TOPEKA – (August 9, 2011) – A federal appeals court has made it more difficult for prisoners to bring frivolous lawsuits that incur costs for Kansas taxpayers, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced today.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Kansas, today rejected a Kansas inmate’s claim that he was entitled to bring his lawsuit without first paying the ordinary filing fees. Instead, the Court applied the 1995 federal Prison Litigation Reform Act in a manner that broadly takes into account an inmate’s prior history of filing frivolous lawsuits and refused to exempt the inmate from the filing fee requirement.
“The Court made clear that the federal law means what it says – there is a real limit on the number of times a prisoner may bring frivolous suits that cost the state time and taxpayer’s money to defend and adjudicate,” Schmidt said. “Today’s ruling should help discourage other frivolous lawsuits by inmates in Kansas prisons and jails.”
The federal law allows prisoners only three chances to bring frivolous lawsuits without first paying the full filing fee. After that, the inmate must pay the fee before filing, which usually has the effect of discouraging the frivolous suit.
Today’s case, Strope v. Cummings, involves an inmate at the El Dorado Correctional Facility who has brought more than 20 lawsuits against the state, seven of which were found to be frivolous on their face and dismissed. The Court ruled that the inmate must pay filing fees before being allowed to proceed with his three pending appeals and any future suits against the state. Assistant Attorney General Kim Lynch successfully argued the case on behalf of Schmidt’s office.
The Attorney General’s Office defends Kansas officials, agencies and taxpayers against lawsuits filed against the state by inmates. The office is currently defending against about 160 such lawsuits.