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Snipes v. Allen

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

July 9, 2018

RODRECEUS SNIPES, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN MARTY ALLEN; and TREVONZA BOBBITT, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's failure to keep the Court apprised of any change in his address and his failure to prosecute this action. For the following reasons, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint, (doc. 1), for Plaintiff's failure to prosecute.[1] I further RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and to CLOSE this case.[2]

         BACKGROUND

         On January 1, 2018, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint in the Middle District of Georgia contesting the conditions of his confinement pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) With his Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis, which the Middle District granted. (Docs. 2, 5.) Plaintiff, however, failed to complete the in forma pauperis process by not paying the initial partial filing fee. (Doc. 11.) The Court warned Plaintiff that failure to comply with his obligation to pay the initial partial filing fee “may result in the dismissal of [his] case.” (Id.; see also Doc. 5.) In response, Plaintiff notified the Court that he lacked the necessary funds to pay the fee, and, after reviewing Plaintiff's Complaint, the Middle District ordered the case transferred to this District because the events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims occurred here, in the Southern District of Georgia. (Docs. 12, 13.)

         On April 24, 2018, Plaintiff's case was transferred to this District, and the Court mailed Plaintiff a Notice of Transfer to his address of record. (Docs. 14, 15.) The Notice of Transfer, however, was returned as undeliverable at Plaintiff's address with a notation that the mail was refused and not able to be forwarded. (Docs. 16, 17, 18.) To date, Plaintiff has not notified the Court of his change of address or made any effort to inform the Court of his whereabouts. Further, Plaintiff has still not submitted the necessary forms required to proceed in forma pauperis. Indeed, Plaintiff has not taken any action in this case since he notified the Middle District of his inability to pay the initial partial fee over two months ago.

         DISCUSSION

         The Court must now determine how to address Plaintiff's failure to prosecute this case and to comply with his obligations to proceed in forma pauperis and to keep the Court apprised of any change in his address. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Dismissal for Failure to Prosecute

         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);[3] Coleman v. St. Lucie Cty. Jail, 433 Fed.Appx. 716, 718 (11th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (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. See also Coleman, 433 Fed.Appx. 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.”). 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 Fed.Appx. 802, 802 (11th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (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 Fed.Appx. 623, 625-26 (11th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (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 Fed.Appx. 616, 619 (11th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (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 Fed.Appx. at 619; see also Coleman, 433 Fed.Appx. at 719; Brown, 205 Fed.Appx. 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 Fed.Appx. 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 Fed.Appx. 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 Fed.Appx. 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 has failed to diligently prosecute his claims, as he has not taken any action in this case in over two months. And although Plaintiff did properly respond to the Middle District's Order regarding his deficient in forma pauperis filing fee, (docs. 11, 12), he has failed to move forward with the in forma pauperis process in this Court. Accordingly, in light of Plaintiff's failure to prosecute his case, the Court should DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint.[4] However, because Plaintiff duly responded to the Middle District's Order regarding his deficient filing fee, the Court finds that his negligent failure to update his address and to prosecute is not an abuse of judicial process; this dismissal shall not constitute a strike under the PLRA.

         II. Leave to Appeal in Forma Pauperis

         The Court should also deny Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.[5] 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. Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (trial court may certify that appeal of party proceeding in forma pauperis ...


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