April 3, 2019
Appeals from the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, Western Division. Nos. 17 C
7840, 17 C 50384 - Philip G. Reinhard, Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Bauer and Rovner, Circuit Judges.
Congress's expressed goals when it passed the Prison
Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") was to rein in the
flood of prisoner litigation-all too often frivolous or
vexatious, it thought-clogging the courts. See Margo
Schlanger, Inmate Litigation, 116 Harv. L. Rev.
1555, 1633-34 & nn. 269-70 (2003) (citing Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 525 (2002); and 141 CONG. Rec.
514, 627 (daily ed. Sept. 29, 1995) (statement of Sen.
Hatch)). Of the many tools the law introduced to serve that
purpose, one of the most potent is the so-called "three
strikes" provision. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). The
statute specifies that a prisoner may not proceed in
forma pauperis if she "has, on [three] or more
prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any
facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the
United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is
frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted ...." Id.
so good. But no legislation spells out everything, and the
PLRA is no exception. Our concern here is with the way in
which courts administer the three-strikes rule. Many have
created elaborate forms requiring prisoner-litigants to list
their entire litigation histories. The Northern District of
Illinois's form, which is the one at issue here, requires
the prisoner to furnish all of the following information:
• name of case and docket number;
• date of filing;
• all plaintiffs for each case, including co-plaintiffs
and their aliases;
• all defendants for each case;
• the court in which each lawsuit was filed;
• the name of the assigned judge;
• a description of the claim(s) made;
• the disposition of the case; and
• the date of disposition.
District of Illinois, Complaint Under the Civil Rights Act,
Title 42, Section 1983 U.S. Code, or Complaint Under the
Constitution ("Bivens" Action), Title 28 Section
1331 U.S. Code (federal defendants),
By collecting this information, a district court reviewing an