En banc Third Circuit unanimously adopts more flexible procedure for deciding prisoner cases

Brown v. Sage—prisoner rights—affirmance—Chagares (en banc)

The en banc Third Circuit today unanimously held that courts are not required to decide a prisoner’s request for indigent status (known as in forma pauperis or IFP) before reaching the merits of their suit, overruling prior circuit precedent. The panel had come out the other way applying the now-overruled precedent, with Judge Chagares urging en banc review.

The ruling was unanimous. All the court’s active judges except Judge Krause participated, plus Judge Fuentes. Chief Judge Smith briefly concurred, joined by Judge Fuentes. The case was decided without en banc oral argument.