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Michigan PLRA Requires Dismissal for Failure to Make Initial disclosure Statements; Prisons not a Public Service

A Michigan Court of Appeals held the state’s Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires dismissal of a lawsuit when a prisoner-plaintiff fails to “disclose the number of civil actions and appeals that the prisoner has previously initiated.”  It further held prisoners may not bring a claim under The Elliot Larsen civil Rights Act (ELCRA).

Before the court was an appeal brought by The Michigan Department of Corrections, (MDOC) in a claim brought by seven youths, “claiming that they had been subject to sexual violence and harassment by adult male prisoners and female prison guards.”  The trial court denied MDOC’s motion for summary judgment ruled the ELCRA was unconstitutional.

The appellate court addressed first the MDOC’s claim that the PLRA provides in Michigan Comprehensive Laws (MCL) 600.S507(2) that a prisoner is required to disclose in the complaint all civil action and appeals the prisoner has initiated.  Here, the plaintiffs made an “ambiguous” disclosure that there were civil actions “between these parties or other parties arising out of the transaction or occurrence alleged in the complaint.”  It did not delineate as to what parties or plaintiffs it applied to.

The court held the PLRA requires a disclosure statement even if the plaintiffs had not initiated other civil suits.  Since the deficiency could not be cured, the trial court’s ruling was correct.

Next, the court found the PLRA requires the prisoner in a civil action to “disclose the number of civil actions…that the prisoner has previously initiated.”  The court found the PLRA requires disclosure of all such actions, not just frivolous ones.  The plaintiffs failed to make such a closure.

The court held the PLRA requires the action be dismissed for failure to make the requisite disclosures, not an opportunity to amend as the plaintiffs urged.

The court then turned to the claim under the ELCRA, which is the vehicle to seek redress for discrimination from public services.  That law, however, excludes jails and prisons as public services.  The court held that exclusion does not violate equal protection.  It said prisoners are not deprived of redress because other avenues of relief are available to them.

The matter was reversed and remanded for entry of summary judgment in defendants’ favor.  See: Does v. Department of Corrections, 497 Mich 974; 859 NW2d 712 (2015).

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Related legal case

Does v. Department of Corrections