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Meriwether v. PA Howard

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

March 14, 2019

ROBERT L. MERIWETHER, Plaintiff,
v.
PA HOWARD, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER REJECTING THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          TILMAN E. SELF, III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court is the United States Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) [Doc. 29] to deny Defendant Jessica Battle's[1] Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 25] Plaintiff's Section 1983 action against her. Defendant Battle seeks dismissal pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act's (“PLRA”) three-strikes rule arguing that Meriwether v. Rasnick, No. 1:00-CV-2952 (N.D.Ga. Dec. 8, 2000); Meriwether v. Baldwin, No. 1:00-CV-2953 (N.D.Ga. Dec. 8, 2000); and Meriwether v. Hayes, No. 1:00-CV-2954, [2] all constitute “strikes” under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). After reviewing the magistrate judge's R&R, Defendant Battle timely filed her objection pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). As such, the district court conducted a de novo review of the portions of the R&R to which objection was made, and for the reasons discussed below, REJECTS the magistrate judge's R&R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         Precedent is clear that in “determining whether a prisoner has accrued three strikes, ‘the [PLRA] instructs [courts] to consult the prior order that dismissed the action or appeal and to identify the reasons that the court gave for dismissing it.'” [Doc. 29 at p. 2 (alterations in original) (quoting Daker v. Comm'r, Ga. Dep't of Corr., 820 F.3d 1278, 1284 (11th Cir. 2016) (emphasis in original))]. In his R&R, the magistrate judge wrote that “[c]ourts are not permitted to conclude that a case counts as a strike against a prisoner ‘based on [a] conclusion that the dismissing court could have dismissed it'” for one of the grounds enumerated in § 1915(g). [Doc. 29 at pp. 2-3 (quoting Daker, 820 F.3d at 1284 (emphasis in original))]. Based on this, the magistrate judge concluded that because the 2000 Meriwether cases are not in the record for the Court's review-to conclusively determine whether a previous dismissing court's reasoning for disposing of the cases can constitute “strikes”-it cannot be said that those cases were dismissed under § 1915(g). [Id. at p. 3]. This is undeniably true. The record before the magistrate judge, at the time he issued his R&R, was not clear regarding the reasoning for the earlier dismissals of the 2000 Meriwether cases and whether those dismissals would count as “strikes” for purposes of § 1915(g).

         In her Objection [Doc. 30], Defendant Battle urges the Court to take judicial notice of a 2015 order from the Northern District of Georgia which indicated that “the dockets” for the 2000 Meriwether cases “were dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and that all count as ‘strikes' under 1915(g).” [Doc. 30 at p. 2 (quoting [Doc. 25-3 at p. 3]) (italics in original)]. Because the PLRA instructs courts to identify the reasoning on which a court based a previous dismissal, rather than take judicial notice of the Order from the Northern District of Georgia, the Court deferred ruling on the magistrate judge's R&R until Defendant Battle could supplement her Objection with the materials received from the National Archives. See [Doc. 30 at pp. 3-4]. Two weeks after filing her initial Objection, Defendant Battle supplemented her Objection by filing the archived record materials related to the 2000 Meriwether cases from the Northern District of Georgia.

         A review of those materials shows that instead of filing a single, all-inclusive lawsuit against three defendants, Plaintiff Meriwether filed three different lawsuits, with three different case numbers, all of which were dismissed on the district court's frivolity review. See [Docs. 32-1, 32-2, 32-3]. In dismissing the three 2000 Meriwether cases, the district court filed identical orders in each case reasoning that Meriwether failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, one of the three bases of dismissal at the PLRA's frivolity-review stage. Given that the substance of these prior orders falls within the ambit of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, Plaintiff has incurred three strikes and the Court must sustain Defendant Battle's Objection. Accordingly, the Court REJECTS the United States Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation [Doc. 29] and GRANTS Defendant Battle's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 25]. As there are no remaining Defendants in this case, the Court DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to close this case and to enter judgment accordingly.

         SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Defendant Battle is the only remaining Defendant in this case. See [Docs. 8, 14].

[2] Collectively referred to as the “2000 Meriwether ...


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