Billy Asemani, an immigrant currently serving a thirty-year sentence in the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, filed a mandamus petition for a hearing to review the denial of his request for naturalization by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). He was allowed to file the petition in forma pauperis (IFP) but the court subsequently decided he couldn’t proceed with it because of the “three strikes rule” set out under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). PLRA bars certain prisoners from proceeding IFP if three similar claims or suits put forward by them have already been dismissed on specified grounds. Asemani agreed that he had three strikes but argued that he should still be able to proceed IFP because of the imminent danger he faced from his fellow inmates. He had previously suffered “two back-to-back acts of assaults” while in prison, and required protection in segregated housing, where he had been for nearly a year before filing his petition. He also claimed that even in protective custody he faced a “constant threat of violence because of the maximum security nature” of the inmates he is serving with.
PLRA was enacted by Congress in 1995 in response to the concern that prisoners were “flooding the courts with meritless claims”. In 2011 it was ruled that any prisoner could file any post-conviction claim they wanted if they agreed to pay a filing fee or filed through representative counsel. Unfortunately for Asemani, because of the three strikes rule, he was required to pay the filing fee in full, not instalments, as set down in section 1915(b) of the PLRA:
“In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.”
Because Asemani had already brought three previous civil actions, this meant he was required to pay the filing fee in full and wouldn’t do so. So the court has denied his request to proceed IFP but given him the choice of paying the fee in full so he can proceed with his appeal, or dismissing the appeal and not collecting any filing fee.
If you would like more information on PLRA or appealing the courts on naturalization claims, please contact Lyttle Law Firm via the website or by calling 215-512-5225.