United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
who is incarcerated at the Waupun Correctional Institution,
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. (Docket #1). The Court has granted him
until October 12, 2017 to file his reply brief in support of
his petition. (Docket #36). Petitioner filed a motion on
September 21, 2017, requesting that the Court order the
institution to use funds from his prison release account to
pay the cost of copying that brief. (Docket #37). He claims
that his request for a legal loan has been denied, and that
his regular prison trust account has insufficient funds to
cover the copying costs. Id. Thus, he says that his
only option to obtain a copy of his brief before the October
12 deadline is to use money from his release account, which
the institution will not permit absent a court order.
Id. Alternatively, Petitioner asks for a one-month
extension of time to file his brief, which would allow time
for his regular account to accumulate sufficient funds.
Id. at 2.
may be Petitioner's financial difficulties, the Court is
not able to order payment of copying costs from his release
account. Wisconsin prisoners generally have two types of
accounts: a “general account” and a
“release account.” The general account, also
called a “trust account, ” receives a
prisoner's pay and other income. Wis. Admin. Code §
DOC 309.02(8). Prisoners can withdraw funds from this account
while they are in state custody. Id. § DOC
309.49(2). The release account, by contrast, cannot be
accessed by a prisoner until he is released. Id.
§ DOC 309.466(2). After “crime victim and witness
assistance” payments have been made, see Id.
§ DOC 309.465, fifteen percent of a prisoner's pay
goes into the release account until the balance reaches $500,
id. § DOC 309.466(1).
the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), the only
item that the Court can order paid from a prisoner's
release account is the initial partial filing fee
(“IPFF”), assessed as part of a prisoner's
application to proceed in forma pauperis. Doty
v. Doyle, 182 F.Supp.2d 750, 751 (E.D. Wis. 2002). The
Court lacks the authority- statutory or otherwise-to allow a
prisoner to tap into his release account to pay current (or
future) litigation costs. Porter v. Dep't of
Treasury, 564 F.3d 176, 180 n.3 (3d Cir. 2009) (noting
that Section 1915 “does not exempt litigants from the
costs of copying and filing documents”) (internal
citation omitted); Beacon v. Dittmann, Case No.
14-CV-136-JPS, 2017 WL 375644, at *1 (E.D. Wis. Jan. 26,
2017). Petitioner's reliance on Spence v. Cooke,
587 N.W.2d 904, 907 (Wis. 1998), is misplaced, for while it
holds that litigation costs may be paid from a prisoner's
release account, the state court in that case was applying
Wisconsin's version of the PLRA, Wis.Stat. §
814.29(1m). Whatever liberal interpretation Wisconsin courts
may give to that statute, federal courts in this state have
consistently adopted a more restrictive view when applying
the federal PLRA. Beacon, 2017 WL 375644, at *1;
Czapiewski v. Thomas Doe, Case No. 16-cv-426, 2016
WL 1733456, at *2 (E.D. Wis. Apr. 29, 2016); Artis v.
Meisner, No. 12-cv- 589-wmc, 2015 WL 5749785, at *5-7
(W.D. Wis. Sept. 30, 2015).
Court's approach is consistent with the underlying
purpose of the release account. “Denying prisoners the
use of their release accounts to fund litigation costs also
is prudent given that those accounts are ‘restricted
account[s] maintained by the [DOC] to be used upon the
prisoner's release from custody.'” Peace v.
Larsen, Case No. 15-cv-276-pp, 2016 WL 4126470, at *2
(E.D. Wis. Aug. 2, 2016) (quoting Artis, 2015 WL
5749785, at *6). Permitting a prisoner to invade that account
for litigation costs could be a detriment to the
prisoner's likelihood of success post-incarceration,
see Wis. Adm. Code. § DOC 309.466 (stating that
disbursements from a prisoner's release account are
authorized “for purposes that will aid the inmate's
reintegration into the community”), especially if the
prisoner is overly litigious. As the Seventh Circuit has
instructed, “like any other civil litigant, [a
prisoner] must decide which of [his] legal actions is
important enough to fund.” Lindell v.
McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1111 (7th Cir. 2003). The
inmate is not at liberty to tap into his release account for
litigation costs, and he must make his strategic calculus
accordingly. Peace, 2016 WL 4126470, at *2.
especially true here, where Petitioner offers no reason why
the depletion of his regular trust account was not of his own
doing. Certainly, the Court is not sympathetic when a
prisoner squanders his money on his own wants and then
demands a loan from the state to fund his litigation efforts.
Beacon, 2017 WL 375644, at *2 (“Put simply,
the release account is not a backup litigation fund.”).
Thus, the Court is obliged to deny Petitioner's request
for an order directing that copies of his reply brief be paid
for out of his release account.
the Court will deny Petitioner's alternative request to
extend the deadline for filing his reply brief to November
10, 2017. Again, Petitioner's financial straits are his
own business, and waiting for funds to accrue in his regular
trust account is not a good reason to extend the existing
deadline nearly a month, particularly since the Court has
already warned that the deadline would not be extended for
any reason. (Docket #36 at 2). Petitioner's reply brief
remains due on October 12, 2017.
IT IS ORDERED that Petitioner's motion for an order
directing disbursement from his release account to pay
copying costs or for an extension of time to file his reply
brief (Docket #37) be and the same is hereby DENIED.
To the extent Petitioner believes that
his request for a legal loan was wrongfully denied,
see (Docket #37 at 2), such a claim is not