102 F.3d 132 (5th Cir. 1996), 96-20720, Jackson v. Stinnett

Docket Nº:96-20720
Citation:102 F.3d 132
Party Name:Ira JACKSON, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. John STINNETT; Kent Ramsey; Rochelle McKinney; Jim Gant, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:December 11, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 132

102 F.3d 132 (5th Cir. 1996)

Ira JACKSON, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

John STINNETT; Kent Ramsey; Rochelle McKinney; Jim Gant,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 96-20720

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 11, 1996

Page 133

Ira Jackson, Jr., Huntsville, TX, pro se.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before DAVIS, EMILIO M. GARZA and STEWART, Circuit Judges.

EMILIO M. GARZA, Circuit Judge:

Ira Jackson, Jr., a Texas inmate, appeals the district court's dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. His appeal raises several issues of first impression in this circuit regarding new in forma pauperis provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

I

Jackson filed this section 1983 action against several prison officials, alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs, and the district court certified him to proceed in forma pauperis ("i.f.p."). While this litigation was pending in the district court, the President signed into law the Prison Litigation Reform Act, P.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) ("PLRA" or "Act"), which modified several statutes governing Jackson's appeal.

Page 134

Soon after the enactment of the PLRA, the district court dismissed Jackson's suit as frivolous under the old provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) 1 concluding that Jackson's claim had no arguable basis in law. The court did not decertify Jackson's i.f.p. status, and Jackson filed a timely appeal to this court.

II

Before we review the district court's dismissal on the merits, we must first consider the effect of the PLRA on this appeal. The Act amended 28 U.S.C. § 1915 to require new filing procedures and fees for prisoners proceeding i.f.p. 2 Both the filing and fee requirements of the PLRA stand in apparent conflict with Fed.R.App.P. 24(a), which states that once the district court certifies a prisoner to proceed i.f.p., "the party may proceed without further application to the court of appeals and without prepayment of fees or costs in either court or the giving of security therefor." We must consider whether the PLRA amends the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, whether to require Jackson to replead his pauper status, and whether to assess Jackson a fee for this appeal, all issues of first impression for this circuit.

A

As amended, section 1915(a) provides that a prisoner filing a civil appeal i.f.p. must file an affidavit listing all his assets, as well as submit a certified copy of his prison trust fund account statement for the preceding six-month period. The financial affidavit Jackson filed in the district court (before the PLRA was signed) does not meet the updated requirements, thus amended section 1915(a) required him to file a new affidavit upon his subsequent appeal to this court. However, Fed.R.App.P. 24(a) provides that, unless the district court decertifies the prisoner's i.f.p. status, that prisoner may appeal his case i.f.p. without further application to the court. The statute would require Jackson to reapply to this court with a new affidavit; the Rule would carry forward his i.f.p. certification from the district court. Faced with competing mandates, we must decide whether Congress's procedural litigation reforms in the PLRA take precedence over the rules of appellate procedure.

It has long been settled that Congress has the authority to regulate matters of practice and procedure in the federal courts. Sibbach v. Wilson & Co., 312 U.S. 1, 9-10, 61 S.Ct. 422, 424, 85 L.Ed. 479 (1941); Wayman v. Southard, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat) 1, 21, 6 L.Ed. 253 (1825). Congress delegated some of this power in 1934 by passing the Rules Enabling Act, which gave the Supreme Court the power to promulgate rules of practice and procedure for United States courts. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2071-72. Despite this delegation of authority, Congress maintains an integral, albeit passive, role in implementing any rules drafted by the Court. For example, all such rules are subject to review by Congress; they take effect...

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