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California Prisoner Barred From Proceeding in Forma Pauperis

California Prisoner Barred From Proceeding in Forma Pauperis

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of California dismissed, on December 26, 2013, plaintiff Eric Charles Rodney Knapp’s appeal of the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, employees of the California Prison System and other state employees in their individual capacities. Plaintiff Knapp alleged in a 42 U.S.C. claim various civil rights violations arising from his contention that prison staff retaliated against him because of his mother’s website dedicated to exposing prison corruption and fighting for prisoner’s rights. Knapp appealed and defendants moved to dismiss, averring that Knapp was disqualified from proceeding in forma pauperis. The issue under scrutiny became whether the content of plaintiff’s actions in various courts weighed as ‘strikes’ – dismissals for either frivolousness, maliciousness, or failure to state claim suits – under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. §1915. Defense argued that the plaintiff’s repeated and knowing violation of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the ‘short and plain statement’ requirement, counted as strikes when the opportunity to correct such errors was afforded without response.

Scrutinized were five actions filed by plaintiff, three district court cases, and two appeals. The three district court cases were dismissed under Rule 8(a) as being too long and incoherent. Plaintiff appealed two of the dismissals and the instant court denied the two under color of certification from the district court that the appeals were ‘not in good faith’ per §1915(a)(3). The court held that the two appeals were clearly strikes in that the lack of good faith was equivalent to a finding of frivolity according to case law.

Of the three district court dismissals, the court focused on the third of the strike qualifiers, failure to state a claim. Plaintiff filed complaints that were grossly in violation of Rule 8(a)’s ‘short and plain statement’ requirement, and following repeated leave to amend did not do so. The court noted there were two ways to violate Rule 8(a) – not saying enough and saying too much. Plaintiff’s actions clearly fell into the second of those two categories and were dismissed for failure to state a claim per §1915(g).

The Court of Appeals dismissed Knapp’s appeal, upholding the district court’s revocation of forma pauperis status. See: Knapp v. Hogan, 738 F.3d 1106 (9th Cir. Cal. 2013).

Related legal case

Knapp v. Hogan