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Broken Gate? A Study of the PLRA Exhaustion Requirement Past, Present, and Future
Unformatted Document Text:  Broken Gate? by small, automatic deductions take by the court over time (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §(b)). Conversely, inmates whom the screeners deem capable of paying, are required to pay the full amount of the federal court filing fee prior to initiating litigation (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §§(b)-(d)). Ironically, what the IFP statute giveth, the IFP statute taketh away (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §§ (b);(g)). The second function of the PLRA is to revoke IFP status for inmates who have brought previous frivolous and/or vexatious litigation (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §(g)). Again, to accomplish this, federal court screeners review a potential prisoner-plaintiff’s litigation history prior to them filing a new case (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, §(g)). If an inmate is found to have had three (3) or more previous lawsuits (or appeals there from) dismissed on the basis of frivolity, maliciousness, or failure to state a claim, he or she may not proceed with a new case before paying, in full, the applicable federal court filing fee (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §(g)). Moreover, unlike their otherwise indigent counterparts, inmates with “three strikes,” as described in the IFP statute, must also bear the often considerable costs of pursing their own litigation, including deposition, discovery, and witness fees (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §(g)). However, in the interest of full disclosure, two things must be noted about the IFP statute and its screening operation. First, the term “frivolous” is used in the IFP statute as a term of art, and has been very specifically defined as a complaint lacking “an arguable basis in either law or fact” (Fradella, 1998, p. 468). Based in part on the specificity of this definition and, more than likely, in part on their general reluctance to dismiss a case of their own accord, federal district judges have been “loathe to throw out any claim that 21

Authors: Passarelli, Mariah.
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Broken Gate?
by small, automatic deductions take by the court over time (Proceedings in Forma 
Pauperis, 1996, §(b)).  Conversely, inmates whom the screeners deem capable of paying, 
are required to pay the full amount of the federal court filing fee prior to initiating 
litigation (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §§(b)-(d)).
Ironically, what the IFP statute giveth, the IFP statute taketh away (Proceedings in 
Forma Pauperis, 1996, §§ (b);(g)).  The second function of the PLRA is to revoke IFP 
status for inmates who have brought previous frivolous and/or vexatious litigation 
(Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §(g)).  Again, to accomplish this, federal court 
screeners review a potential prisoner-plaintiff’s litigation history prior to them filing a 
new case (Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, §(g)).  If an inmate is found to have had three 
(3) or more previous lawsuits (or appeals there from) dismissed on the basis of frivolity, 
maliciousness, or failure to state a claim, he or she may not proceed with a new case 
before paying, in full, the applicable federal court filing fee (Proceedings in Forma 
Pauperis, 1996, §(g)). Moreover, unlike their otherwise indigent counterparts, inmates 
with “three strikes,” as described in the IFP statute, must also bear the often considerable 
costs of pursing their own litigation, including deposition, discovery, and witness fees 
(Proceedings in Forma Pauperis, 1996, §(g)).  
However, in the interest of full disclosure, two things must be noted about the IFP 
statute and its screening operation.  First, the term “frivolous” is used in the IFP statute as 
a term of art, and has been very specifically defined as a complaint lacking “an arguable 
basis in either law or fact” (Fradella, 1998, p. 468).  Based in part on the specificity of 
this definition and, more than likely, in part on their general reluctance to dismiss a case 
of their own accord, federal district judges have been “loathe to throw out any claim that 

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