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Rueb v. Rich-Federicks.

2020 COA 168. No. 19CA1189.  Inmate Lawsuits—Successive Claims—In Forma Pauperis—Three Strikes.

December 3, 2020

Rueb, a prison inmate, filed a complaint in district court against numerous individuals in an official capacity and a state and city entity (collectively, defendants). Rueb requested to proceed in forma pauperis and the district court initially granted his request. Defendants filed a motion to reconsider the order, arguing that Rueb had accumulated more than three strikes under CRS § 13-17.5-102.7(1). The district court agreed, reversed its order, and gave Rueb 30 days to pay the filing fee. He failed to do so, and the complaint was dismissed.

Rueb argued on appeal that his complaint contained claims unrelated to prison conditions, involving civil rights, declaratory judgment, and several common law torts, and therefore is not subject to the three strikes rule under CRS § 13-17.5-102.7(1). CRS § 13-17-102.7(1) bars an inmate from proceeding in forma pauperis in a subsequent civil action based on prison conditions when the inmate has three or more “strikes”—civil lawsuits that were dismissed for being frivolous, groundless, or malicious, or failed to state a claim. This provision does not exclude the possibility that a civil action may be based only in part on prison conditions. Here, Rueb’s complaint contained both prison and non-prison related claims, and he previously filed at least four complaints in state court involving prison conditions, all of which were dismissed for being frivolous, groundless, or failing to state a claim. Thus, Rueb accumulated more than the three strikes required to prevent an inmate from proceeding in forma pauperis.

The order was affirmed.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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