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Ronald Foster v. P. Statti

September 27, 2011

RONALD FOSTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
P. STATTI, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER & FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff filed the instant action on April 19, 2010 and was granted in forma pauperis status on June 2, 2010. Pending before the court are defendants' motion to dismiss, as plaintiff is three strikes barred pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g), filed on April 14, 2011. For the following reasons, the court recommends that defendants' motions be denied.

Motion to Dismiss

28 U.S.C. § 1915 permits any court of the United States to authorize the commencement and prosecution of any suit without prepayment of fees by a person who submits an affidavit indicating that the person is unable to pay such fees. However, [i]n no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section 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).

In forma pauperis status may be acquired and lost during the course of litigation.

Stehouwer v. Hennessey, 841 F. Supp. 316, 321 (N.D. Cal., 1994), vacated on other grounds by Olivares v. Marshall, 59 F.3d 109 (9th Cir. 1995). The plain language of the statute (§ 1915(g)) makes clear that a prisoner is precluded from bringing a civil action or an appeal in forma pauperis if the prisoner has brought three frivolous actions and/or appeals (or any combination thereof totaling three). See Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1178 (9th Cir. 1999). 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) should be used to deny a prisoner's in forma pauperis status only upon a determination that each action reviewed (as a potential strike) is carefully evaluated to determine that it was dismissed as frivolous, malicious or for failure to state a claim. Andrews v. King, 398 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2005). Defendant has the burden to "produce documentary evidence that allows the district court to conclude that the plaintiff has filed at least three prior actions ... dismissed because they were 'frivolous, malicious or fail[ed] to state a claim.'" Id., at 1120, quoting § 1915(g). Actions filed and/or dismissed prior to the enactment of the Prison Litigation Reform Act on April 26, 1996, are to be evaluated to determine whether they qualify as strikes: "the plain language of § 1915(g) requires that the court look at cases dismissed prior to the enactment of the PLRA to determine when a prisoner has used his three strikes." Rodriguez v. Cook, 169 F.3d 1176, 1181, citing Tierney v. Kupers, 128 F.3d 1310, 1311 (9th Cir. 1997).*fn1

Dismissal of an appeal as frivolous after a district court dismissal on grounds that the action was frivolous counts as a separate strike. Adepegba v. Hammons, 103 F.3d 383, 388 (5th Cir. 1996). However, Adepegba qualifies that insofar as affirmance only finds no error at district court level, affirmance should not count as separate strike.*fn2 Id., at 387. On the other hand, when the appeal is frivolous on a separate ground, then the appeal dismissal is also a strike. Id. at 388. See also Thompson v. Gibson, 289 F.3d 1218, 1222 (10th Cir. 2002); Moran v. Sondalle, 218 F.3d 647, 651-52 (7th Cir. 2000) (both noting that frivolous appeals count as a strike).

In a very recent case, Silva v. Di Vittorio, __F.3d__, 2011 WL 4436248 (9thCir. 2011), the Ninth Circuit held that a district court strike was not final until an appeal had been resolved.

Discussion

Defendants contend in their motion that plaintiff's litigation history shows that he has seven strikes. Per defendants' request, the undersigned takes judicial notice of the following cases: *fn3

1) Foster v. Runnels (2:01-cv-2365), dismissed on March 18, 2002, for failure to state a claim.

2) Foster v. Jackson (2:02-cv-1278), dismissed on July 22, 2002, for failure to exhaust ...


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