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Fedd v. Doe

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

July 16, 2019

LEVI ARTHUR FEDD, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER JOHN DOE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's March 20, 2019 Order to furnish the Court with his prison trust fund account statement and his consent to collection of fees from that account. Doc. 11. For the following reasons, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint, as amended, docs. 1, 7, for Plaintiff's failure to follow this Court's Order and failure to prosecute and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal. I further RECOMMEND the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 17, 2018, Plaintiff, while incarcerated at Smith State Prison in Glennville, Georgia, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action in the Middle District of Georgia. Docs. 1, 1-3. On November 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and an Amended Complaint.[1] Docs. 6, 7. On March 14, 2019, the Middle District determined the proper venue for the action was the Southern District of Georgia and transferred the case accordingly. Docs. 8, 9, 10.

         This Court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis on March 20, 2019. Doc. 11. In that Order, the Court instructed Plaintiff to furnish the Court with a statement of his prison trust fund account and the consent to collection of fees from that account pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Id. at 2-3. The Court explained that, if Plaintiff failed to complete and return these forms or otherwise respond to the Court's directives by April 19, 2019, the Court would dismiss this case without prejudice for failure to prosecute and follow this Court's Orders. Id. at 4.

         On March 20, 2019, the Clerk of Court mailed a copy of the Court's Order to Plaintiff at his last known place of incarceration, and the Order was not returned to the Court as undeliverable or otherwise failing to reach Plaintiff. However, the Court has not received the requested forms from Plaintiff or any pleading from Plaintiff which is responsive to that Order. In fact, since the Middle District transferred this action, this Court has not received a single filing from Plaintiff. Indeed, Plaintiff has not filed any pleadings since he filed his motion to proceed in forma pauperis and Amended Complaint on November 8, 2018.

         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 and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

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

         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);[2] Coleman v. St. Lucie Cty. Jail, 433 Fed.Appx. 716, 718 (11th Cir. 2011) (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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); 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.” (emphasis omitted)). 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) (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) (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) (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 § 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 § 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 provide the Court with his consent to collection of fees and his trust account statement, as directed, the Court is unable to move forward with this case, as it cannot collect the required statutory fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Moreover, Plaintiff was given ample time to follow the Court's directive, and Plaintiff has not made any effort to do so or to inform the Court as to why he cannot comply with its directives. Indeed, Plaintiff has not taken any action in this case since he filed his Amended Complaint and motion to proceed in forma pauperis on November 8, 2018.

         Thus, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint, as amended, docs. 1, 7, for failure to prosecute and ...


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