Thursday, October 04, 2007

IFP - denial - frivolous action

Bailey v. Wakefield - Commonwealth Court - October 4, 2007

Three prisoners sought a writ of mandamus against officers of a state correctional institution in the county court where the SCI is located. The trial court denied the plaintiffs' IFP petition on the grounds that the action was frivilous, pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 240(j)

A "frivolous" action is one that lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. A complaint is frivolous if it does not set forth a valud cause of action. The plaintiffs' complaint did allege a valid cause of action, claiming violations of state and federal constitutions and prison regulations and policies.

However, the complaint is still frivolous because the form of action - mandamus - cannot address the constitutional rights that they pleaded. Mandamus is only appropriate where the right to be enforced is very clear. Here, the defendants had a lot of discretion, because of the need for orderly administration of the prison. Mandamus is not maintainable in the circumstances.

"Because there is no way that [plaintiffs] can be successful, the trial court properly denied the petition to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed the action seeking a writ of mandamus as frivolous."