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Fredrick v. Wilkes

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

April 10, 2017



         Dante Fredrick has filed this civil rights case against defendants Wilkes and Williams, clerks for the Superior Court of Liberty County. Doc. 1 (alleging defendants refused to docket a civil action that he submitted for filing in that court). Fredrick was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) based upon his representation that, while he had filed civil lawsuits "in the federal courts, " "none of the cases [had been] dismissed [be]cause of frivolousness, maliciousness, or failure to state a claim." Docs. 1 at 2 (attesting he had repeatedly voluntarily dismissed cases, so as not to result in a "strike") & 14 at 2 (attesting he has "no strikes" because "none of [his] filings was dismissed for frivolousness, maliciousness, or failure to state [a] claim"). Fredrick, however, lied to this Court.

         I. (More Than) Three Strikes

A review of Plaintiffs history of filings reveals that he has brought numerous civil actions or appeals which were dismissed and appear to count as strikes under Section 1915(g). A non-exhaustive list of these cases includes the following:

Fredrick v. Danforth, et al, No. CV314-162 (S.D. Ga. April 27, 2015) (dismissed for failure to truthfully disclose litigation history);[1]
Fredrick v. Scarlett, et al., No. CV215-135 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 9, 2015) (dismissed for failure to state a claim); and
Fredrick v. Williams, No. CV616-073 (S.D. Ga. Aug. 24, 2015) (dismissed for failure to state a claim).

         Prisoner plaintiffs may seek leave to proceed in "any suit, action or proceeding, civil or criminal, or appeal therein, without prepayment of fees or security therefor" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). However, § 1915(g) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act also provides that

In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.

28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) (2006) (emphasis added).[2]

         This section, known as the "three strikes" provision, wards against abusive prisoner litigants having unlimited IFP access to the courts to pursue frivolous, malicious or meritless claims. "Three strikes" inmates are not banned from the courthouse entirely, but must pay the full filing fee before they may proceed. And Fredrick already knows that he has three strikes. See, e.g., Fredrick v. McLaughlin, No. 317-056 (M.D. Ga. Mar. 28, 2017) (denying IFP and dismissing under "three strikes" provision of § 1915(g)). Despite this, he attested that he his cases have never counted as a "strike" under the PLRA. Docs. 1 at 2 & 14 at 2.

         II. Dismissal Pursuant to Rule 11

         Given that Fredrick intentionally misled the Court, sanctions are warranted. Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 11(b) "forbids lying in pleadings, motions, and other papers filed with the court." Zocaras v. Castro, 465 F.3d 479, 484 (11th Cir. 2006). "Rule 11(c) provides for sanctions concerning misrepresentations made in papers filed with the court under Rule 11(b)." Id. at 490; see also 5A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. § 1335 (3d ed. 2004) (noting that courts have deemed sanctions appropriate to punish various forms of party misconduct). And Rule 41(b) "expressly authorizes the involuntary dismissal of a claim for plaintiffs failure to abide" by the Rules. Zocaras, 465 F.3d at 490; State Exch. Bank v. Hartline, 693 F.2d 1350, 1352 (11th Cir. 1982).

         Further, "the power of a court to dismiss a claim is inherent in a trial court's authority to enforce its orders and ensure prompt disposition of legal actions." Zocaras, 465 F.3d at 490; Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-31 (1962); Hartline, 693 F.2d at 1352. The Eleventh Circuit approves of dismissals under the inherent power where a litigant, in bad faith, fails to disclose his prior cases on a form complaint. Young v. Sec'y Fla. for the Dep't of Corrs., 380 F.App'x 939, 940-41 (11th Cir. June 1, 2010) (affirming dismissal under inherent power for plaintiffs failure to disclose his prior cases on the court's complaint form); see Rivera, 144 F.3d 719, 731 (11th Cir.1998) (district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing an action without prejudice where plaintiff "had lied under penalty of perjury about the existence of a prior lawsuit").

         While a prisoner's pro se pleading is entitled to liberal construction, that doctrine presupposes that the prisoner was honest and forthright with the Court. Providing false responses to the Court's inquiries is sanctionable conduct and undermines the administration of justice. See Morefield v. DuPree, 2008 WL 5100926 at * 3 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 3, 2008) (dismissing action without prejudice where plaintiff abused the judicial process by providing dishonest information about his prior filing history); Gillilan v. Walker, 2007 WL 842020 at *1 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 15, 2007) (same). It is clear that Fredrick, in bad faith, attempted to mislead the Court as to his filing history[3] to circumvent the § 1915(g) "three strikes" bar.[4] His Complaint should be dismissed without prejudice as a sanction for his dishonesty, and the Court warns Fredrick that such false responses will not be tolerated and may result in more severe and long-term sanctions in the future. Such a ...

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