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District Courts Can Suspend PLRA Injunction Stay Provisions

This appeal from the district court's decision striking down the automatic stay provision is not mooted by the court's having reached the merits of the termination motion, since the problem is one that is capable of repetition yet evading review It evades review because the district court is under a statutory obligation to proceed expeditiously on the underlying motion and the constitutional issues raised by the automatic stay provision are not suitable for summary treatment The requirement of reasonable expectation of repetition to the same party is met by the fact that Texas prison officials are likely to have the same problem in other litigation.

On the merits the court follows Hadix, holding (at 394) that nothing in the language of the stay provision or its history indicates that Congress intended to supersede.

the district court's equitable power to stay judicial orders We acknowledge that the terms in 18 U.S.C. § 3626(e)(2), such as the word 'automatic' and the description of the duration of the stay, could suggest that Congress intended the stay to take place without exception Furthermore, if read in a vacuum that excluded an understanding of general legal principles, it could be read as if the drafters of § 3626(e)(2) had no thought of the possibility of a court exercising its equitable power to suspend the stay We think this argument fails, however, in the light of § 3626(e)(4), which expressly addresses the possibility of a district court suspending the stay.

The court cites old authority holding that restrictions on equitable powers are to be narrowly construed Given this rationale, it is not necessary to get to the constitutional question even to the extent of using it to support the interpretation selected, as Hadix did.

The court does not address the standard of appellate review under the stay provision

At 395: "We sum up Turning to the constitutionality of the automatic stay provision, we note that nowhere in the language of § 3626(e) is there either a direct statement or the basis for an inference that Congress intended to curtail the district courts' equitable powers Under our reading of § 3626(e), the district court therefore retains its discretion to suspend the (e)(2) stay and § 3626(e) is therefore constitutional" See: Ruiz v. Johnson, 178 F.3d 385 (5th Cir. 1999), overruled, Miller v. French, 120 S.Ct. 2246 (2000).

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Related legal case

Ruiz v. Johnson