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Gresham v. Gauderer

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 15, 2019




         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court initially granted leaved to proceed in forma pauperis. However, upon further review, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient for an imminent danger exception. 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 therefore will vacate the earlier order allowing Plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis and order Plaintiff to pay the $400.00 civil action filing fee applicable to those not permitted to proceed in forma pauperis. This fee must be paid within twenty-eight (28) days of this opinion and accompanying order. If Plaintiff fails to pay the fee, the Court will order that this case be dismissed without prejudice. Even if the case is dismissed, Plaintiff must pay the $400.00 filing fee in accordance with In re Alea, 286 F.3d 378, 380-81 (6th Cir. 2002).


         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 created 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.

         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).

         Plaintiff has been an active litigant in the federal courts in Michigan. In eight of his cases, all of his claims were dismissed because they were frivolous, malicious or failed to state a claim. See Gresham v. Caruso et al., No. 2:10-cv-196 (W.D. Mich. Oct. 27, 2011); Gresham et al. v. Canlis et al., No. 2:11-cv-179 (W.D. Mich. July 29, 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. Wolak et al., No. 2:10-cv-239 (W.D. Mich. July 25, 2011); Gresham v. Verville et al., No. 2:10-cv-198 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 19, 2011); Gresham v. Caruso et al., No. 2:10-cv-195 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 11, 2011); Gresham v. Mich. Dep't of Corr. et al., No. 2:07-cv-241 (W.D. Mich. June 9, 2008). Plaintiff also has been denied leave to proceed in forma pauperis in numerous cases. See Gresham v. Meden, No. 2:18-cv-8 (W.D. Mich. June 7, 2018); Gresham v. Miniard et al., No. 1:16-cv-427 (W.D. Mich. June 7, 2016); Gresham v. Christiansen et al., No. 1:16-cv-428 (W.D. Mich. May 13, 2016); Gresham v. Austin et al., 2:16-cv-71 (W.D. Mich. May 2, 2016); Gresham et al. v. Yunker et al., No. 2:13-cv-221 (W.D. Mich. Aug. 29, 2013); Gresham v. Nader et al., 2:13-cv-212 (W.D. Mich. July 22, 2013); Gresham et al. v. Napel et al., No. 2:13-cv-176 (W.D. Mich. June 12, 2013); Gresham v. Prelesnik et al., No. 1:12-cv-276 (W.D. Mich. July 2, 2012); Gresham v. Czop et al., No. 1:12-cv494 (W.D. Mich. June 18, 2012); Gresham v. Heyns et al., No. 1:12-cv-277 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 11, 2012); Gresham v. Snyder et al., No. 1:12-cv-143 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 6, 2012); Gresham v. Mutschler et al., No. 2:12-cv-12 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 20, 2012); Gresham v. Snyder et al., No. 2:12-cv-22 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 30, 2012); Gresham v. Mutschler et al., No. 2:12-cv-9 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 10, 2012); Gresham v. Snyder et al., No. 2:12-cv-5 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 27, 2012); Gresham v. Violetta et al., No. 2:12-cv-24 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 6, 2012); Gresham v. Dahl et al., No. 2:12-cv-21 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 6, 2012); Gresham v. Napel et al., No. 2:11-cv-520 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 6, 2012); Gresham v. LaChance et al., No. 2:11-cv-231 (W.D. Mich. June 24, 2011); Dennis et al. v. Canlis et al., No. 2:11-cv-186 (W.D. Mich. June 6, 2011). All of Plaintiff's dismissals were entered after enactment of the PLRA on April 26, 1996.

         Moreover, Plaintiff's allegations do not fall within the “imminent danger” exception to the three-strikes rule. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The Sixth Circuit set forth the following general requirements for a claim of imminent danger:

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 Fed.Appx. 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 Fed.Appx. 488, 492 (6th Cir. 2012)] (“Allegations of past dangers are insufficient to invoke the exception.”); Percival v. Gerth, 443 Fed.Appx. 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 imminent-danger exception).
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 Fed.Appx. at 798 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Taylor, 508 Fed.Appx. at 492 (“Allegations that are conclusory, ridiculous, or clearly baseless are also insufficient for purposes of the imminent-danger exception.”).

Vandiver v. Prison Health Servs., 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.

         Plaintiff has alleged that MDOC medical staff require that he take “Prolixin, Amandantin[e], & [A]rtane.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) Plaintiff asserts that this drug cocktail has several side effects that are harmful. Thus, Plaintiff has sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis, alleging that the continued threat he faces from these side effects has put him in imminent danger of a serious physical injury.

         The Sixth Circuit, however, has recently held otherwise. See Gresham v. Meden, 938 F.3d 847 (6th Cir. 2019). While reviewing virtually identical facts in an earlier case filed by Plaintiff, the Sixth Circuit articulated the standard: “[a] physical injury is ‘serious' for purposes of § 1915(g) if it has potentially dangerous consequences such as death or severe bodily harm. Minor harms or fleeting discomfort don't count.” Id. at 850. For example, “impending ‘amputations and potential[] coma or death'” satisfy the exception. Id. (quoting Vandiver, 727 F.3d at 587). However, pointing to a similar line the Seventh Circuit has drawn, “temporary breathing struggles” are not serious enough. Id. (citing Sanders v. Melvin, 873 F.3d 957, 960 (7th Cir. 2017)). Moreover, ...

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