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Lobbyist Money Help  

Sue at Your Own Risk

September 01, 1995
By: ELISA CROUCH
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Sixteen Missouri inmates could lose good behavior time and half of their prison bank accounts if they continue to pursue lawsuits they recently filed against the state.

The reason - Attorney General Jay Nixon considers their lawsuits frivolous.

The General Assembly passed a law during the 1995 legislative session to keep unnecessary inmate lawsuits from flooding the court system. The recently enacted law allows the attorney general to review the lawsuits and determine whether they are worth a court hearing. Inmates who file unnecessary lawsuits receive letters informing them of what could happen if they pursue their cases.

"If the inmate pursues the lawsuit, the attorney general will seek to have a judge determine the suit frivolous," said Scott Holstein, Nixon's press secretary.

If that happens, the inmate loses 60 days of good behavior time and half of the money in his or her prison spending account.

Nixon's office has cited a number of examples of what it terms frivolous cases:

@ A Potosi inmate sued because the prison cafeteria wasn't cutting cake in big enough pieces.

@ A Farmington inmate filed suit because the prison law library didn't have the 19th century volumes of the Supreme Court Reporter - the official publication of Supreme Court decisions.

@ An inmate in the Jefferson City prison sued the state after injuring his ankle while sliding into second base during a softball game.

"Our initial review shows the cases filed by these inmates to be those most likely affected by the new law," Nixon was quoted as saying in a press release.

Holstein said that letters have been sent to the inmates informing them of what could happen if they press on with their lawsuits.

"In addition to wasting valuable resources of time and money, these lawsuits contribute to the growing cynicism people feel toward government and the judicial system," Nixon said.

Nixon's office reported that inmate lawsuits cost Missouri taxpayers $1.9 million or more per year.