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Frivolous Prisoner Lawsuits


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Prisoner never feels out of torts


The Kansas City Star

Washington state prison inmate John Robert Demos sent his very best to Hallmark last week, but it probably won’t be good enough.

Demos, who is serving a life sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, filed a federal lawsuit in Kansas City alleging that he had purchased an “unsafe, unusable and unpredictable” greeting card at the inmate store in August.

He contended that the envelope would not seal, both the envelope and card were torn, and the card contained ink marks. As a result, Demos alleged, he suffered “mental, physical and psychological suffering and hardship,” “loss of sleep” and “stress and worry.”

“I could have, in retrospect or hindsight, been seriously and irreparably injured, and no amount of money could have adequately compensated me,” Demos wrote.

He is seeking $12,000 in damages.

Hallmark executives shouldn’t worry too much. The suit isn’t likely to survive, because Demos did not pay a required $250 filing fee.

Since being incarcerated in 1978 after convictions for attempted robbery, assault, attempted rape and burglary, Demos has filed more than 500 federal lawsuits throughout the country.

In 1997, according to The National Law Journal, he sued the makers of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, alleging that a box of cereal “was only partially filled, and the corn flakes were overtoasted and stale.” That, too, caused him, “mental, psychological and emotional” damage, he alleged. That suit, like many he has filed over the years, was dismissed as frivolous.

A Demos appeal in 1991 prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to tighten rules governing inmate lawsuits. Generally, courts permit inmates to file suits without paying a fee. But after Demos hammered the high court with 32 repetitive petitions, filed under a rule that waived the $300 filing fee for paupers, the court changed its rules to restrict “frivolous or malicious” petitions by the poor.

A 1995 federal law also bars prisoners from filing free lawsuits if three or more previous suits have been dismissed as frivolous.

Senior U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs found in 2003 that Demos had long since exhausted his good will under the “three strikes” law when Sachs dismissed a case Demos filed against former senator Jean Carnahan.

Demos sought $400,000 from Carnahan, alleging that she had broken a “verbal contract” to marry him in prison and visit him at least once a month.

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The point is he is abusing his priveleges. Take them away. Prisons aren't supposed to be nice (that's the deterrent aspect, if he doesn't like it, maybe he should of thought of that before committing his crime).

The rules are already in place however, they are just not enforcing them. For some reason he is being allowed to continue "free" filing of these frivolous lawsuits despite exceeding the "three strikes" mandated in the 1995 law. Someone needs to pay closer attention.

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