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Jones v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 6, 2019

BYRON JONES, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN J.E. THOMAS, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Mr. Jones' Amended Complaint due to his failure to pay the filing fee in this case or receive permission from the Court to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 57.) For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' motion and direct Mr. Jones to pay the $400 filing fee or file the appropriate documents seeking in forma pauperis status.

         I. Procedural Background

         In December 2014, while housed at the prison camp on the grounds of FCI-Loretto, Mr. Jones filed a Bivens action[1] in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 1-3.) In his Complaint Mr. Jones alleged that seven individuals employed at USP-Lewisburg conspired, harassed, intimidated, and retaliated against him after he filed administrative remedies. He also claimed two FCI-Loretto employees improperly removed him from his job and denied him an emergency furlough after placing him in “FRP refuse status.” (Id.) Mr. Jones filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis as well as an Authorization allow prison officials to withdraw funds from his prison account to pay the filing fee. (ECF Nos. 1-1, 3, and 5.) On February 2, 2015, the Court granted Mr. Jones' motion to proceed in forma pauperis and proceeded to screen the Complaint. (ECF No. 6.)

         On June 4, 2015, by Report and Recommendation, Chief Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly recommended severing and transferring the claims against the USP-Lewisburg to this Court. (ECF No. 15.) On July 8, 2015, District Judge Kim R. Gibson adopted the unopposed Report and Recommendation and transferred all claims against the USP-Lewisburg defendants to this Court. (ECF No. 17.)

         On November 9, 2015, the Honorable Judge Conaboy directed service of the Complaint on the USP-Lewisburg defendants noting that “[a]n in forma pauperis application filed by Plaintiff was previously granted by the Western District.” (ECF No. 23.) Defendants then moved to dismiss the Complaint based on Mr. Jones' failure to obtain leave to proceed in forma pauperis from the Court or pay the filing fee in this matter. (ECF No. 31.) Defendants also sought a stay of proceedings pending the disposition of their motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 32.)

         In April 2016 Mr. Jones requested legal advice from the Clerk of Court as to whether he needed to pay a second filing fee based on the Western District's transfer of claims against the USP-Lewisburg defendants to this Court. (ECF No. 35.) On December 9, 2016, the Clerk of Court's Office sent Mr. Jones an application to proceed in forma pauperis and Authorization form. (ECF No. 41.) In late 2018, this matter was reassigned to the undersigned and Magistrate Martin C. Carlson. (ECF No. 47.)

         In January 2019, Magistrate Judge Carlson dismissed Defendants' motion to dismiss without prejudice but stayed the proceedings after Mr. Jones filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF Nos. 39 and 48.) Mr. Jones then clarified to the Court that his recent filing was a supplement to his original complaint. (ECF No. 49.) On February 4, 2019, the Court lifted the stay and directed Mr. Jones to file a single all-inclusive amended complaint. (ECF No. 50.) Mr. Jones filed an Amended Complaint on February 28, 2019, naming the original Defendants and several new Defendants. (ECF No. 51.) Following service of the new Defendants, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint again raising Mr. Jones' failure to pay the filing fee in this matter or receive permission from the Court to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 57.) Defendants also refiled their motion to stay the proceedings pending their motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 59.) The Court granted Defendants' motion to stay on June 11, 2019. (ECF No. 61.)

         To date, Mr. Jones has not filed a brief in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss. He has not paid the filing fee or sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this matter. Also, the Court notes that the Bureau of Prisons released Mr. Jones from custody on October 11, 2019. See https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/(Find by Number, search 09702-058; last visited December 6, 2019). Mr. Jones' last known address was in Brooklyn, New York. (ECF No. 56.)

         II. Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1914, “[t]he clerk of each district court shall require the parties institution any civil action, suit or proceeding in court, whether by original process, removal or otherwise, to pay a filing fee of $350, except that on application for a writ of habeas corpus the filing fee shall be $5.” 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). A complaint is “lodged” but not “filed” with the Court until the plaintiff either pays the filing fee or has received permission to proceed in forma pauperis. Brown v. Sage, 941 F.3d 655, 662 (3d Cir. 2019).

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires all prisoners who bring a civil action to pay the full filing fee.[2] See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Thus, to proceed with a civil action, a prisoner-plaintiff must pay the $400.00 filing fee or request leave to proceed in forma pauperis and submit the affidavit and trust account statement required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). An indigent prisoner granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis still must pay the filing fee, but in installments. The amount of the initial payment depends on the average deposits to and balance in the prisoner's account at the time of filing the action.

         The PLRA provides:

The court shall assess and, when funds exist, collect, as a partial payment of any court fees required by law, an initial partial filing ...

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