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Amerson v. Allen

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

March 25, 2019

CHRISTOPHER LEE AMERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MARTY ALLEN; JOHNNY SIKES; TREVONZA BOBBITT; JOHN DOE; VALORIE PRIGEON; and HAROLD CARAVIELLO, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         The Court has conducted an independent and de novo review of the entire record and concurs with the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, (doc. 27). For the reasons which follow, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiffs Objections and ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation as the Order of the Court. The Court DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiffs Complaint, (doc. 1), CLOSE this case, and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal. The Court DENIES Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.

         Although Plaintiff did not file Objections to this Report and Recommendation, he did file a declaration and certificate of service, (docs. 28, 30), three motions to amend, (docs. 29, 32, 33, 34), and an Amended Complaint, (doc. 31).[1] However, "[f]ederal courts sometimes will ignore the legal label that a pro se litigant attaches to a motion and recharacterize the motion in order to place it within a different legal category." Retic v. United States. 215 Fed.Appx. 962, 964 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 381 (2003)). This Court may "recharacterize a pro se litigant's motion to create a better correspondence between the substance of the motion and its underlying legal basis." Rameses v. United States District Court, 523 Fed.Appx. 691, 694 (11th Cir. 2013). Federal courts "may do so in order to avoid an unnecessary dismissal, to avoid inappropriately stringent application of formal labeling requirements, or to create a better correspondence between the substance of the motion and its underlying legal basis." Id. (quoting Castro. 540 U.S. at 381-82). In line with this reasoning, the Court characterizes Plaintiffs subsequent filings, (docs. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34), as Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations. While several of these filings are untimely as objections, the Court has nonetheless considered all of the allegations and arguments raised in these filings in issuing this Order. Nothing in these filings suggests the Report and Recommendation should not be adopted in full.[2]

         In the Report, the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissing Plaintiffs Complaint without prejudice for abuse of the judicial process due to Plaintiffs failure to fully and truthfully disclose his litigation history as the Court required. (Doc. 27, pp. 6-7). In his responsive filings, Plaintiff writes that he "made these mistakes unintentionally and due to him [r]ushing to submit his filing out of fear" of further retaliation that he alleges he is experiencing at the hands of prison officials. (Doc. 29, pp. 1-2). Plaintiff alleges, however, that he did not understand that the dismissal of one his previous lawsuit should be disclosed because he did not pursue the case, and that he did not have access to information, including Court Orders, relating to some of his other former federal actions. (Id.) Plaintiff contends he did not "[i]ntentionally engage in bad [f]aith, litigiousness, or manipulative tactics" and requests leave to amend his Complaint to update his litigation history. (Id., pp. 2-3).

         Plaintiffs attempt to excuse what he previously failed to disclose cannot "serve to overlook [Plaintiffs] abuse of the judicial process." Hood v. Tompkins. 179 Fed.Appx. 818, 819 (11th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff admits he "made several mistakes" when disclosing his litigation history to the Court. (Doc. 29, p. 2). Though Plaintiff avers that he did not intend to deceive the Court, his subjective intentions do not require a different result. See Shelton v. Rohrs, 406 Fed.Appx. 340 (1 lth Cir. 2010) (affirming dismissal without prejudice when plaintiff failed to disclose one of his prior federal lawsuits even though Plaintiff claimed he "did not intend to mislead the court"). As the Magistrate Judge observed, this is not the first time Plaintiff has made this mistake-rather, Plaintiff has filed previous actions in the Southern District of Georgia which were dismissed due to his failure to disclose his litigation history. (Doc. 27, p. 7).

         Plaintiff asserts that his lack of candor occurred because he rushed to submit his initial filings because he feared retaliation from prison officials. (Doc. 29, pp. 2-3). Importantly, when filing his Complaint, Plaintiff disclosed two of his previous federal lawsuits and provided several explanatory sentences. (Id., pp. 2-3). It is not clear why Plaintiff would be able to recall and disclose two lawsuits in a "rush," but not others. Rather, it appears that Plaintiff, now aware of the deficiency in his otherwise proper filing, is claiming he feared retaliation as an attempt to excuse his mistake.[3] Even if the Court were to accept that Plaintiff would face retaliation if he disclosed his full (as opposed to partial) litigation history on the form, this argument would still fail to explain why he made no effort to correct the issue during the six months that the action was pending. Instead, Plaintiff waited until the Court pointed out the deficiency to supplement the incomplete information he initially provided.[4]

         Plaintiffs attempts to justify his lack of candor do not excuse his failure to disclose or make sanctions any less appropriate. See Redmon v. Lake Ctv. Sheriffs Office, 414 Fed.Appx. 221, 226 (11th Cir. 2011) (affirming dismissal when the district court allowed plaintiff to show cause as to why he failed to fully disclose his litigation history but found plaintiffs explanation "did not excuse the misrepresentation"); Young v. Sec'v Fla. for Dep't of Corr.. 380 Fed.Appx. 939, 941 (11th Cir. 2010) (affirming dismissal and denial of leave to amend for failure to disclose his litigation history despite plaintiffs good faith effort to disclose because "[t]he hindrances he identified did not absolve him of the requirement of disclosing, at a minimum, all of the information that was known to him"). As the Magistrate Judge noted, "The plain language of the Complaint form is clear, and Plaintiff failed to answer fully and truthfully."[5] (Doc. 27, p: 7).

         Accordingly, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiffs Objections and ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation as the opinion of the Court. The Court DISMISSES without prejudice Plaintiffs Complaint, DENIES Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal, and DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal.

         SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Plaintiff had until February 11, 2019, to file his Objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 25, pp. 8-9). While Plaintiff filed his declaration, certificate of service, and his first motion to amend before February 11, (docs. 28, 29, 30), he filed his amended Complaint, (doc. 31), on February 19, 2019, and his next three motions to amend, (docs. 32, 33, 34), on March 4, 2019, March 7, 2019, and March 19, 2019, respectively.

[2]Though Plaintiff frequently alleges difficulty receiving and sending mail, (see, e.g.. doc. 28, pp. 1-2), he did receive a timely copy of the January 29, 2019 Report and Recommendations. In his first motion to amend (postmarked on February 6 and filed with this Court on February 8, 2019), Plaintiff asks the Court for leave "to correct the deficiencies noted in [the] Janfuary] 29, 2019 Report and Recommendation made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Benjamin W. Cheesbro." (Doc. 29, p. 1). This shows Plaintiff obtained a copy of the Report and Recommendations and filed responses (albeit improperly) during the time period set for objections. While pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard and are construed liberally, pro se parties are not excused from compliance with procedural rules. Moton v. Cowart 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 n.2 (1 lth Cir. 2011); Albra v. Advan. Inc.. 490 F.3d 826, 829 (11th Cir. 2007). Because, as discussed below, nothing in Plaintiffs proposed amendments shows good cause for failing to disclose his full litigation history, the Court DENIES as moot his motions to amend and to substitute his amended Complaint, (docs. 29, 31, 32, 33, 34). Despite this denial, the Court has examined all of Plaintiff s subsequent filings and considered all of the arguments made therein before issuing this Order.

[3] Plaintiff did assert a retaliation claim as part of his underlying action. (Doc. 1, ...


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