141 F.3d 773 (7th Cir. 1998), 96-2887, Lucien v. DeTella

Docket Nº:96-2887.
Citation:141 F.3d 773
Party Name:Rudolph L. LUCIEN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. George E. DeTELLA, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:April 13, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 773

141 F.3d 773 (7th Cir. 1998)

Rudolph L. LUCIEN, Plaintiff-Appellant,


George E. DeTELLA, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 96-2887.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 13, 1998

Submitted Feb. 19, 1998.

Rehearing Denied April 23, 1998.

Page 774

Rudolph L. Lucien (submitted on brief), pro se.


EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge.

Rudolph Lucien, one of the circuit's most frequent filers, see Lucien v. Jockisch, 133 F.3d 464 (7th Cir.1998) (the most recent of 29 decisions this court has issued in Lucien's cases), filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages from the warden and other officials of his prison. He contends that the defendants violated his constitutional rights by classifying him as an escape risk and curtailing his intra-prison movement. Classifications of inmates implicate neither liberty nor property interests, see Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995); Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 96 S.Ct. 2532, 49 L.Ed.2d 451 (1976), but Lucien contends that the defendants selected this classification in response to his litigation rather than his desire to change addresses, which if true makes out a constitutional claim. DeTomaso v. McGinnis, 970 F.2d 211, 214 (7th Cir.1992). Whether the facts support the claim is another matter, which the district court did not reach--because it did not allow Lucien to file his complaint. He sought to proceed in forma pauperis, and the district court conditionally granted this motion. The condition was prepayment of $18 toward the filing fee. Lucien refused to pay, the district court then declined to file the complaint, and Lucien took an appeal.

"Refused to pay" is a phrase with both factual and legal significance. Since April 26, 1996, when the Prison Litigation Reform Act took effect, prisoners have not had any say in the matter. When a prisoner files a civil action and does not prepay the entire fee, the district court assesses a partial filing fee and collects from the prisoner's trust account not only the partial fee but also installment payments until the balance is paid. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b); Newlin v. Helman, 123 F.3d 429 (7th Cir.1997). When Lucien filed his appeal, such an assessment was made, $14 was transferred from his account, and the court entered an order requiring the prison to remit 20% of each month's income to cover the rest of the $105 fee. (Lucien wants a refund, and we discuss that request below.) But Lucien tendered his complaint to the district court before the PLRA was enacted, when district judges had discretion to determine the amount and timing of prepayment. Prisoners could test the waters, learn what filing a complaint would cost, and decide whether they wanted to proceed. Lucien thought $18 excessive--which implies that he did not think much of his chances of success. For the factual component of the "refused to pay" phrase is incontestable. Lucien had the money...

To continue reading