Leroy Oatis et al v. Gadsden, City of et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 8/24/2016. (JLC)
2016 Aug-24 PM 03:39
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
T.O.P.S. (“THE ORDINARY
PEOPLE SOCIETY”), LEROY
OATIS, AND ARTHUR L.
) Case No.: 4:16-CV-1264-VEH
CITY OF GADSDEN and THOMAS )
ALEXANDER KING (in his official )
capacity as Municipal Court Judge )
for the City of Gadsden),
Introduction and Procedural History
Plaintiffs initiated this § 1983 lawsuit on August 3, 2016, asserting “a
continuous and systematic violation of their 1st Amendment rights under the United
States Constitution to attend all court proceedings held in the Municipal Court of the
City of Gadsden.” (Doc. 1 at 1 ¶ 1). Plaintiffs have sued the City of Gadsden and
Thomas Alexander King, in his official capacity as a Municipal Court Judge for the
City of Gadsden. (Doc. 1 at 1; id. ¶ 2).
On August 4, 2016, the court entered an order (Doc. 4) directing Plaintiffs to
show cause about the standing of Plaintiff The Ordinary People Society (“T.O.P.S.”)
to bring an action against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for any purported
constitutional injuries to it. (Id. at 2). The deadline for Plaintiffs to respond to the
court’s show cause order ran on August 18, 2016. See id. (setting deadline for “no
later than fourteen (14) days from the entry date” of show cause order). Plaintiffs
have not responded.
As explained more fully below, the court concludes that Plaintiff T.O.P.S. is
due to be dismissed from Plaintiffs’ case without prejudice sua sponte.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute
or to comply with these rules or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the
action or any claim against it.” FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b).
Further, case law reinforces that, as a result of Plaintiffs’ failure to indicate an
intent on the part of Plaintiff T.O.P.S. that it still wishes to pursue its claims against
Defendants (e.g., such as by seeking an extension of time in which to address the
standing of Plaintiff T.O.P.S.), the court possesses the inherent power to dismiss that
party from their case sua sponte. See Link v. Wabash Railroad Co., 370 U.S. 626,
630-31, 82 S. Ct. 1386, 1389, 8 L. Ed. 2d 734 (1962) (“The authority of a court to
dismiss sua sponte for lack of prosecution has generally been considered an ‘inherent
power,’ governed not by rule or statute but by the control necessarily vested in courts
to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition
of cases.”); see also Goforth v. Owens, 766 F.2d 1533, 1535 (11th Cir. 1985) (“The
court’s power to dismiss is an inherent aspect of its authority to enforce its orders and
insure prompt disposition of lawsuits.” (citing Link, 370 U.S. at 630-31, 82 S. Ct. at
1388-89)); cf. Gratton v. Great American Communications, 178 F.3d 1373, 1374
(11th Cir. 1999) (recognizing that court has broad authority under Rule 37 to control
discovery and enforce its orders); cf. also FED. R. CIV. P. 1 (“[These rules] should be
construed, administered, and employed by the court and the parties to secure the just,
speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”) (emphasis
“While dismissal is an extraordinary remedy, dismissal upon disregard of an
order, especially where the litigant has been forewarned [and also is represented by
counsel], generally is not an abuse of discretion.” Moon v. Newsome, 863 F.2d 835,
837 (11th Cir. 1989) (emphasis added) (citing State Exchange Bank v. Hartline, 693
F.2d 1350, 1352 (11th Cir. 1982)). Here, by virtue of its show cause order, Plaintiffs
were put on notice that the court was considering whether to dismiss Plaintiff
T.O.P.S.’s claims against Defendants due to the absence of standing and, nonetheless,
they (through their counsel) ignored that warning and missed the show cause
deadline. Furthermore, Plaintiffs’ counsel had additional notice of the strong
likelihood that the court would, indeed, dismiss Plaintiff T.O.P.S. without prejudice
given his representation of the plaintiffs in the similar lawsuit of Thomas, et al. v.
King, et al., No. 4:15-CV-0315-VEH. See id. (Doc. 15) (N.D. Ala. June 29, 2015)
(order to show cause regarding Plaintiff T.O.P.S.’s standing). Ultimately, the court
dismissed T.O.P.S. from the Thomas lawsuit without prejudice for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction and/or the failure to prosecute. Id. (Docs. 17, 18) (N.D. Ala. July
Guided by the foregoing legal framework, the court concludes that dismissing
Plaintiff T.O.P.S.’s claims against Defendants “without prejudice” (rather than “with
prejudice”) is the most appropriate measure to take, especially as that type of a
dismissal is the only one appropriate for jurisdictionally-driven rulings. See Stalley
ex rel. United States v. Orlando Regional Healthcare System, Inc., 524 F.3d 1229,
1232 (11th Cir. 2008) (“A dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is not a
judgment on the merits and is entered without prejudice.” (citing Crotwell v.
Hockman–Lewis Ltd., 734 F.2d 767, 769 (11th Cir. 1984))); Stalley, 524 F.3d at 1232
(“Because standing is jurisdictional, a dismissal for lack of standing has the same
effect as a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under FED. R. CIV. P.
12(b)(1).” (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Cone Corp. v. Fla. Dep’t of
Transp., 921 F.2d 1190, 1203 n.42 (11th Cir. 1991))); see also Hitt v. City of
Pasadena, 561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977) (“Dismissal with prejudice for failure
to state a claim is a decision on the merits and essentially ends the plaintiff’s lawsuit,
whereas a dismissal on jurisdictional grounds alone is not on the merits and permits
the plaintiff to pursue his claim in the same or in another forum.”).1
Additionally, such a dismissal is consistent with the express wording of the
court’s forewarning included in its show cause order. (See Doc. 4 at 2 (“Plaintiffs are
also HEREBY ORDERED to SHOW CAUSE . . . why T.O.P.S. should not be
dismissed without prejudice as a party plaintiff . . . .”)) (emphasis by underlining
Therefore, Plaintiff T.O.P.S.’s claims against Defendants are due to be
dismissed without prejudice in light of Plaintiffs’ failure to substantiate T.O.P.S.’s
standing and, alternatively, on account of Plaintiffs’ failure to prosecute that part of
their case as provided for under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the express
requirements of this court’s August 4, 2016, show cause order. The court will enter
a separate order of partial dismissal in conformance with this memorandum opinion.
In Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), the
Eleventh Circuit adopted as binding precedent all decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down
prior to October 1, 1981.
DONE and ORDERED this the 24th day of August, 2016.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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