Gibson v. City Municipality of New York, No. 09-2797 (2d Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
A New York state court judge found Gibson, charged with criminal mischief, not competent to stand trial and filed a temporary order of observation, transferring Gibson to custody of the mental health commissioner for a period not to exceed 90 days, for treatment to restore capacity to stand trial. New York law distinguishes between temporary orders and final orders, which are intended to prepare the subject for release into the community. N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 730.40(1). While detained, he filed a federal complaint alleging civil rights violations and requesting to proceed in forma pauperis. While federal law generally permits a court to waive fees for those who cannot afford them, the 1995 Prison Litigation Reform Act generally prohibits a “prisoner” who has filed three or more frivolous actions in federal court from filing another lawsuit without paying required fees, 28 U.S.C. 1915(g). The Act defines “prisoner” as “any person . . . detained in any facility who is accused of . . . violations of criminal law.” The district court concluded that Gibson was was a “prisoner” under the PLRA, and that, based on previous frivolous filings, he was barred from filing another complaint without first paying fees. The Second Circuit affirmed.