Stephen v. Austin et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS of the Magistrate Judge that the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's 1 Complaint, DIRECT the Clerk to CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. The Court ORDERS any party seeking to object to this Report and Recommendation to file specific written objections within fourteen (14) days of the date on which this Report and Recommendation is entered. (Objections to R&R due by 10/11/2017). ORDER directing service of the REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge. Signed by Magistrate Judge R. Stan Baker on 9/27/2017. (ca)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
AARON L. STEPHEN,
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 2:17-cv-93
RANDY AUSTIN; RON CORBITT; ANN
LEMIEUX; and GUADALUPE THOMPSON,
ORDER and MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Glynn County Detention Center in Brunswick,
Georgia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) On August 17, 2017, the
Court ordered Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 3.) For the reasons set forth below,
the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 2.) In
addition, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff’s Complaint for
failure to prosecute and failure to follow this Court’s Order, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to
CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.
Plaintiff filed his Complaint along with a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis
on August 7, 2017. (Docs. 1–2.) On August 17, 2017, the Court deferred ruling on Plaintiff’s in
forma pauperis Motion and directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 3.) Plaintiff’s
original Complaint consisted solely of his Objections from a then-ongoing case before this Court.
(Id. at p. 3.) The Court advised that “Plaintiff’s Complaint in its current form fails to state a
viable claim and is due to be dismissed.” (Id. at p. 3.) However, the Court provided Plaintiff
with an opportunity to amend and resubmit his Complaint within fourteen (14) days. The Court
further advised Plaintiff that failing to abide by this directive would result in dismissal of his
case. (Id. at p. 5.) Despite this warning, Plaintiff failed to file such an amendment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the
Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff
submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his assets, shows an inability to pay the
filing fee, and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled
to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is
frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)–(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a
complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening,
the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, or fails
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or which seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure when reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . .
a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed. R.
Civ. P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set
of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without
arguable merit either in law or fact.’” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).
Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by
the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 F. App’x 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that
standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A
plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also
“accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal
theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint’s factual allegations and
dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349
(quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).
In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of
unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and,
therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v.
Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent
standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys.”) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott,
350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff’s unrepresented status will not excuse
mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We
have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as
to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).
Dismissal for Failure to Prosecute and Failure to Follow this Court’s Orders
A district court may dismiss a plaintiff’s claims sua sponte pursuant to either Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) (“Rule 41(b)”) or the court’s inherent authority to manage its
docket. Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626 (1962); 1 Coleman v. St. Lucie Cty. Jail, 433 F.
App’x 716, 718 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b) and Betty K Agencies, Ltd. v. M/V
MONADA, 432 F.3d 1333, 1337 (11th Cir. 2005)). In particular, Rule 41(b) allows for the
involuntary dismissal of a plaintiff’s claims where he has failed to prosecute those claims,
comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or local rules, or follow a court order. Fed. R.
Civ. P. 41(b); see also Coleman, 433 F. App’x at 718; Sanders v. Barrett, No. 05-12660, 2005
WL 2640979, at *1 (11th Cir. Oct. 17, 2005) (citing Kilgo v. Ricks, 983 F.2d 189, 192 (11th Cir.
1993)); cf. Local R. 41.1(b) (“[T]he assigned Judge may, after notice to counsel of record, sua
sponte . . . dismiss any action for want of prosecution, with or without prejudice[,] . . . [based on]
willful disobedience or neglect of any order of the Court.” (emphasis omitted)). Additionally, a
district court’s “power to dismiss is an inherent aspect of its authority to enforce its orders and
ensure prompt disposition of lawsuits.” Brown v. Tallahassee Police Dep’t, 205 F. App’x 802,
802 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Jones v. Graham, 709 F.2d 1457, 1458 (11th Cir. 1983)).
It is true that dismissal with prejudice for failure to prosecute is a “sanction . . . to be
utilized only in extreme situations” and requires that a court “(1) conclud[e] a clear record of
delay or willful contempt exists; and (2) mak[e] an implicit or explicit finding that lesser
sanctions would not suffice.” Thomas v. Montgomery Cty. Bd. of Educ., 170 F. App’x 623,
625–26 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Morewitz v. West of Eng. Ship Owners Mut. Prot. & Indem.
