Petitioner, who was then an inmate of the Arizona Department of Corrections Reception and Treatment Center, filed a crudely written complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, in which he alleged, inter alia, that he had been placed in solitary confinement on March 3, 1980, without any notice of charges or any hearing, that he was threatened with violence when he asked what the charges were, and that he was still in "the hole" a week later. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the case was moot because petitioner had been transferred to another facility.
On appeals, the Court of Appeals did not endorse the District Court's mootness rationale, and rightfully so, since the transfer did not moot the damages claim. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals affirmed, 642 F.2d 455 (1981), concluding
The motion of petitioner for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and the petition for certiorari are granted, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
I join in the per curiam, but write separately to emphasize two points. First, nothing in the Court's opinion prevents the District Court on remand from dismissing this suit under 28 U. S. C. § 1915(d) if it finds grounds to believe that the complaint is "malicious or frivolous." This Court only requires the District Court to articulate briefly its reasons for dismissal in order to facilitate appellate review. Second, I find merit in JUSTICE REHNQUIST's comments that this Court is not equipped to correct every perceived error coming from the lower federal courts. The effectiveness of this Court rests in part on its practice of deciding cases of broad significance and of declining to expend limited judicial resources on cases, such as the present one, whose significance is limited to the parties. In exercising our discretionary certiorari jurisdiction, we should not be influenced solely by the merits of the petitioner's case.
JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE WHITE join, dissenting.
The per curiam reverses the decision of the Court of Appeals in this case because neither it nor the District Court articulated a proper basis for dismissing the petitioner's complaint. While I agree with the per curiam's conclusion that the case is not moot and that the complaint, construed liberally, alleges a cause of action, I find a sufficient basis to support the decision below. More importantly, I find this to be a good example of the kind of cases the Court should not decide.
The record shows that petitioner failed to comply with the local rules of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Phoenix Division, in which his complaint was filed. As part of his claim, petitioner filed a typewritten document entitled "Form To be Used By Prisoner In Filing a Complaint Under The Civil Rights Act, 42 U. S. C. § 1983."
Petitioner failed to check either the "Yes" or the "No" space and did not answer the next seven questions about previous filings, thereby violating the local rules of the District Court. Rule 53(a), Local Rules of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. There appears to have been good reason for this omission. Records of the District Court, of which we may take judicial notice, Wells v. United States, 318 U.S. 257, 260 (1943), indicate that petitioner had in the past filed at least 10 prisoner civil rights suits and had been denied leave to proceed in forma pauperis in at least 2 others.
In my view, the District Court was justified in dismissing the complaint, if for no other reason, on the ground that petitioner had simply refused to comply with local rules regarding the disclosure of previous lawsuits. The fact that neither lower court relied upon this ground for dismissal does not remove it from our consideration. A respondent may seek affirmance in this Court on any ground disclosed by the record which would not expand the relief granted. United States v. New York Telephone Co., 434 U.S. 159, 166, n. 8 (1977); Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 475, n. 6 (1970); Ryerson v. United States, U. S. 405, 408 (1941). By reversing the decision below without first permitting the parties to brief the merits of this case, the per curiam precludes respondent from seeking affirmance on this or any other basis.
Even if there were no grounds for affirmance, I would find this case unworthy of the Court's attention. In our zeal to
It cannot be doubted that this case will have no importance beyond the facts and parties involved.
Finally, it is worth emphasizing what the Court is not saying in this case. The statutory provision under which petitioner was permitted to proceed in forma pauperis,