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CV 114-137 (S.D. Ga. Oct. 28, 2014)

CV 114-137


JOSHUA LEE PHILLIPS, Plaintiff, v. SGT. ANTWUAN SMYRE, et al., Defendants.


Plaintiff, an inmate formerly incarcerated at Valdosta State Prison in Valdosta, Georgia, commenced the above-captioned case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se in this matter. On July 16, 2014, the Court ordered Plaintiff to pay the filing fee or submit a new motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") in light of the fact that Plaintiff had been released from prison. (Doc. no. 8.) Plaintiff was cautioned that failure to respond in the requisite fourteen days would be an election to have this case voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. (See id.) The time to respond has passed, and Plaintiff has not complied with the Court's July 16th Order, nor has he provided the Court with any explanation why he has not complied.

The Eleventh Circuit has stated that "[a] district court has inherent authority to manage its own docket 'so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.'" Equity Lifestyle Props., Inc. v. Fla. Mowing & Landscape Serv., Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1240 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43 (1991)). This authority includes the power to dismiss a case for failure to prosecute or failure to comply with a court order. Id. (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b)); see also Hyler v. Reynolds Metal Co., 434 F.2d 1064, 1065 (5th Cir. 1970) ("It is well settled that a district court has inherent power to dismiss a case for failure to prosecute . . . ."). Moreover, the Local Rules of the Southern District of Georgia dictate that an "assigned Judge may, after notice to counsel of record, sua sponte . . . dismiss any action for want of prosecution, with or without prejudice . . . [for] failure to prosecute a civil action with reasonable promptness." Loc. R. 41.1(c).

In Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), the Eleventh Circuit adopted as binding precedent all decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to October 1, 1981.

The test for determining the appropriateness of dismissal is whether there is "a clear record of delay or willful contempt and a finding that lesser sanctions would not suffice." Goforth v. Owens, 766 F.2d 1533, 1535 (11th Cir. 1985). Here, Plaintiff's failure to comply with this Court's order over a period in excess of three months amounts not only to a failure to prosecute, but also an abandonment of his case. This is precisely the type of neglect contemplated by the Local Rules. Furthermore, because Plaintiff sought permission to proceed IFP, the Court finds that the imposition of monetary sanctions is not a feasible sanction. Plaintiff has been warned that failing to return the necessary IFP papers would be an election to have his case voluntarily dismissed.

However, the Court recognizes that Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and courts have voiced a dislike for the harshness of dismissing a pro se case with prejudice prior to an adjudication on the merits. See, e.g., Minnette v. Time Warner, 997 F.2d 1023, 1027 (2d Cir. 1993); Dickson v. Ga. State Bd. of Pardons & Paroles, No. 1:06-CV-1310-JTC, 2007 WL 2904168, at *6 (N.D. Ga. Oct. 3, 2007). Thus, the Court is not persuaded that it would be appropriate to dismiss the instant action with prejudice. The Court is not permanently barring Plaintiff from bringing a meritorious claim. It is simply recommending dismissing the case without prejudice until such time as Plaintiff is willing to file his case and pursue it.

Unless the Court specifies otherwise, a dismissal for failure to prosecute operates as an adjudication on the merits. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b).

As Plaintiff has neither filed a motion to proceed IFP, nor paid the filing fee, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS that this case be DISMISSED without prejudice and this civil action CLOSED.

SO REPORTED and RECOMMENDED this 28th day of October, 2014, at Augusta, Georgia.