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Longfellow v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs (Columbia Hub) Fiduciary Intake Dep't

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA BRUNSWICK DIVISION
Feb 1, 2021
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 2:20-cv-142 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 1, 2021)

Opinion

CIVIL ACTION NO.: 2:20-cv-142

02-01-2021

JOHN T. LONGFELLOW a/k/a TERRY MOORE, Plaintiff, v. THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERAN AFFAIRS (COLUMBIA HUB) FIDUCIARY INTAKE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.


MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's directive of December 31, 2020. Doc. 2. For the following reasons, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint, doc. 1, for failure to follow this Court's directive, 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.

A "district court can only dismiss an action on its own motion as long as the procedure employed is fair . . . . To employ fair procedure, a district court must generally provide the plaintiff with notice of its intent to dismiss or an opportunity to respond." Tazoe v. Airbus S.A.S., 631 F.3d 1321, 1336 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations and internal quotations marks omitted). A magistrate judge's report and recommendation provides such notice and opportunity to respond. See Shivers v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers Local Union 349, 262 F. App'x 121, 125, 127 (11th Cir. 2008) (indicating a party has notice of a district court's intent to sua sponte grant summary judgment where a magistrate judge issues a report recommending the sua sponte granting of summary judgment); Anderson v. Dunbar Armored, Inc., 678 F. Supp. 2d 1280, 1296 (N.D. Ga. 2009) (noting report and recommendation served as notice claims would be sua sponte dismissed). This Report and Recommendation constitutes fair notice to Plaintiff his suit is due to be dismissed. As indicated below, Plaintiff will have the opportunity to present his objections to this finding, and the presiding district judge will review de novo properly submitted objections. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72; see also Glover v. Williams, No. 1:12-CV-3562, 2012 WL 5930633, at *1 (N.D. Ga. Oct. 18, 2012) (explaining magistrate judge's report and recommendation constituted adequate notice and petitioner's opportunity to file objections provided a reasonable opportunity to respond).

BACKGROUND

On December 31, 2020, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint against Defendants. Doc. 1. However, Plaintiff did not pay the required filing fee or move to proceed in forma pauperis when filing this action. Accordingly, on December 31, 2020, the Clerk of Court directed Plaintiff to either pay the $402.00 filing fee or file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. 2. The Clerk warned Plaintiff his failure to comply with that notice may result in dismissal of this action. There is nothing before the Court indicating this notice was returned to the Court or otherwise failed to reach Plaintiff. Plaintiff has filed nothing in response to this directive.

DISCUSSION

The Court must now determine how to address Plaintiff's failure to pay the filing fee and failure to comply with this Court's directive. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint and DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.

I. Dismissal for Failure to Follow This Court's Directive

A district court may dismiss a plaintiff's 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 Cnty. Jail, 433 F. App'x 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 F. App'x 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 F. App'x 802, 802 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Jones v. Graham, 709 F.2d 1457, 1458 (11th Cir. 1983)).

In Wabash, the Court held a trial court may dismiss an action for failure to prosecute "even without affording notice of its intention to do so." 370 U.S. at 633. Nonetheless, in the case at hand, the Court advised Plaintiff his failure to pay the filing fee or to move to proceed in forma pauperis could result in dismissal of this action. Doc. 2. --------

It is true dismissal with prejudice for failure to prosecute is a "sanction . . . to be utilized only in extreme situations" and requires a court to "(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 Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 170 F. App'x 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 F. App'x 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 F. App'x at 619; see also Coleman, 433 F. App'x at 719; Brown, 205 F. App'x 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 F. App'x 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 F. App'x 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 F. App'x 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 neither paid the filing fee nor moved to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court cannot move forward with this case. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1914 & 1915. Moreover, Plaintiff was given notice of the consequences of his failure to follow the Court's directive, and Plaintiff has not made any effort to do so. Thus, the Court should DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to follow this Court's Order and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal. II. Leave to Appeal in Forma Pauperis

The Court should also deny Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Though Plaintiff has not yet filed a notice of appeal, it would be appropriate to address that issue in the Court's order of dismissal. See Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (trial court may certify appeal is not taken in good faith "before or after the notice of appeal is filed").

An appeal cannot be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies, either before or after the notice of appeal is filed, the appeal is not taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3). Good faith in this context must be judged by an objective standard. Busch v. County of Volusia, 189 F.R.D. 687, 691 (M.D. Fla. 1999). A party does not proceed in good faith when he seeks to advance a frivolous claim or argument. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). A claim or argument is frivolous when it appears the factual allegations are clearly baseless or the legal theories are indisputably meritless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Carroll v. Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). An in forma pauperis action is frivolous and not brought in good faith if it is "without arguable merit either in law or fact." Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Brown v. United States, Nos. 407CV085, 403CR001, 2009 WL 307872, at *1-2 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 9, 2009).

Based on the above analysis of Plaintiff's failure to follow this Court's directives, there are no non-frivolous issues to raise on appeal, and an appeal would not be taken in good faith. Thus, the Court should DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.

CONCLUSION

For the above-stated reasons, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to follow this Court's directive 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.

Any objections to this Report and Recommendation shall be filed within 14 days of today's date. Objections shall be specific and in writing. Any objection that the Magistrate Judge failed to address a contention raised in the Complaint must be included. Failure to file timely, written objections will bar any later challenge or review of the Magistrate Judge's factual findings and legal conclusions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Harrigan v. Metro Dade Police Dep't Station #4, No. 17-11264, 2020 WL 6039905, at *4 (11th Cir. Oct. 13, 2020). To be clear, a party waives all rights to challenge the Magistrate Judge's factual findings and legal conclusions on appeal by failing to file timely, written objections. Harrigan, 2020 WL 6039905, at *4; 11th Cir. R. 3-1. A copy of the objections must be served upon all other parties to the action.

Upon receipt of Objections meeting the specificity requirement set out above, a United States District Judge will make a de novo determination of those portions of the report, proposed findings, or recommendation to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. Objections not meeting the specificity requirement set out above will not be considered by a District Judge. A party may not appeal a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation directly to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Appeals may be made only from a final judgment entered by or at the direction of a District Judge.

SO REPORTED and RECOMMENDED, this 1st day of February, 2021.

/s/_________

BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO

UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA


Summaries of

Longfellow v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs (Columbia Hub) Fiduciary Intake Dep't

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA BRUNSWICK DIVISION
Feb 1, 2021
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 2:20-cv-142 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 1, 2021)
Case details for

Longfellow v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs (Columbia Hub) Fiduciary Intake Dep't

Case Details

Full title:JOHN T. LONGFELLOW a/k/a TERRY MOORE, Plaintiff, v. THE DEPARTMENT OF…

Court:UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA BRUNSWICK DIVISION

Date published: Feb 1, 2021

Citations

CIVIL ACTION NO.: 2:20-cv-142 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 1, 2021)