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Ruth v. Deal

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

June 20, 2019

DERRELL RUTH, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN DEAL; and STEVE CHAPMAN, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff originally filed this action in the Middle District of Georgia while confined in a state prison. Docs. 1, 19, 20, 21. While the Middle District originally construed Plaintiff's pro se pleading as an application for federal habeas corpus relief, Plaintiff later clarified he sought to challenge the conditions of his confinement at Ware State Prison in Waycross, Georgia. Docs. 19, 26, 31. This action is now pending in the Waycross Division of this Court. Doc. 32. For the reasons set out below, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS this action without prejudice for failure to follow a Court Order. I 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

         After the Middle District transferred this action to the Southern District, the Court determined Plaintiff intended to file suit under § 1983. Docs. 26, 27. The Court then ordered Plaintiff to amend his Complaint using the Court's standard form for pro se § 1983 lawsuits. Doc. 27. Plaintiff submitted a timely Amended Complaint on March 29, 2018, doc. 28, but the Amended Complaint was largely indecipherable and “ambiguous as to which facts and Defendants are associated with the various claims.” Doc. 39 at 1-2, 4-5. Moreover, while Plaintiff alleged some interpretable claims, his Amended Complaint incorporated only “some, but not all, of his previous filings.”[2] Id. Thus, the Court could not determine whether Plaintiff intended to abandon “facts, claims, or Defendants described in previous filings” but not included in Plaintiff's most recent iteration of his Complaint. Id.

         In order to give Plaintiff a full opportunity present his claims and cure the defects in the Amended Complaint, the Court deferred its frivolity review and ordered Plaintiff to file a Second Amended Complaint. Id. at 4-7. The Court explained that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint would supersede his other filings and would become the operative document going forward. Id. The Court cautioned Plaintiff that “only the facts, claims, and named Defendants included in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint will be considered by the Court” and warned that “[p]revious filings would not be considered.” Id. The Court also provided a detailed list of directives to assist Plaintiff in drafting a more comprehensive pleading. Id. at 6-7. Despite these instructions, however, Plaintiff failed to file a Second Amended Complaint, and the time to do so has expired.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Additionally, a plaintiff may not join unrelated claims and various defendants unless the claims “arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a). Notably, Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires parties to state claims “in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances, ” and bring “each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence” in a separately numbered count. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10. Rules 8 and 10 are “supposed to work in tandem ‘to require the pleader to present his claims discretely and succinctly, so that (1) his adversary can discern what he is claiming and frame a responsive pleading, and (2) the court can determine which facts support which claims, and whether the plaintiff has stated any claims upon which relief can be granted.'” Fotse v. Lending Home Funding Corp., No. 1:18-cv-03181, 2018 WL 7019359, at *3 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 11, 2018) (quoting Fikes v. City of Daphne, 79 F.3d 1079, 1082- 83 (11th Cir. 1996)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 Fed.Appx. 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). Further, a claim is frivolous under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys. . . . ” (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003))). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).

         DISCUSSION

         The Court must now determine how to address Plaintiff's failure to comply with this Court's directives. 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 Fed[eral] R[ules of] Civ[il] P[rocedure] 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.”); 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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