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Willis v. Palmer

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

December 30, 2013

DAMON WILLIS, Plaintiff,


DONALD E. O'BRIEN, Senior District Judge.


This matter is currently before the Court on Damon Willis' [hereinafter Mr. Willis] 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 Complaint. The Plaintiff is an involuntarily committed patient at the Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders (CCUSO) in Cherokee, Iowa.[1]


The filing fee for a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 petition is $350. 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). The doctrine of in forma pauperis allows a plaintiff to proceed without incurring filing fees or other Court costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Prisoners must meet certain requirements in order to have their filing fee waived. 28 U.S.C. 1915(a)-(b). A prisoner is defined as "any person incarcerated or detained in any facility" for "violations of criminal law...." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h). Under the statute, prisoners are required to pay filing fees over time and are not entitled to proceed in forma pauperis as to filing fees. Id . However, CCUSO is not a prison facility; it "provides a secure, long term, and highly structured environment for the treatment of sexually violent predators."[2] Moreover, the Iowa Code specifies that the types of persons confined at CCUSO are not prisoners. They are civilly committed patients who suffer from a "mental abnormality." I.C.A. § 229A (generally); I.C.A. § 229A.2(11). Accordingly, individuals held due to civil commitment under I.C.A. § 229A are not prisoners and are not subject to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)-(b). See Kolocotronis v. Morgan , 247 F.3d 726, 728 (8th Cir. 2001), stating that those committed to state hospitals are not prisoners as defined under 28 U.S.C. § 1915; Youngberg v. Romeo , 457 U.S. 307, 321-22 (1982), stating that individuals who are involuntarily committed "are entitled to more considerate treatment than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish;" and Michau v. Charleston County, S.C. , 434 F.3d 725 (4th Cir. 2006), cert. denied Michau v. Charleston County, S.C. , 126 S.Ct. 2936 (2006), stating that:

[h]owever, [plaintiff] is presently being detained under the SVPA, which creates a system of civil, not criminal, detention.... see also Kansas v. Hendricks , 521 U.S. 346, 365-69 (1997) (concluding that Kansas's Sexually Violent Predators Act established civil rather than criminal detention scheme).[3] Because [plaintiff's] detention under the SVPA is not the result of a violation of criminal law, or of the terms of parole, probation, or a pretrial diversionary program, he does not meet the PLRA's definition of [a prisoner].[4] See... Page v. Torrey , 201 F.3d 1136, 1139-40 (9th Cir. 2000) (concluding that a person detained under state's civil sexually violent predator act is not a prisoner within meaning of PLRA). Accordingly, the PLRA provides no basis for the dismissal of [plaintiff's] complaints.

Id. at 727-28. (Some internal citations omitted.)

In order to qualify for in forma pauperis status, a plaintiff must provide this Court an affidavit[5] with the following statements: (1) statement of the nature of the action, (2) statement that plaintiff is entitled to redress, (3) statement of the assets plaintiff possesses, and (4) statement that plaintiff is unable to pay filing fees and court costs or give security therefor. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Mr. Willis has failed to file an affidavit that complies with the above rules. Accordingly, the Court cannot grant him in forma pauperis status. Mr. Willis will have 45 days to file an application to proceed in forma pauperis that complies with the above rules or his Complaint will be dismissed.

III. 12-CV-4086-DEO

Finally, the Court notes Mr. Willis is one of the named Plaintiffs in a currently pending case, 12-CV-4086-DEO. In that case, Mr. Willis is represented by attorneys Jay Denne and Robert Tiefenthaler. The Complaint in 12-CV-4086-DEO raises claims that are similar to Mr. Willis' present pro se pleading. Specifically, in both, Mr. Willis argues that CCUSO is violating I.C.A. § 229A and I.C.A. Chapter 17A in the implementation of its transitional release program. Accordingly, the Court advises Mr. Willis that it is unlikely that the Court will allow him to proceed in two cases that argue essentially the same thing.[6] Mr. Willis should speak with his attorneys in 12-CV-4086-DEO before filing any further pro se pleadings in this case, when such filings could potentially prejudice his position in 12-CV-4086-DEO.


For the reasons set out above, Mr. Willis has 45 days to file an application to proceed in forma pauperis. If Mr. Willis does not file an application to proceed in forma pauperis within 45 days, this Complaint will be dismissed without prejudice. A copy of this ORDER and the proposed complaint is to be sent to attorneys Jay Denne and Robert Tiefenthaler.


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