Gresham #272603 v. LaChance et al
OPINION ; signed by Judge Robert Holmes Bell (Judge Robert Holmes Bell, kcb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
MICHAEL GRESHAM #272603,
Case No. 2:11-cv-231
Honorable Robert Holmes Bell
JIM LaCHANCE et al.,
OPINION DENYING LEAVE
TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS - THREE STRIKES
Plaintiff Michael Gresham, a prisoner incarcerated at Marquette Branch Prison, filed
a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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.
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
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 extremely active litigant in the federal courts in Michigan.
The court has dismissed more than three of Plaintiff’s actions for failure to state a claim. See
Gresham v. Caruso et al., No. 2:10-cv-195 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 11, 2011); Gresham v. Paine et al.,
No. 1:10-cv-1146 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 8, 2011); Gresham v. Caruso et al., No. 1:10-cv-1038 (W.D.
Mich. Jan. 26, 2011); Gresham v. Verville et al., No. 2:10-cv-198 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 19, 2011);
Gresham v. Mich. Dep’t of Corr. et al., No. 2:07-cv-241 (W.D. Mich. June 9, 2008). In addition,
the Court previously has denied Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, see Gresham v. Canlis
et al., No. 2:11-cv-179 (W.D. Mich. June 9, 2011); Dennis v. Canlis, No. 2:11-cv-186 (W.D. Mich.
June 6, 2011).
Moreover, Plaintiff’s allegations do not fall within the exception to the three-strikes
rule because he does not allege facts establishing that he is in imminent danger of serious physical
injury. Plaintiff alleges that, on July 11, 2009, he was sexually assaulted by two employees of the
Michigan Department of Corrections at the Marquette Branch Prison (MPB). He also alleges that,
on another occasion, a razor was placed in his food. Plaintiff subsequently filed federal civil rights
actions about those claims, which remain pending. He argues that Defendants are involved in a
conspiracy to retaliate against him for filing those actions.
Plaintiff’s claims are somewhat difficult to decipher, as his allegations about past
assaults and threats are interwoven with his present claims, in an apparent attempt to demonstrate
the existence of imminent danger. It appears, however, that Plaintiff presently is complaining that,
on May 31, 2011, while he resided at Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility (AMF) he was ordered
by Defendants Bommenshenkial and an unknown Resident Unit Officer to pack up his things for
transfer to MBP, the prison at which he was sexually assaulted in 2009. Plaintiff also alleges that,
before his transfer, Nurse Tolkenien threatened to give cyanide pills to the guards so that Plaintiff
could kill himself. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that, after Defendants Bramm, Goodreau, LaPointe
and an unknown officer had been inside his cell to remove his property, Plaintiff found metal objects,
including a razor, together with over 400 different types of medication and a note. The noted stated
“kill yourself Gresham[.] Prison will never Reform and The Federal Judges are Too Stupid to Know
How the State Prison works[.] We’ll never be caught. No one cares[.]” (Compl., docket #1, Page
ID#7.) Plaintiff asked to see Defendant Sergeant Obiden, who never came. Plaintiff contends that
he is at risk of suicide, and Defendants have planted dangerous items in an attempt to cause Plaintiff
to commit suicide. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants have subjected him to retaliatory
harassment, denied him access to the courts, and issued false misconduct tickets.
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). “Imminent” is also defined as “ready to take place, near at hand, impending, hanging
threateningly over one’s head, menacingly near.” WEBSTER ’S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL
DICTIONARY , 1130 (1976). “Imminent danger” is “such an appearance of threatened and impending
injury as would put a reasonable and prudent man to his instant defense.” BLACK’S LAW
DICTIONARY , 515 (6th ed. 1991).
In a recent decision, the Sixth Circuit recognized the standard adopted by other circuit
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
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). Thus a prisoner’s assertion that he
faced danger in the past is insufficient to invoke the exception. Id.
Plaintiff’s allegations concern past incidents of physical harm and threats, together
with non-physical violations of his civil rights. Although Plaintiff complains about being returned
to MPB, no factual basis exists for concluding that, simply because Plaintiff was assaulted at MPB
two years ago, the risk of further assault is imminent. In addition, Plaintiff’s allegations about
Defendants’ threats and treatment at AMF fail to show that he was in imminent danger at the time
he filed the instant action, when he was housed at MPB. Regardless of whether AMF officers may
have posed an imminent danger to Plaintiff while he resided at AMF, he is no longer at risk of
physical injury from the AMF Defendants because he no longer resides there. See Day v. Maynard,
200 F.3d 665, 667 (10th Cir. 1999) (holding that a plaintiff cannot show imminent danger based on
events that occurred at a facility other than his current place of incarceration).
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.
Dated: June 24, 2011
/s/ Robert Holmes Bell
ROBERT HOLMES BELL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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