Cases & Deals

Plaintiff-appellant successfully appeals civil rights case related to PLRA "three strikes" rule

Clients Daker, Waseem

Jones Day was appointed to represent plaintiff-appellant Waseem Daker on appeal of the dismissal of his civil rights action to the Eleventh Circuit. The district court dismissed Mr. Daker's action on the grounds that he could not proceed in forma pauperis under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") because he had accumulated three "strikes" and, alternatively, was not indigent.

The PLRA's three-strikes provision defines a "strike" as a civil action or appeal dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C. 1915(g). The dismissals that the district court held as "strikes" against Mr. Daker were all dismissed for either "lack of jurisdiction" or "want of prosecution," neither of which are expressly listed as grounds for dismissal that constitute a "strike" under the statute. Mr. Daker argued that the definition of a "strike" under the PLRA could not be extended beyond the statute's plain language to include dismissals based on lack of jurisdiction or want of prosecution. Mr. Daker also argued that the district court abused its discretion in finding that he was not indigent because it issued its order without addressing his timely-filed objections.

After briefing was complete, the court granted oral argument. On April 22, 2016, partner Jason Burnette argued before the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of Mr. Daker.

The Eleventh Circuit issued its decision vacating the district court's decision and remanding Mr. Daker's action for further proceedings on May 4, 2016. Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit found that because dismissals for "lack of jurisdiction" and "want of prosecution" are not dismissals on enumerated grounds under the PLRA, they cannot constitute "strikes." Accordingly, none of the six dismissals found to be strikes by the district court can count as such against Mr. Daker. Additionally, the Eleventh Circuit found that the district court had abused its discretion in finding Mr. Daker was not indigent because it did not address his timely-filed objections.

Daker v. Owens, No. 14-12139 (11th Cir.)