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Houston Affirmed as Boundary on Timeliness of Prison Filings

Citing the challenges inmates face when interacting with the judicial system, a federal appellate panel extended the US Supreme Court’s prison-mailbox rule for court filings to administrative actions under the Federal Tort Claims Act. In overturning a summary judgement, the US Court of Appeals Court for the 7th Circuit said that provisions in a second Supreme Court ruling, about the application of expressly defined parameters for interstate filings, got too wide a reading in Southern Indiana district court. The FTCA permits private citizens to sue the government over actions taken by its agents.

Thomas Censke presented a claim over abuse dealt him by guards and medical staff a federal lock-up in Terre Haute, Ind., to prison officials in Kentucky nine days in advance of a two-year window that had closed by the time the filing reached the Bureau of Prisons. That led a district judge to dismiss under the timely disposition of interstate claims laid out by the high court in Fex v. Michigan. However, appeals judges agreed with Censke that Houston v. Lack‘s treatment of filings as received by the court when they are presented for mailing to prison officials applies. In a ten-page ruling, they recounted efforts to get the complaint mailed despite being denied forms, losing materials during numerous interstate moves and his not being given addresses by prison officials.