs. 192 at 1; 194. Applications to appeal IFP are governed by 28
U.S.C. § 1915 and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 24. Section 1915 provides:
(a)(1) [A]ny court of the United States may authorize the
commencement, prosecution or defense of any suit, action
or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without
prepayment of fees or security therefore, by a person who
submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets
such prisoner possesses that the person is unable to pay
such fees or give security therefor. Such affidavit shall state
the nature of the action, defense or appeal and affiant’s
belief that the person is entitled to redress.
(3) An appeal may not be taken in forma pauperis if the trial
court certifies in writing that it is not taken in good faith.
Similarly, Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 24(a) provides:
(1) [A] party to a district-court action who desires to appeal in
forma pauperis must file a motion in the district court. The
party must attach an affidavit that:
(A) shows . . . the party’s inability to pay or to give
security for fees and costs;
(B) claims an entitlement to redress; and
(C) states the issues that the party intends to present
(2) . . . . If the district court denies the motion, it must state
its reasons in writing.
District courts therefore must make two determinations when deciding an
application to appeal IFP: whether the plaintiff is financially unable to pay the filing fee
required for an appeal, and whether the plaintiff has made her appeal in “good faith.” In
this case, West’s application and his certified trust account indicate that he is unable to
pay the $505 appellate filing fee. See Doc. 2-1 at 1 (authorized officer of West’s place
of incarceration certifying that West’s average monthly balance was $10 in the six
months prior to February 10, 2014); see generally Doc. 201 (documenting that West
accrued zero income from the past twelve months, expects zero income next month,
and has no cash or assets); see also id. at 4 (“I am in prison and my mother pasted [sic]
away. Therefore, I have no family support.”).
As to the good faith requirement, “‘good faith’ . . . must be judged by an objective
standard.” Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). A plaintiff
demonstrates good faith when he seeks review of a non-frivolous issue. Id.; Morris v.
Ross, 663 F.2d 1032, 1033 (11th Cir. 1981). An issue “is frivolous if it is ‘without
arguable merit either in law or fact.’” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir.
2002) (citation omitted). “Arguable means being capable of being convincingly argued.”
Sun v. Forrester, 939 F.2d 924, 925 (11th Cir. 1991) (quotation marks and citations
omitted); see also Carroll v. Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993) (“[A] case is
frivolous . . . when it appears the plaintiff ‘has little or no chance of success.’”) (citations
omitted). “In deciding whether an IFP appeal is frivolous, a district court determines
whether there is ‘a factual and legal basis, of constitutional dimension, for the asserted
wrong, however inartfully pleaded.’” Sun, 939 F.2d at 925 (citations omitted).
In this case, West, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, contended that the
Defendants used excessive force against West in violation of his constitutional rights by
slamming him into the ground and then dragging him by his restraints. Doc. 48 at 2-4.
The Defendants contended that the force they used was lawful. Docs. 73 at 3-4; 78 at
3-4. The Court granted in part and denied in part the Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment, ruling that a factual dispute existed and therefore West’s claim should go to
trial but limiting his possible recovery to nominal damages because the undisputed
evidence showed he only suffered de minimis injuries. Docs. 162 at 1-2; 154 at 13-14.
At trial, the jury delivered a verdict for the Defendants after deliberating for only 30
minutes. See Doc. 190 at 2 (minute entry documenting trial proceedings and jury
deliberations). West has not submitted a statement of the issues he intends to appeal,
as he was required to do. Fed. R. App. Pro. 24(a)(1)(C). West has alleged, in his
notice of appeal, that he has unspecified “evidence that would have helped him in his
trial.” Doc. 196. The Court is not aware of any such evidence, and West did not
attempt to introduce any such evidence at trial. Further, West made very few objections
during trial, none of which present a non-frivolous issue for appeal. West objected to
the admission of the recent felony convictions of West and witness Royrecus
Cunningham as irrelevant, but the Court ruled that such evidence is admissible
pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1)(A) and gave a jury instruction (both
during and after trial) ordering the jury to limit its use of such evidence to determining
credibility. See Doc. 191 at 4 (noting that jurors “may consider the fact that the witness
has been convicted of a felony” when weighing the witness’s credibility). West also
objected to some witnesses’ testimony on the grounds that the witnesses were not
testifying truthfully; the Court overruled those objections and pointed out to West that
the credibility of testimony is a fact question for the jury to decide. In sum, this case
involved the resolution of a simple fact issue, and the evidence overwhelmingly favored
the Defendants’ version of events. Since there are no issues with arguable merit, this
appeal is not brought in good faith. Accordingly, West’s application to appeal IFP (Doc.
201) is DENIED.
If West wishes to proceed with his appeal, he must pay the entire $505 appellate
filing fee. West’s application and affidavit for IFP indicate that he cannot pay the fee
immediately. See generally Doc. 201. Therefore, he must pay using the partial
payment plan described in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b), and the prison account custodian shall
cause to be remitted to the Clerk of this Court monthly payments of 20% of the
preceding month’s income credited to West’s account to the extent the account balance
exceeds $10 until the $505 appellate filing fee has been paid in full. Checks should be
made payable to “Clerk, U.S. District Court.” The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to send
a copy of this Order to the custodian of the prison in which West is incarcerated.
SO ORDERED, this 3rd day of May, 2017.
S/ Marc T. Treadwell
MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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