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Harper v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

July 6, 2015



JOHN T. FOWLKES, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Rodney Harper's pro se Complaint and Supplemental Complaint against Defendants, United States Department of Justice, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., and Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis, all filed on November 12, 2014. (ECF No. 1, ECF No. 2, and ECF No. 3). On November 13, 2014, the matter was referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636.

During the in forma pauperis screening process, the Magistrate Judge conducted a review of Plaintiff's Complaint and Supplemental Complaint as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). On February 2, 2015, the Magistrate Judge entered an Order and Report and Recommendation. (ECF No. 10). Therein, the Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, directed the Clerk to record certain specifically named parties as Defendants to this action, but recommended that the Court dismiss the action without prejudice under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b) (6) and allow Plaintiff to refile his complaint consistent with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. (ECF No. 10, pp. 1, 6-8). On February 18, 2015, Plaintiff filed objections to the report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). (ECF No. 11).


Congress passed 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) "to relieve some of the burden on the federal courts by permitting the assignment of certain district court duties to magistrates." See e.g. Baker v. Peterson, 67 Fed.App'x. 308, 311, 2003 WL 21321184 (6th Cir. 2003) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). A district court judge must review a magistrate judge's recommendation on a dispositive motion under a de novo standard. See Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Baker, 67 Fed.App'x. at 311 and 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B). After review, the district court is free to accept, reject or modify the proposed findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge. See Thomas, 474 U.S. at 150.

Any party who disagrees with a magistrate judge's recommendation may file written objections to the report and recommendation. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 142 (1985); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and LR 72.1(g)(2). A district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's recommendation to which proper objections are raised. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c). However, objections to any part of a magistrate judge's report and recommended disposition "must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious." See Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995) and Arn, 474 U.S. at 147 (the purpose of the rule is to "focus attention on those issues... that are at the heart of the parties' dispute."). "[O]bjections disput[ing] the correctness of the magistrate's recommendation but fail[ing] to specify the findings... believed [to be] in error' are too general." Spencer v. Bouchard, 449 F.3d 712, 725 (6th Cir. 2006) quoting Miller, 50 F.3d at 380. A plaintiff's failure to file a specific objection to a magistrate judge's report or one which fails to specifically identify the issues of contention does not satisfy the requirement that an objection was filed at all. Howard, 932 F.2d at 509; McCready v. Kamminga, 113 Fed.App'x. 47, 49 (6th Cir. 2004). The district judge should adopt the findings and rulings of the magistrate judge to which no specific objection is filed. Brown v. Board of Educ. of Shelby County Schools, 47 F.Supp.3d 665, 674 (W.D. Tenn. 2014).


Federal R. Civ. P. 8(a) provides that in order for a pleading to state claim for relief it must contain a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction as well as a short and plain statement of the claim and demand for relief sought. In like manner, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d) requires that each allegation in the pleading must be concise and direct. The same rule authorizes sua sponte dismissal of an action by the courts for failure to state a claim in proper form and fashion as delineated by the above-cited rules. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2) requires that the objection clearly identify the portions of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which the objection is made and the basis for the objection. See also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Howard, 932 F.2d at 509.

The Magistrate Judge has recommended that the Court sua sponte dismiss Plaintiff's case reasoning that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy the standards of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) or state a viable claim under 5 U.S.C. § 522(f)(1), more commonly known as the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), against any of the individually-named parties.[1] (ECF No. 10, pp. 5-7).

Despite Plaintiff's objections to the Magistrate Judge's summary of events leading to his complaint, the Court adopts the factual background described in the report and recommendation.[2] (ECF No. 10, pp. 3-4). Plaintiff was previously employed by the Shelby County Law Library. (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 55, 56, 77, and 78). Plaintiff's Complaint and Supplemental Complaint involve denials of Plaintiff's requests for current copies of the local district office of the EEOC's Compliance manuals and the United States Department of Justice's policies and procedures. Plaintiff asserts that the agencies' failures to honor his requests amounted to FOIA violations. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 6, ¶¶ 26-30, ¶49, ECF No. 2, ¶¶ 1-2, 6, 243, and 247).

On February 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed the following twelve objections to the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation.[3] (ECF No. 11).

1. The Determination that Plaintiff's Request for an IFP Hearing is Moot?

On January 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for a Hearing in Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 1915 et. seq. and 28 U.S.C.A. § 636 et. seq. Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis - In District Court." (sic) (ECF No. 8). Without conducting a hearing, the Magistrate Judge appropriately determined that Plaintiff was entitled to proceed in forma pauperis in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1746. (ECF No. 10, pp. 1-2).

Plaintiff objects that his motion for IPF status was not timely granted and that the issue is not moot because the Court failed to conduct a hearing. (ECF No. 11, pp. 1-2). There is no mandate that a magistrate judge conduct a hearing in order to assess whether a pro se litigant may proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(A). Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the court may permit a person to commence a lawsuit without prepaying the filing fee, provided the person submits an affidavit demonstrating that he or she is unable to pay such fees or give security therefore. See generally, Hakim El v. DTE Energy, No. 07-CV-13659, 2007 WL 2541772 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 31, 2007). The record reflects that Plaintiff's affidavit to proceed in forma pauperis was submitted to the Court on November 12, 2014. (ECF ...

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