On June 8, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) issued a unanimous ruling in one case, Lomax v. Ortiz-Marquez. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and was argued before SCOTUS on February 26, 2020.
The case: Arthur James Lomax is a prisoner at the Limon Correctional Facility in Colorado and was previously incarcerated at the Centennial Correctional Facility in Colorado. Lomax filed a complaint against five Centennial Correctional Facility employees and a member of the Central Classification Committee at Offender Services, and filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, meaning to proceed without assuming liability for the costs of the suit, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
The District of Colorado rejected Lomax’s complaint under the three-strikes provision of the United States Code, and rejected Lomax’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis for failure to show cause of imminent physical danger. The court ordered Lomax to pay the appellate filing fee in full. On appeal, the 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.
The issue: Is the dismissal of a civil action without prejudice for failure to state a claim a strike under 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), or is it not?
The outcome: The court affirmed the 10th Circuit’s judgment in a 9-0 vote, holding that Section 1915(g) of the United States Code, or the three-strikes provision, refers to any dismissal for failure to state a claim, whether with prejudice or without. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion of the court. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the majority opinion as to all but footnote 4.
As of June 8, 2020, the court had issued decisions in 39 cases this term. Between 2007 and 2018, SCOTUS released opinions in 924 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year. The court agreed to hear 74 cases during its 2019-2020 term.