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Taylor v. Filauro

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 23, 2013

Obadiah Taylor, Plaintiff,
v.
Robert Filauro, Esq., Defendant.

Obadiah Taylor, Camden County Correctional Facility, Camden, NJ, Plaintiff pro se.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Obadiah Taylor, a prisoner confined at Camden County Correctional Facility in Camden, New Jersey, seeks to bring this civil action in forma pauperis, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with a plea proceeding in 2007.

Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 54.3, the Clerk shall not be required to enter any suit, file any paper, issue any process, or render any other service for which a fee is prescribed, unless the fee is paid in advance. Under certain circumstances, however, this Court may permit an indigent plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis.

The entire fee to be paid in advance of filing a civil complaint is $400. That fee includes a filing fee of $350 plus an administrative fee of $50, for a total of $400. A prisoner who is granted in forma pauperis status will, instead, be assessed a filing fee of $350 and will not be responsible for the $50 administrative fee. A prisoner who is denied in forma pauperis status must pay the full $400, including the $350 filing fee and the $50 administrative fee, before the complaint will be filed.

Title 28 U.S.C. § 1915, establishes certain financial requirements for prisoners who are attempting to bring a civil action in forma pauperis. Under § 1915, a prisoner seeking to bring a civil action in forma pauperis must submit an affidavit, including a statement of all assets and liabilities, which states that the prisoner is unable to pay the fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). The prisoner also must submit a certified copy of his inmate trust fund account statement(s) for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). The prisoner must obtain this certified statement from the appropriate official of each correctional facility at which he was or is confined during such six-month period. Id.

If the prisoner is granted in forma pauperis status, the prisoner must pay the full amount of the $350 filing fee, in installments, as follows. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). In each month that the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the $350.00 filing fee is paid, the agency having custody of the prisoner shall assess, deduct from the prisoner's account, and forward to the Clerk of the Court an installment payment equal to 20% of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

Plaintiff may not have known when he submitted his complaint that he must pay the filing fee, and that even if the full filing fee, or any part of it, has been paid, the Court must dismiss the case if it finds that the action: (1) is frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (in forma pauperis actions). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (dismissal of actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (dismissal of prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). If the Court dismisses the case for any of these reasons, § 1915 does not suspend installment payments of the filing fee or permit the prisoner to get back the filing fee, or any part of it, that has already been paid.

If the prisoner has, on three or more prior occasions while incarcerated, brought in federal court an action or appeal that was dismissed on the grounds that it was frivolous or malicious, or that it failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, he cannot bring another action in forma pauperis unless he is in imminent danger of serious physical injury. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).

In this action, Plaintiff failed to submit a complete in forma pauperis application as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), (2), including a certified institutional account statement. More specifically, Plaintiff failed to submit the required certified institutional account statements. See, e.g., Tyson v. Youth Ventures, L.L.C. , 42 F.App'x 221 (10th Cir. 2002) (affirming dismissal without prejudice of civil action where prisoner submitted only uncertified copy of institutional account statement); Johnson v. United States , 79 Fed.Cl. 769 (2007) (same). See also Rohn v. Johnston, 415 F.App'x 353, 354-55 (3d Cir. 2011) (affirming dismissal without prejudice of civil action where prisoner failed to submit the required affidavit of poverty).

To the extent Plaintiff asserts that correctional officials have refused to provide the certified account statement, any such assertion must be supported by an affidavit detailing the circumstances of Plaintiff's request for a certified institutional account statement and the correctional officials' refusal to comply, including the dates of such events and the names of the individuals involved.

Finally, although Plaintiff asks that this Court permit him to "withdraw his plea, " the Court notes that Plaintiff does not clearly state whether he is confined awaiting sentencing on the challenged 2007 guilty plea, or whether he has been sentenced and is confined pursuant to a final judgment, or whether he has already served his sentence with reference to that conviction. Plaintiff's status in this regard may affect his remedies. For example, to the extent Plaintiff is currently confined pursuant to a conviction and sentence, and is seeking to challenge his present confinement on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with the plea proceeding, the proper course of action might be to file a petition for writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, following exhaustion of state remedies.[1] In any event, should Plaintiff seek to re-open this matter, he must submit, with any application to re-open, an amended complaint clarifying the status of the referenced criminal proceeding and the basis for Plaintiff's current confinement as well as the appropriate filing fee or complete in forma pauperis application.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis will be denied without prejudice and the Clerk of the Court will be ordered to administratively terminate this action, without filing the complaint or assessing a filing fee.[2] Plaintiff will be granted leave to apply to re-open within 30 days.

An appropriate Order will be entered.


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