United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MARK R. HORNAK, District Judge.
Before the Court is an appeal (ECF No. 13) filed by Plaintiff Jason Kokinda ("Kokinda" or "Plaintiff') requesting review of the magistrate judge's Order dated March 9, 2015 (ECF No. 8) (the "Order"), which granted Plaintiffs request to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered the collection of an initial partial filing fee as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).
Kokinda appeals that Order and challenges the constitutionality of § 1915(b)(1) as applied to him. Upon review of the matters raised by Kokinda, the Court concludes that the Order appealed from is neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law. Therefore, Kokinda's appeal will be dismissed.
Standard of Review
The Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 631-639, provides two separate standards for judicial review of a magistrate judge's decision: (i) "de novo" for magistrate resolution of dispositive matters, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)-(C), and (ii) "clearly erroneous or contrary to law" for magistrate resolution of nondispositive matters. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Accord FED. R. CR/. P. 72(a), (b); Local Civil Rule 72.1(C)(2); see Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 785 F.2d 1108, 1113 (3d Cir. 1986).
The Order of March 9, 2015, was for a non-dispositive matter under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and, thus, will not be disturbed unless it is found to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law. A finding is clearly erroneous "when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N. 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1985) (citing United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364 (1948)).
Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA")
Pursuant to the PLRA, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account; or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month period. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id. § 1915(b)(2).
This case was commenced on February 10, 2015, and was referred to Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy for pretrial proceedings in accordance with the Magistrate Judges Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and the Local Rules of Court for Magistrate Judges. In his Complaint, Kokinda alleges, inter alia, that although he has a soy allergy, Defendants have refused to provide him with a "no soy diet." Kokinda also alleges that he has requested a Kosher diet because he believes "God wanted him to eat a Kosher diet at the prison..., " but that Defendants have also refused his request for a Kosher diet.
On March 9, 2015, the magistrate judge granted Kokinda's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered the collection of an initial partial filing fee of $79.21 as provided by § 1915(b)(1)(A) of the PLRA. (ECF No. 8.) Kokinda appeals that Order and challenges the constitutionality of the initial partial filing fee provision as applied to him. However, as will be explained infra, the Court concludes that as applied to Kokinda the initial partial filing fee provision is constitutional and, therefore, the magistrate judge's rulings were neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law.
As an initial matter, the Court notes that Kokinda made serious accusations against the magistrate judge. For example, he states that "[t]he actions of the prison appear to be coordinated with the Court in the same manner that the mafia comes by and sends thugs to hurt a local business, so that the mafia can come in and sell him protection;" Appeal at ¶ 4; that "the recent actions by this Court prove that he will not get one iota of fairness from any judge, until he takes down the pay-to-play mafia bribe system connected to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and its political hierarchy;" Id. at ¶ 7; and that he "knows how the program goes, Kathleen Kane and her insider connections offer the judge $500, 000 if she can dismiss case in summary judgment, and 2.5 million if the case is too well litigated, and more complexities are required to subtly erode any rights or sense of fairness in the public eye." Id. at ¶ 8. These are grave accusations for which there is no record support whatsoever. While a litigant is entitled to argue vigorously on his own behalf, and to point out errors he believes the magistrate judge has made, he is not to make baseless accusations against the court in his pleadings. Such assertions will be given no further consideration.
A. The Recent Decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
On April 10, 2015, while this appeal was under advisement by the Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a precedential opinion which discusses at length the PLRA and its monthly payment scheme under § 1915(b)(2). Siluk v. Merwin, No. 11-3996, ___ F.3d ___, 2015 WL 1600236 (3d Cir. Apr. 10, 2015). That court adopted the "sequential recoupment rule, " which caps the monthly debit for filing fees at 20 percent of a prisoner's monthly ...