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

Mandamus Petition May Constitute Prison Conditions Litigation in Pennsylvania

Mandamus Petition May Constitute Prison Conditions Litigation in Pennsylvania

by David M. Reutter

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held on July 9, 2013 that a mandamus petition related to an underlying complaint concerning prison conditions itself constitutes prison conditions litigation within the meaning of the state’s Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 Pa.C.S. § 6602(f).

SCI-Graterford prisoner Alton D. Brown is, according to the state Supreme Court, “a frequent filer of frivolous litigation in the Commonwealth and federal courts.” There was no dispute that he had already run afoul of the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy” codified in the federal and Pennsylvania PLRA statutes when he attempted to file a complaint in Montgomery County alleging civil rights violations.

His complaint was rejected three times by the Montgomery County Prothonotary for failure to provide the names and addresses of all named defendants. When Brown filed a mandamus petition to force the acceptance of his complaint, the Prothonotary moved to dismiss under the PLRA’s three-strikes rule. The trial court granted the motion and the Commonwealth Court affirmed on appeal.

Brown then filed another civil action against prison officials for inadequate medical care and other conduct that he alleged violated his constitutional rights. The Prothonotary again refused to file the complaint under the three-strikes rule, Brown filed another mandamus petition and the Prothonotary moved to dismiss. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, but the Commonwealth Court reversed on grounds that the Prothonotary had no authority to refuse to file Brown’s complaint.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Prothonotary that a petition for writ of mandamus may constitute prison conditions litigation and thus be subject to the PLRA’s three-strikes rule if the subject matter of the underlying complaint relates to prison conditions. The Commonwealth Court’s ruling was therefore reversed. See: Brown v. Levy, 73 A.3d 514 (Pa. 2013).


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

Brown v. Levy