Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Sixth Circuit Vacates Section 1915(e)(2) Dismissal of Discrimination Claim

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a lower court’s sua sponte dismissal of a Kentucky prisoner’s race discrimination claim as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

Kentucky prisoner DeWayne Brand, an African-American, shared a cell with white prisoner Troy Lear for more than three years, until Lear was segregated for two weeks for fighting. After Lear’s release from segregation, he and Brand requested to cell together again. Their requests were ignored and denied while same-race moves were routinely approved.

Prison officials denied Brand’s grievances, asserting that black/white moves are more difficult than same-race moves. Brand then sued in federal court, alleging discrimination.

Before Defendants were served, the district court screened the complaint for frivolousness, maliciousness, or failure to state a claim under §1915(e)(2). “Though acknowledging that ‘racial concerns may have impacted on the plaintiff’s request,’ and noting its duty to liberally construe Brand’s pro se complaint, the court nonetheless dismissed his discrimination claim as frivolous.”

The Sixth Court reversed, noting that “a complaint is frivolous only if the plaintiff fails to present a claim with ‘an arguable basis either in law or in fact,’” and concluding that “Brand’s discrimination claim does present an arguable legal claim based on facts that the defendants’ pleadings seemingly confirm: race figured in the denial of his move request.” Since Brand “presses a colorable legal claim, based on rational facts,…the district court…erred in dismissing it as frivolous.”

The court also rejected Defendants’ argument that Brand’s complain was time-banned. Relying on the district court’s stamp of September 29, 2006, Defendants asserted that the complaint was filed three days late. The court held, however, that “Defendant’s focus on the court’s date stamp overlooks the ‘prison mailbox rule.’ Under this relaxed filing standard, a pro se prisoner’s complaint is deemed filed when it is handed over to prison officials for mailing to the courts.” Moreover, the court observed that “cases expand the understanding of this handing-over rule with an assumption that, absent contrary evidence, a prisoner does so on the date he or she signed the complaint.” Brand signed his complaint September 26, 2006, “the last day of the limitations period, and this defeats the defendant’s untimeliness argument.” See: Brand v. Motley, 526 F3d 921 (6th Cir. 2008).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Brand v. Motley