Federal and State PLRA
Federal PLRA Three Strikes Provision
The United States Congress, through the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, (Federal PLRA) Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat 1321, signed into law by President Clinton on April 26, 1996, amended 28 U.S.C. §1915 governing in forma pauperis status for prisoner litigation raising federal claims. 28 U.S.C. §1915(b)(4) states that [i]n no event shall a prisoner be prohibited from bringing a civil action or appealing a civil or criminal judgment for the reason that the prisoner has no assets and no means by which to pay the initial partial filing fee. To that end, 28 U.S.C. §1915 provides a process for indigent prisoners to pay filing fees in installments. However, 28 U.S.C. §1915(g) states:
[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.
Finally, absent a showing of imminent danger of serious bodily injury, an inmate litigant loses the privilege of in forma pauperis status, and must pay the complete filing fee or face dismissal of the action or appeal.
State PLRA Three Strikes Provision
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, through Act 1998-84 (1998, June 18, P.L. 640, No. 84), signed into law by Governor Ridge, added 42 Pa.C.S.A. §6601 et seq. (State PLRA), regarding in forma pauperis status for prisoner litigation raising state claims. The State PLRA supplements other grounds for the denial of in forma pauperis status as set forth in the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6602(d)(1) requires that:
[a] prisoner shall not be prohibited from filing prison conditions litigation because the prisoner has no assets or other means to pay the filing fee. This paragraph shall not prevent the court from dismissing or otherwise disposing of prison conditions litigation pursuant to this chapter or any other provision of law.
In that regard, 42 Pa.C.S.A. §6602 (e) and (f) provide, in relevant part, that:
(e) Dismissal of litigation. - Notwithstanding any filing fee which has been paid, the court shall dismiss prison conditions litigation at any time, including prior to service on the defendant, if the court determines any of the following: . . .
(2) The prison conditions litigation is frivolous or malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or the defendant is entitled to assert a valid affirmative defense, including immunity, which, if asserted would preclude the relief.
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(f) Abusive litigation - If the prisoner has previously filed prison conditions litigation and:
(1) three or more of these prior civil actions have been dismissed pursuant to subsection (e)(2); or
(2) the prisoner has previously filed prison conditions litigation against a person named as a defendant in the instant action or a person serving in the same official capacity as a named defendant and a court made a finding that the prior action was filed in bad faith or that the prisoner knowingly presented false evidence or testimony at a hearing or trial; the court may dismiss the action. The court shall not, however, dismiss a request for preliminary injunctive relief or a temporary restraining order which makes a credible allegation that the prisoner is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.