United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS -
J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Larry Darnell Jones, a prisoner incarcerated at Oaks
in Manistee, Michigan, 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 $400.00 civil
action filing fee applicable to those not permitted to
proceed in forma pauperis within twenty-eight (28)
days of this opinion and accompanying order. 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 $400.00
filing fee in accordance with In re Alea, 286 F.3d
378, 380-81 (6th Cir. 2002).
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.
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 Pointer v. Wilkinson, 502 F.3d 369,
377 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Wilson, 148 F.3d at
604-06); 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).
has been an active litigant in the federal courts in
Michigan; he has filed well over a dozen prisoner civil
rights lawsuits. In more than three of Plaintiff's
lawsuits, the Court entered dismissals that qualify as
strikes under the rule. See Jones v. Durfee et al.,
1:00-cv-10415 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 16, 2001) (complaint dismissed
as frivolous); Jones v. Martin, et al., 5:99-cv-13
(W.D. Mich. Feb. 9, 1999) (complaint dismissed for failure to
state a claim); Jones v. Wright et al., 2:06-cv-190
(W.D. Mich. Dec. 29, 2006) (complaint dismissed for failure
to state a claim).
PLRA offers relief from the three-strikes rule where an
inmate alleges “imminent danger of serious physical
injury.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The Sixth Circuit
set forth the following general requirements for a claim of
In order to allege sufficiently imminent danger, we have held
that “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.” Rittner
v. Kinder, 290 F. App'x 796, 797 (6th Cir. 2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “Thus a
prisoner's assertion that he or she faced danger in the
past is insufficient to invoke the exception.”
Id. at 797-98; see also [Taylor v.
First Med. Mgmt., 508 F. App'x 488, 492 (6th Cir.
2012)] (“Allegations of past dangers are insufficient
to invoke the exception.”); Percival v. Gerth,
443 F. App'x 944, 946 (6th Cir. 2011) (“Assertions
of past danger will not satisfy the ‘imminent
danger' exception.”); cf. [Pointer v.
Wilkinson, 502 F.3d 369, 371 n.1 (6th Cir. 2007)]
(implying that past danger is insufficient for the
In addition to a temporal requirement, we have explained that
the allegations must be sufficient to allow a court to draw
reasonable inferences that the danger exists. To that end,
“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, or are clearly
baseless (i.e. are fantastic or delusional and rise to the
level of irrational or wholly incredible).”
Rittner, 290 F. App'x at 798 (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted); see also Taylor, 508
F. App'x at 492 (“Allegations that are conclusory,
ridiculous, or clearly baseless are also insufficient for
purposes of the imminent-danger exception.”).
Vandiver v. Prison Health Services, Inc., 727 F.3d
580, 585 (6th Cir. 2013). A prisoner's claim of imminent
danger is subject to the same notice pleading requirement as
that which applies to prisoner complaints. Id.
Consequently, a prisoner must allege facts in the complaint
from which the Court could reasonably conclude that the
prisoner was under an existing danger at the time he filed
his complaint, but the prisoner need not affirmatively prove
those allegations. Id.
was obviously aware of the “imminent danger of serious
physical injury” requirement as he repeats that phrase
in the first eleven paragraphs of his complaint. Simply
saying the words, however, does not satisfy the requirement.
Plaintiff's allegations center on two distinct incidents:
(1) on May 13, 2016, Bellamy Creek Correctional Officer
Johnson used excessive force when he placed Plaintiff in
handcuffs; and (2) upon Plaintiff's transfer to the Oaks
Correctional Facility on August 18, 2016, Plaintiff contends
that Defendants failed to place him in a level of protective
custody sufficient to protect ...