WATTS v. PHILLIP et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS of the Magistrate Judge that the Court DISMISS this action without prejudice, and that the Clerk be directed to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and to CLOSE this case re 1 Complaint, filed by RALPH L. WATTS. I further RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal. 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 10/4/2016). ORDER directing service of the REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION of the Magistrate Judge. Signed by Magistrate Judge R. Stan Baker on 9/20/2016. (ca)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
RALPH L. WATTS,
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 5:16-cv-62
ROBERT F. PHILLIP, GARY A. BACON,
BAKER MCGEE, ROBERT JAMES
JORDAN, ALBERTA NEWBY, ANGELIA
JORDAN, WILLIAM P. CHURCHLL, III,
ANN REWIS; and RITA PAYNE,
ORDER and MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s failure to comply with the Court’s
Order to keep the Court apprised of any change in his address. For the following reasons, I
RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff’s Complaint, (doc. 1), without prejudice for
Plaintiff’s failure to prosecute and failure to follow this Court’s Order.
RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.
On May 26, 2016, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed this Complaint in the United States
District Court for the District of Columbia. (Doc. 1.) With his Complaint, Plaintiff filed a
Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2.) Each of those filings was transferred to this
Court on July 27, 2016. (Doc. 6.) On August 12, 2016, the Court denied Plaintiff’s Motion for
Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis and ordered Plaintiff to pay the requisite filing fee within
twenty-one (21) days of that Order. (Doc. 9.) In that Order, the Court ordered Plaintiff to
immediately inform this Court in writing of any change in his address.
(Id.) The Court
emphasized that, should Plaintiff fail to comply with this directive, the Court would dismiss his
The Clerk of the Court mailed that Order to Plaintiff at his last known place of residence.
However, the mail was returned as undeliverable. (Doc. 10.) Plaintiff has not notified the Court
of his change of address or made any effort to inform the Court of his whereabouts.
Additionally, Plaintiff has not paid the filing fee or taken any action in this case since filing the
case over three months ago.
The Court must now determine how to address Plaintiff’s failure to comply with this
Court’s directive. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS
Plaintiff’s Complaint and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.
Dismissal for Failure to Prosecute and Failure to Follow this Court’s Order
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.
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.
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.
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). With Plaintiff having
failed to update the Court with his current address, the Court has no means by which it can
communicate with Plaintiff.
Thus, the Court is unable to move forward with this case.
Moreover, Plaintiff was given ample time to follow the Court’s directive, and Plaintiff has not
made any effort to do so. Additionally, Plaintiff has not paid the filing fee or taken any action in
this case since filing the case over three months ago.
Accordingly, the Court should DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff’s Complaint, (doc.
1), and CLOSE this case for failure to prosecute and failure to follow this Court’s Order.
Leave to Appeal In Forma Pauperis
The Court should also deny Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Though Plaintiff
has, of course, not yet filed a notice of appeal, it is proper to address these issues in the Court’s
order of dismissal. See Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (trial court may certify that appeal of party
proceeding in forma pauperis is not taken in good faith “before or after the notice of appeal is
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). Or, 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 above-stated reasons, it is my RECOMMENDATION that the Court DISMISS
this action without prejudice, and that the Clerk of Court be directed to enter the appropriate
judgment of dismissal and to CLOSE this case. I further RECOMMEND that the Court DENY
Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.
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 Clerk of Court is DIRECTED
to serve a copy of this Report and Recommendation upon the Plaintiff.
SO ORDERED and REPORTED and RECOMMENDED, this 20th day of September,
R. STAN BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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