Bruce v. Samuels

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: January 12, 2016
  • Case #: 14-844
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ginsburg, J. delivered the court's unanimous opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

Inmates must make monthly payments on lawsuit filing fees simultaneously with other previously unsatisfied filing fees, rather than making each filing fee payment sequentially.

Section 1915 of the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that prisoners, after paying the initial partial filing fee, pay the remainder of the fee from their account, but such payment is not to exceed 20% of the previous month’s income credited to the prisoner’s account. Petitioner is a federal inmate that frequently files lawsuits. Petitioner argued that monthly payments on a filing fee should not be due until previous payments arising from earlier lawsuits have been made in full. The circuit court disagreed and held that payments should be made alongside payments arising from earlier lawsuits. The Court affirmed, and held that filing fees for a new or current case are to made simultaneously with payments from past cases which have not yet been satisfied. The Court reasoned that requiring simultaneous payments better serves the purpose of the statute; the purpose is to discourage numerous or frequent civil suits filed by inmates and to ensure lawsuits filed by inmates have actual merit. Sequential payment of fees, the court believes, would not have a deterring effect because at no point would the inmate be paying over 20% of his or her income.

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