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Terrell v. Williams

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

May 9, 2019

MARCUS ANTHONY TERRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
DOUG WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, who is currently an inmate at Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while incarcerated at Calhoun State Prison in Morgan, Georgia, to contest certain conditions of confinement which occurred during his incarceration at Smith State Prison in Glennville, Georgia. Doc. 1 at 3, 5; Doc. 30. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint without prejudice, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         Although this action has yet to be served on Defendants, the procedural history is extensive. On August 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint (consisting of 146 pages, with attachments), docs. 1, 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, doc. 2. The Court found that the documents submitted “fail[ed] to state a viable claim” and ordered Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint, providing detailed instructions. Doc. 5 at 4-5. The Court ordered Plaintiff to “draft his Amended Complaint on the complaint form provided by the Clerk of Court” and to “add no more than ten (10) pages to the form.” Id. (emphasis in original). The Court also cautioned Plaintiff that failure to abide by these instructions could result in dismissal. Id. at 7.

         Plaintiff submitted an Amended Complaint on September 25, 2017 (“First Amended Complaint”). Doc. 9. On October 13, 2017, the Magistrate Judge recommended Plaintiff's action be dismissed without prejudice for failure to prosecute and failure to follow this Court's Order. Doc. 14 at 1. Notably, the Court found Plaintiff's 29-page Amended Complaint amounted to only an “abbreviated version of his original Complaint.” Id. at 5. Despite providing “specific instructions as to how [to] amend to state a plausible claim, ” the Court still could not “tell ‘which allegations of fact are intended to support which claim(s) for relief.'” Id. at 5-6 (quoting Strategic Income Fund, LLC v. Spear, Leeds & Kellogg Corp., 305 F.3d 1293, 1295 n.9 (11th Cir. 2002)). Additionally, the Court found that Plaintiff “utterly side-step[ped] the Court's directive to add no more than ten (10) pages” to the Complaint form “by simply referring to the attachments in his original Complaint.” Id. at 5-6.

         On October 25, 2017, Plaintiff submitted timely objections to the October 13, 2017 Report and Recommendations. Doc. 15. In his objections, Plaintiff, for the first time, provided a somewhat comprehensible description of at least some of the constitutional violations he is attempting to assert in this action. Doc. 15. Because Plaintiff's objections provided some insight into the claims Plaintiff intended to assert, the Court, in a November 22, 2017 Order, provided Plaintiff another opportunity to amend his Complaint and vacated the original Report and Recommendation. Doc. 17 at 2-3. The Court again provided Plaintiff with a detailed set of instructions for amending his complaint.[2] Id. at 3; see also Doc. 5 at 4-5 (containing the same 11-point list). The Court warned Plaintiff-for the second time-that failure to follow the Court's instructions may result in dismissal. Doc. 17 at 3.

         The Clerk's Office mailed a copy of the November 22, 2017 Order to Plaintiff at the last known mailing address Plaintiff provided to the Court. Doc. 18. However, the post office returned the Order as undeliverable. Id. The Court found that Plaintiff failed to file “a notice of change of address with the Court” or “take[] any action in [his] case for over three months, ” and issued a Report on February 5, 2018 recommending the action be dismissed. Doc. 19 at 2-3; Doc. 21. Chief Judge J. Randal Hall adopted this recommendation as the opinion of the Court, and the Clerk of Court closed this case on March 7, 2018. Docs. 21, 22.

         On March 26, 2018, Plaintiff updated his address with the Court, wrote that he had not received any Orders from the Court since filing his objections on October 25, 2017, and asked the Court to mail him any Orders issued after that date. Doc. 24. Around six months later, on September 24, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Rule 60(b) motion requesting the Court reopen this action. Doc. 25. The Court noted that “Plaintiff . . . fail[ed] to formally update the Court of his location after being transferred . . . in December 2017” and that “updating the Court of address changes is Plaintiff's duty.” Doc. 26 at 6-7. However, the Court also found that “from early December 2017 until March 30, 2018, Plaintiff was housed at another correctional facility than the one to which the Clerk was sending his mail[, ]” and observed that, while Plaintiff was partially at fault, the “transfers between correctional facilities [were] outside [Plaintiff's] control.” Doc. 26 at 4, 7. The Court, therefore, gave Plaintiff “the benefit of the doubt, ” reopened the case, and directed Plaintiff to “file a Second Amended Complaint” in compliance with the instructions provided in the Court's November 22, 2017 Order.[3] Id. at 3, 6-8.

         Before filing his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff first moved for an extension. Doc. 27. The Court, again exercising its discretion in Plaintiff's favor, granted Plaintiff a 30-day extension. Doc. 28. However, the Court explicitly reminded Plaintiff-yet again-that “his [Second] Amended Complaint must comply with the Court's November 22, 2017 Order.” Id.

         Plaintiff submitted his Second Amended Complaint on February 4, 2019. Doc. 29. Plaintiff did not follow the Court's directives to limit attachments to 10 pages, provide “only factual allegations[, ]” and “omit all legal arguments and conclusions” despite the Court's best attempts to emphasize the importance of these requirements. Doc. 17 at 2-3; Doc. 5 at 4-5; Doc. 14 at 5-6; Doc. 28; compare Doc. 9 at 7-17, with Doc. 29 at 12-18. Though the Court instructed Plaintiff to “only assert claims that arose from the same transaction or occurrence or series of related transactions or occurrences[, ]” Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint describes a multitude of different claims, including challenges to the copy policies at Smith State Prison, his issues receiving legal books from the prison's mail room, an alleged lack of medical treatment, various disciplinary reports received, placement in segregated confinement, and his transfer to a different institution. Doc. 17 at 3 (emphasis in original); Doc. 29 at 12-17. Moreover, despite the Court's repeated warnings about duplicative and unnecessary attachments and its specific directive to limit the length of the initial Complaint, Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint consists of the Court's 11-page form, id. at 1-11, seven handwritten pages, id. at 12- 18, and 32 pages of attached documents, docs. 29, 29-1, 29-2, 29-3, 29-4, 29-5.[4]

         DISCUSSION

         The Court must now determine how to address Plaintiff's failure to comply with this Court's directive. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint without prejudice, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. Dismissal for Failure to Follow this Court's Order

         A district court may dismiss claims sua sponte pursuant to either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) or the court's inherent authority to manage its docket. Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626 (1962); Coleman v. St. Lucie Cty. Jail, 433 Fed.Appx. 716, 718 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Betty K Agencies, Ltd. v. M/V MONADA, 432 F.3d 1333, 1337 (11th Cir. 2005)). “A district court may sua sponte dismiss an action under [Rule] 41(b) for failing to comply with a court order.” Muhammad v. Muhammad, 561 Fed.Appx. 834, 836 (11th Cir. 2014); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b); Forde v. Miami Fed. Dep't of Corr., 578 Fed.Appx. 877, 879 (11th Cir. 2014) (“The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a district court to dismiss a plaintiff's action for failure to comply with the Rules or any court order.”); Coleman, 433 Fed.Appx. at 718; Brown v. Tallahassee Police Dep't, 205 Fed.Appx. 802, 802 (11th Cir. 2006) (“The court may dismiss an action sua sponte under Rule 41(b) for failure to prosecute or failure to obey a court ...


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