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Document Type

Comments

Abstract

On May 3, 2021, in Simons v. Washington, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that a court’s non-binding “strike” recommendation under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) did not violate the PLRA or Article III of the United States Constitution. Courts agree that binding strikes are impermissible, but disagree on the underlying reasoning. The Sixth Circuit reasoned that the PLRA, which revokes in forma pauperis filing from indigent prisoner-litigants after three qualifying dismissals, renders binding strikes impermissible before a prisoner accrues three strikes. By resolving the issue using the PLRA, the Sixth Circuit found the constitutional inquiry unnecessary. This Comment argues that the Sixth Circuit’s approach is correct because it aligns with the well-established canon of constitutional avoidance. The Sixth Circuit’s approach also narrows the legal issues in a PLRA ruling, thereby communicating familiar legal principles to under-resourced prisoner-litigants.

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