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Cook v. Batten

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

June 8, 2015

ANTHONY COOK, LAWRENCE L. CRAWFORD, a/k/a Jonah Gabriel, JOHN MILLS, JOHN E. SUTCLIFFE, and FREDDRICK HOWELL, Plaintiffs,
v.
JUDGE TIMOTHY C. BATTEN, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand's Final Report and Recommendation ("R&R") [8]. The R&R considers the joint civil Complaint [1] filed by Plaintiffs Anthony Cook ("Cook"), Lawrence L. Crawford ("Crawford"), [1] John Mills, John E. Sutcliffe, and Freddrick Howell (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). Also before the Court are Plaintiffs' "Objections" [16], Motion for Recusal, Motion Seeking Ruling of Law, Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing, Motion to Add Magistrate Judge Anand as a Party [13], and Crawford's application for Post-Conviction Relief [26].

I. BACKGROUND

This is the latest in a series of pro se filings by Plaintiffs, who are incarcerated at the Lieber Correctional Institution, a state prison located in Ridgeville, South Carolina.[2]

On November 17, 2014, the Clerk received and docketed a 2, 087-page document, including over 30 attachments and exhibits, labeled "RE: Filing and Initiating a New § 1983 Action" (the "Complaint") [1]. Overall, the Complaint is difficult, if not impossible, to discern what claims for relief Plaintiffs seek to assert and against whom they seek to bring these unspecified claims.[3] Each Plaintiff involved in this action submitted separate financial affidavits seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"), without paying the required filing fee. (See [2, 3, 4, 5, 6]).

On December 15, 2014, the Magistrate Judge recommended that this action be dismissed without prejudice. The Magistrate Judge relied on Hubbard v. Haley, 262 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. 2001), in which the Eleventh Circuit held that dismissal of a multi-plaintiff action, consisting of eighteen prisoner-plaintiffs, was proper "based on [the prisoner-plaintiffs'] failure to file separate complaints and pay separate filing fees." Id. at 1198. The Magistrate Judge also recommended dismissal because Plaintiffs' Complaint is an impermissible shotgun pleading.[4]

On December 22, 2014, Plaintiffs filed several "motions" [13] consisting of 95 handwritten pages.[5] Plaintiffs appear to request a ruling on their "pending motions, " and to add Magistrate Judge Anand as a Defendant. Plaintiffs also move for an evidentiary hearing, an extension of time to respond to the R&R, [6] and for Judge Batten to recuse from this case.[7]

On January 27, 2015, Plaintiffs untimely filed their "objections" to the R&R.

On April 16, 2015, Crawford filed an Application for Post-Conviction Relief [26]. Although the Docket reflects that the Application for Post-Conviction Relief was filed by Plaintiff Crawford, the 73-page document - which is nearly incomprehensible - is actually another attempt by Plaintiffs to reiterate their general dissatisfaction with the government of the United States, the federal and state court systems, and the "continuous acts of fraud" by the judges and administration involved within. (See [26] at p. 36). In the application, Plaintiff Crawford also appears to appoint Plaintiff Cook as his legal counsel.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

After conducting a careful and complete review of the findings and recommendations, a district judge may accept, reject, or modify a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Williams v. Wainwright, 681 F.2d 732, 732 (11th Cir. 1982), cert denied, 459 U.S. 1112 (1983). A district judge "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). With respect to those findings and recommendations to which a party has not asserted objections, the district judge must conduct a plain error review of the record. United States v. Slay, 714 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1983).

Plaintiffs' Objections are incoherent. They do not address the Magistrate Judge's reasons for dismissing Plaintiffs' Complaint and instead consist of rambling allegations that are nearly impossible to discern.[8] See Marsden v. Moore, 847 F.2d 1536, 1548 (11th Cir. 1988) ("Parties filing objections to a magistrate's report and recommendation must specifically identify those findings objected to. Frivolous, conclusive, or general objections need not be considered by the district court."). These are not valid objections and the Court will not consider them. The Court reviews the R&R for plain error.

B. Analysis

The Magistrate Judge recommended that this action be dismissed because Plaintiffs did not file separate complaints and did not pay a separate filing fee, in violation of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), because "each prisoner must bring a separate suit in order to satisfy the [PLRA's] requirement that each prisoner pay the full filing fee." Hubbard, 262 F.3d at 1197. "[T]he PLRA clearly and unambiguously requires that if a prisoner brings a civil action or files an appeal [IFP], the prisoner shall be required to pay the full amount of a filing fee.'" Id . (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)); see also Bowens v. Turner Guilford Knight Det., 510 F.Appx. 863 (11th Cir. 2013) (same).[9] Plaintiffs' case cannot proceed as a class action, and the Court finds no plain error in the Magistrate Judge's finding or recommendation that this action should be dismissed. See Hubbard, 262 F.3d at 1197-8 (affirming dismissal of a multi-plaintiff prisoner action).

The Court finds no plain error in the Magistrate Judge's additional finding that Plaintiffs' Complaint is an impermissible "shotgun pleading" that fails to meet the requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[10] Plaintiffs' 2, 087-page Complaint, accompanied by over 30 attachments and exhibits, is incoherent and devoid of any meaningful facts. The Magistrate Judge recommended that Plaintiffs' Complaint be dismissed for this additional reason, and the Court finds no plain error in the Magistrate Judge's finding and recommendation. See, e.g., Kabbaj v. Obama, 568 F.Appx. 875, 879 (11th Cir. 2014); Osahar v. U.S. Postal Serv., 297 F.Appx. 863, 864 (11th Cir. 2008); Maldonado v. Snead, 168 F.Appx. 373, 377 (11th Cir. 2006); Magluta v. Samples, 256 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2001).

Because this action is being dismissed, Plaintiffs' motions seeking a ruling of law, an evidentiary hearing, and to add Magistrate Judge Anand as a party [13], are denied as moot. Because Judge Batten recused from this action on January 30, 2015, Plaintiffs' Motion to Recuse Judge Batten is also denied as moot. (See [17]).[11]

III. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion for Extension of Time [13] to file objections to the R&R is GRANTED NUNC PRO TUNC.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's Objections [16] are OVERRULED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand's Final Report and Recommendation [8] is ADOPTED and this action is DISMISSED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motion for Recusal, Motion Seeking Ruling of Law, Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing, and Motion to Add Magistrate Judge Anand as a Party [13] are DENIED AS MOOT.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff Lawrence L. Crawford's Application for Post-Conviction Relief [26] is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

SO ORDERED.


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