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Leonard Farley v. Tim Virga

July 25, 2012

LEONARD FARLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIM VIRGA, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. Introduction

Plaintiff is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and is proceeding in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This proceeding was referred to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 302.

Pending before the court is defendants' motion for an order declaring plaintiff to be a three-strike litigant and revoking plaintiff's in forma pauperis status. (Dkt. No. 30.) Plaintiff filed an opposition, and defendants filed a reply.

II. Motion to Revoke In Forma Pauperis Status

A. Three Strikes

Title 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) (hereafter "§ 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 § 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). A prisoner's in forma pauperis status should be revoked 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).

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, 387 (5th Cir. 1996). However, Adepegba qualifies that insofar as affirmance does not go to the merits but only finds no error at the district court level, affirmance should not count as a separate strike.*fn1 Id. On the other hand, when the appeal is frivolous on a separate ground, or when the appeal of a district court dismissal as frivolous is itself frivolous, 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). Dismissals as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim with or without prejudice may count as strikes. O'Neal v. Price, 531 F.3d 1146, 1154 (9th Cir. 2008). "Actions dismissed for procedural defects are not necessarily strikes under § 1915(g), though they may constitute strikes under certain circumstances." Id. at 1155, n.9.

Moreover, the Ninth Circuit found that "a dismissal must be final before it counts as a 'strike' for § 1915(g) purposes." Silva v. Di Vittorio, 658 F.3d 1090, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 2011). Thus, a district court's dismissal of a case does not count as a 'strike' under § 1915(g) until the litigant has exhausted or waived his opportunity to appeal. This means a dismissal ripens into a 'strike' for § 1915(g) purposes on the date of the Supreme Court's denial or dismissal of a petition for writ of certiorari, if the prisoner filed one, or from the date when the time to file a petition for writ of certiorari expired, if he did not.

Id. at 1100 (internal quotation omitted.) "If a prisoner does not appeal a dismissal, the dismissal counts as a 'strike' from the date when his time to ...


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