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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 164107 Find in a Library
Title: District of Nevada Uses Early Hearing to Cope With State Prisoner Pro Se Civil Rights Caseload
Journal: FJC (Federal Judicial Center) Directions  Issue:9  Dated:(June 1996)  Pages:18-21
Author(s): M Cordisco
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 4
Type: Program/Project Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: To expedite the processing of prisoner pro se civil rights cases, in March 1994 the district court, the Nevada Attorney General's Office, and the Nevada Department of Prisons began conducting triage hearings in selected inmate civil rights cases filed in forma pauperis and pro se.
Abstract: The 10- to 15-minute hearings bring the court and the pro se prisoner plaintiff together soon after the complaint is filed, so that the court can eliminate frivolous claims, counts, or defendants and move meritorious cases toward resolution as quickly as possible. The plan provides that when the district court receives a civil rights complaint and in forma pauperis application from a prisoner plaintiff, the pro se law clerk reviews the merits of the complaint for the judge's consideration. Many of the cases are scheduled for a telephonic triage hearing, usually to be held in 7 to 10 days. On the day of the hearing, court personnel establish a conference call between the district or magistrate judge to whom the case is assigned, the plaintiff inmate, an officer of the facility where the inmate is housed, and the deputy attorney general. A court reporter records the otherwise informal proceedings. After explaining the purpose of the hearing, the judge informs the prisoner plaintiff of the judge's interpretation of the allegations and brings obvious defects in the complaint to the plaintiff's attention, inviting additional information to cure the misinterpretation or defect. The hearing may have several different outcomes, depending on the particular circumstances of the case, including voluntary or involuntary dismissal of the entire complaint without prejudice or voluntary or involuntary dismissal of certain counts or defendants. After determining which counts and defendants should remain in the plaintiff's complaint, the judge asks the deputy attorney general to accept process for defendants who are current employees of the Nevada Department of Prisons. At the close of the hearing, the judge summarizes the status of the complaint by going over dismissed and remaining causes of action and defendants, lists defendant for whom the deputy attorney general has accepted service, informs the plaintiff inmate whether an amended complaint is necessary and what is needed to proceed, and gives the deputy attorney general a time period in which to file a responsive pleading. Although it is still too early to tell whether the triage pilot program will offer the best approach for dealing with the high volume of prisoner pro se civil rights complaints, all of the parties who participate in the program believe the hearings have been effective. 7 notes
Main Term(s): Court case flow management
Index Term(s): Civil proceedings; Inmate lawsuits; Nevada; Pro se defense
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