Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bruce v. Samuels

United States Supreme Court

January 12, 2016

ANTOINE BRUCE, Petitioner
v.
CHARLES E. SAMUELS, JR., et al

         Argued November 4, 2015,

          ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

          SYLLABUS

          [193 L.Ed.2d 497] The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides that prisoners qualified to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) must nonetheless pay an initial partial filing fee, set as " 20 percent of the greater of" the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account or the average monthly balance of [136 S.Ct. 628] the account over the preceding six months. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). They must then pay the remainder of the fee in monthly installments of " 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account." § 1915(b)(2). The initial partial fee is assessed on a per-case basis, i.e., each time the prisoner files a lawsuit. The initial payment may not be exacted if the prisoner has no means to pay it, § 1915(b)(4), and no monthly installments are required unless the prisoner has more than $10 in his account, § 1915(b)(2). In contest here is the calculation of subsequent monthly installment payments when more than one fee is owed.

         Petitioner Antoine Bruce, a federal inmate and a frequent litigant, argued that the monthly filing-fee payments do not become due until filing-fee obligations previously incurred in other cases are satisfied. The D. C. Circuit disagreed, holding that Bruce's monthly payments were due simultaneously with monthly payments in the earlier cases.

          Held: Section 1915(b)(2) calls for simultaneous, not sequential, recoupment [193 L.Ed.2d 498] of multiple monthly installment payments. Pp. __ - __, 193 L.Ed.2d at 500-503.

         (a) Bruce and the Government present competing interpretations of the IFP statute, which does not explicitly address how multiple filing fees should be paid. In urging a per-prisoner approach under which he would pay 20 percent of his monthly income regardless of the number of cases he has filed, Bruce relies principally on the contrast between the singular " clerk" and the plural " fees" as those nouns appear in § 1915(b)(2), which requires payments to be forwarded " to the clerk of the court . . . until the filing fees are paid." Even when more than one filing fee is owed, Bruce contends, § 1915(b)(2) instructs that only one clerk will receive payment each month. In contrast, the Government urges a per-case approach. Emphasizing that § 1915 as a whole has a single-case focus, providing instructions for each case, the Government contends that it would be anomalous to treat paragraph (b)(1)s initial partial payment, admittedly directed at a single case, differently than paragraph (b)(2)s subsequent monthly payments. Pp. __ - __, 193 L.Ed.2d at 500-502.

         (b) Section 1915s text and context support the per-case approach. Just as § 1915(b)(1) calls for assessment of " an initial partial filing fee" each time a prisoner " brings a civil action or files an appeal" (emphasis added), so its allied provision, § 1915(b)(2), calls for monthly 20 percent payments simultaneously for each action pursued. Section 1915(b)(3), which imposes a ceiling on fees permitted " for the commencement of a civil action or an appeal" (emphasis added), and § 1915(b)(4), which protects the right to bring " a civil action or appea[l] a. . . judgment" (emphasis added), confirm that subsection (b) as a whole is written from the perspective of a single case. Pp. __ - __, 193 L.Ed.2d at 502-503.

         761 F.3d 1, 411 U.S. App.D.C. 380, affirmed.

         Anthony F. Shelley argued the cause for petitioner.

         Nicole A. Saharsky argued the cause for respondent.

         Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

          OPINION

         [136 S.Ct. 629] Ginsburg, Justice

         This case concerns the payment of filing fees for civil actions commenced by prisoners in federal courts. Until 1996, indigent prisoners, like other indigent persons, could file a civil action without paying any filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). In the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), 110 Stat. 1321-66, Congress placed several limitations on prisoner litigation in federal courts. Among those limitations, Congress required prisoners qualified to proceed in forma pauperis nevertheless to pay an initial partial filing fee. That fee is statutorily set as " 20 percent of the greater of" the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account or the average monthly balance of the account over the preceding six months. § 1915(b)(1). Thereafter, to complete payment of the filing fee, prisoners must pay, in monthly installments, " 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account." § 1915(b)(2). The initial partial filing fee may not be exacted if the prisoner has no means to pay it, § 1915(b)(4), and no monthly installments [193 L.Ed.2d 499] are required unless the prisoner has more than $10 in his account, § 1915(b)(2).

         It is undisputed that the initial partial filing fee is to be assessed on a per-case basis, i.e., each time the prisoner files a lawsuit. In contest here is the calculation of subsequent monthly installment payments. Petitioner Antoine Bruce urges a per-prisoner approach under which he would pay 20 percent of his monthly income regardless of the number of cases he has filed. The Government urges, and the court below followed, a per-case approach under which a prisoner would pay 20 percent of his monthly income for each case he has filed. Courts of Appeals have divided on which ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.