About six weeks ago I filed, as a pro-se litigant, a 1983 action in the district court of Arizona. When filing the complaint, the clerk told me she couldn't issue a summons because it related to events that occurred in pre-trial detention and needed to be "screened" first by a judge.

I have since found that both the Prison Litigation Reform Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act require such "screening orders". The Federal Tort Claims Act screening seems to only apply when the charge is a felony and the defendant is federal--neither is the case here. A few days ago, I found (binding) precedent, a little over one year old, that says screening under the PLRA only applies to persons incarcerated at the time their complaint is filed.

Because I was not incarcerated at the time I filed my complaint I feel like the Prison Litigation Reform Act was not a basis for requiring a screening order either. Are there any other statutes that require pre-screening of (ex)prisoner complaints prior to the issuance of a summons?

  • Excellent question. I don't know the answer off the cuff and may research to find one if I have a chance. It certainly isn't terribly unusual for court clerks to misapply the law (I'm having a similar problem in a very different kind of case at the moment). – ohwilleke Jul 28 '18 at 4:15
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    @ohwilleke Thanks! Well if you do find the time here is a link to the case I found: cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/05/19/15-17123.pdf – David Reed Jul 28 '18 at 14:29
  • @ohwilleke On my motion, a summons has been issued, case moved from detainee to standard track, and extension granted for time to effect service. I believe that may provide our answer. Above mentioned case was the basis for it being granted. – David Reed Aug 9 '18 at 18:49

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