Burnett #200640 v. Caruso et al
OPINION DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS - THREE STRIKES ; signed by Judge R. Allan Edgar (EDTN Judge R. Allan Edgar, cam)
Burnett #200640 v. Caruso et al
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN NORTHERN DIVISION
MICHAEL ANGELO BURNETT, Plaintiff, v. PATRICIA CARUSO et al., Defendants. ____________________________________/ OPINION DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS - THREE STRIKES Plaintiff Michael Angelo Burnett, a prisoner incarcerated at Maxey/Woodland Correctional Facility, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The events underlying Plaintiff's complaint occurred at Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF). Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Because Plaintiff has filed at least three lawsuits that were dismissed as frivolous, malicious or for failure to state a claim, he is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The Court will order Plaintiff to pay the $350.00 civil action filing fee within twenty-eight (28) days of this opinion and accompanying order, and if Plaintiff fails to do so, the Court will order that his action be dismissed without prejudice. Even if the case is dismissed, Plaintiff will be responsible for payment of the $350.00 filing fee in accordance with In re Alea, 286 F.3d 378, 380-81 (6th Cir. 2002). Case No. 2:10-cv-79 Honorable R. Allan Edgar
Discussion The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), which was enacted on April 26, 1996, amended the procedural rules governing a prisoner's request for the privilege of proceeding in forma pauperis. As the Sixth Circuit has stated, the PLRA was "aimed at the skyrocketing numbers of claims filed by prisoners many of which are meritless and the corresponding burden those filings have placed on the federal courts." Hampton v. Hobbs, 106 F.3d 1281, 1286 (6th Cir. 1997). For that reason, Congress put into place economic incentives to prompt a prisoner to "stop and think" before filing a complaint. Id. For example, a prisoner is liable for the civil action filing fee, and if the prisoner qualifies to proceed in forma pauperis, the prisoner may pay the fee through partial payments as outlined in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). The constitutionality of the fee requirements of the PLRA has been upheld by the Sixth Circuit. Id. at 1288. In addition, another provision reinforces the "stop and think" aspect of the PLRA by preventing a prisoner from proceeding in forma pauperis when the prisoner repeatedly files meritless lawsuits. Known as the "three-strikes" rule, the provision states: In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under [the section governing proceedings in forma pauperis] if the prisoner has, on 3 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, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The statutory restriction "[i]n no event," found in § 1915(g), is express and unequivocal. The statute does allow an exception for a prisoner who is "under imminent danger of
serious physical injury." The Sixth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of the "three-strikes" rule against arguments that it violates equal protection, the right of access to the courts, and due process, and that it constitutes a bill of attainder and is ex post facto legislation. Wilson v. Yaklich, 148 F.3d 596, 604-06 (6th Cir.1998); accord Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1178-82 (9th Cir. 1999); Rivera v. Allin, 144 F.3d 719, 723-26 (11th Cir. 1998); Carson v. Johnson, 112 F.3d 818, 821-22 (5th Cir. 1997). Plaintiff has been an active litigant in the federal courts in Michigan. In more than three of Plaintiff's lawsuits, the Court entered dismissals on the grounds that they were frivolous, malicious and/or failed to state a claim. See, e.g, Burnett v. Caruso, et al., No. 2:09-cv-180 (W.D. Mich., Oct. 8, 2009); Burnett v. Hill, et al., No. 2:09-cv-39 (W.D. Mich., Mar. 6, 2009); Burnett v. Caruso, et al., No. 2:08-cv-168 (W.D. Mich., Jan. 5, 2009). Moreover, Plaintiff's allegations do not fall within the exception to the three strikes rule, because he does not allege any facts establishing that he is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). Congress did not define "imminent danger" in the PLRA, but it is significant that Congress chose to use the word "imminent," a word that conveys the idea of immediacy. "Imminent" is "Near at hand . . . impending; on the point of happening; threatening, menacing, perilous. Something which is threatening to happen at once, something close at hand, something to happen upon the instant . . . and on the point of happening." BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, 514-15 (6th ed. 1991). The Sixth Circuit recognized the standard adopted by other circuit courts: While the Sixth Circuit has not defined the term "imminent danger" for purposes of this section, other Circuits have held that to meet the requirement, the threat or prison condition "must be real and proximate" and the danger of serious physical injury must exist at the time the complaint is filed. See, e.g., Ciarpaglini v. Saini, 352 F.3d 328, 330 (7th Cir.2003); Abdul-Akbar v. McKelvie, 239 F.3d 307, 313 (3d Cir.2001) (en banc). Thus a prisoner's assertion that he or she faced danger in the past is -3-
insufficient to invoke the exception. Id. Other Circuits also have held that district courts may deny a prisoner leave to proceed pursuant to § 1915(g) when the prisoner's claims of imminent danger are "conclusory or ridiculous," Ciarpaglini, 352 F.3d at 331, or are "`clearly baseless' (i.e. are fantastic or delusional and rise to the level of `irrational or wholly incredible).'" Gibbs v. Cross, 160 F.3d 962, 967 (3d Cir.1998) (quoting Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992)). Rittner v. Kinder, 290 F. App'x 796, 797-98 (6th Cir. 2008) In this case, a number of Plaintiff's claims are fantastic or delusional. He states that on November 4 and 5, 2009, URF prison officials used a security device known as an "Atmospheric Radiological Dispersal Device" to expose him to radioactive urine and stool, which was absorbed through his skin or ingested orally. (Am. Compl., Page ID #73-78, docket #7.) As noted above, allegations that are fantastic or delusional and rise to the level of the "irrational or wholly incredible," such as the allegations in this case, need not be credited by the court. Gibbs, 160 F.3d at 967. Plaintiff's remaining allegations address events that occurred in November 2009. Since the alleged danger occurred in the past, Plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to invoke the exception. Ciarpaglini, 352 F.3d at 330 ("Allegations of past harm do not suffice[.]"). To the extent he alleges that these assaults have continued, his allegations are too conclusory to establish imminent danger. Id. at 331. In light of the foregoing, § 1915(g) prohibits Plaintiff from proceeding in forma pauperis in this action. Plaintiff has twenty-eight (28) days from the date of entry of this order to pay the entire civil action filing fee, which is $350.00. When Plaintiff pays his filing fee, the Court will screen his complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). If Plaintiff
fails to pay the filing fee within the 28-day period, his case will be dismissed without prejudice, but he will continue to be responsible for payment of the $350.00 filing fee.
/s/ R. Allan Edgar R. Allan Edgar United States District Judge
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