Prison Litigation Reform Act

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Lomax v. Ortiz that a dismissal without prejudice for failure to state a claim counts as a strike under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing for this result.

The PLRA contains a...

The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) Supreme Court amicus brief in Lomax v. Ortiz-Marquez  argues that a dismissal without prejudice for failure to state a claim counts as a strike under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Less technically, the SLLC brief is aimed at decreasing meritless prisoner litigation...

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) states that when a prisoner wins a civil rights case “a portion of the judgment (not to exceed 25 percent) shall be applied to satisfy” his or her attorney’s fees award.

In Murphy v. Smith the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that this statute means “the court must pay the attorney’s entire fee award from the [prisoner’s] judgment until it reaches the 25% cap and only then turn to the [prison guards].” In other words, the court may not exercise its discretion and take any amount it wishes from the prisoner’s judgment to pay the attorney “from 25% down to a penny.”

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) states that when an inmate recovers money damages in a confinement conditions case “a portion of the judgment (not to exceed 25 percent)” shall be applied to his or her attorney’s fees award. The question the Supreme Court will decide in Murphy v. Smith is whether “not to exceed 25 percent” means up to 25 percent or exactly 25 percent.