In Wabash, the Court held that a trial court may dismiss an action for failure to prosecute “even without
affording notice of its intention to do so.” 370 U.S. at 633.
Ass’n (Lux.), 62 F.3d 1356, 1366 (11th Cir. 1995)); see also Taylor v. Spaziano, 251 F. App’x
616, 619 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing Morewitz, 62 F.3d at 1366). By contrast, dismissal without
prejudice for failure to prosecute is not an adjudication on the merits, and, therefore, courts are
afforded greater discretion in dismissing claims in this manner. Taylor, 251 F. App’x at 619;
see also Coleman, 433 F. App’x at 719; Brown, 205 F. App’x at 802–03.
While the Court exercises its discretion to dismiss cases with caution, dismissal of this
action without prejudice is warranted. See Coleman, 433 F. App’x at 719 (upholding dismissal
without prejudice for failure to prosecute Section 1983 complaint, where plaintiff did not
respond to court order to supply defendant’s current address for purpose of service); Taylor, 251
F. App’x at 620–21 (upholding dismissal without prejudice for failure to prosecute, because
plaintiffs insisted on going forward with deficient amended complaint rather than complying, or
seeking an extension of time to comply, with court’s order to file second amended complaint);
Brown, 205 F. App’x at 802–03 (upholding dismissal without prejudice for failure to prosecute
Section 1983 claims, where plaintiff failed to follow court order to file amended complaint and
court had informed plaintiff that noncompliance could lead to dismissal).
This Court issued an Order directing Plaintiff to amend his Complaint and provided
specific instructions as to how Plaintiff could amend to state a plausible claim. The Court
warned Plaintiff that his current Complaint “essentially includes no allegations against
Defendants.” (Doc. 3, p. 3.) However, instead of remedying this defect, Plaintiff ignored the
Court’s instructions and entirely failed to amend his Complaint.
Accordingly, the Court should DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff’s Complaint for
failure to prosecute and failure to follow this Court’s Orders.
Leave to Appeal in Forma Pauperis
The Court should also deny Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. 2
Plaintiff has, of course, not yet filed a notice of appeal, it would be appropriate to address these
issues in the Court’s order of dismissal. Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (trial court may certify that
appeal is not taken in good faith “before or after the notice of appeal is filed”).
An appeal cannot be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that the appeal is
not taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3). Good faith in this
context must be judged by an objective standard. Busch v. Cty. of Volusia, 189 F.R.D. 687, 691
(M.D. Fla. 1999). A party does not proceed in good faith when he seeks to advance a frivolous
claim or argument. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). A claim or
argument is frivolous when it appears the factual allegations are clearly baseless or the legal
theories are indisputably meritless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Carroll v.
Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). Stated another way, an in forma pauperis action is
frivolous, and thus, not brought in good faith, if it is “without arguable merit either in law or
fact.” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Brown v. United States,
Nos. 407CV085, 403CR001, 2009 WL 307872, at *1–2 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 9, 2009).
Based on the above analysis of Plaintiff’s action, there are no non-frivolous issues to
raise on appeal, and an appeal would not be taken in good faith. Thus, the Court should DENY
Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s Motion to Proceed in Forma
Pauperis, (doc. 2). Furthermore, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice
A certificate of appealability is not required in this Section 1983 action.
Plaintiff’s Complaint, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff
leave to appeal in forma pauperis.
The Court ORDERS any party seeking to object to this Report and Recommendation to
file specific written objections within fourteen (14) days of the date on which this Report and
Recommendation is entered. Any objections asserting that the Magistrate Judge failed to address
any contention raised in the Complaint must also be included. Failure to do so will bar any later
challenge or review of the factual findings or legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge. See
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). A copy of the objections must
be served upon all other parties to the action. The filing of objections is not a proper vehicle
through which to make new allegations or present additional evidence.
Upon receipt of Objections meeting the specificity requirement set out above, a United
States District Judge will make a de novo determination of those portions of the report, proposed
findings, or recommendation to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify in
whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. Objections not
meeting the specificity requirement set out above will not be considered by a District Judge. A
party may not appeal a Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation directly to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Appeals may be made only from a final
judgment entered by or at the direction of a District Judge. The Court DIRECTS the Clerk of
Court to serve a copy of this Report and Recommendation upon Plaintiff.
SO ORDERED and REPORTED and RECOMMENDED, this 27th day of September,
R. STAN BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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