United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester
MATTHEW J. JONES, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent
R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Petitioner's notice of voluntary dismissal
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i) (Doc.
163), and the United States' motion to deny and dismiss
that same action with prejudice in light of Beckles v.
United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017) (Doc. 161).
filed the underlying motion to vacate, set aside, or correct
his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on November 21, 2016
(Doc. 162). In it, he challenges his enhancement under
Section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines
based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551
(2015), which held that the residual provision of the Armed
Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), was
unconstitutionally vague (Id. (suggesting that his
sentence is no longer valid because the Guidelines residual
provision is equally vague)).
March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court held in Beckles
that the United States Sentencing Guidelines are “not
amenable to vagueness challenges.” 137 S.Ct. at 894.
Shortly thereafter, this Court received the notice of
voluntary dismissal and motion to deny and dismiss (Docs.
NOTICE OF VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE
Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i) provides that a movant
may voluntarily dismiss an action without a court order by
filing “a notice of dismissal before the opposing party
serves either an answer or a motion for summary
judgment(.)” Subsection (B) states the following:
Unless the notice of dismissal or stipulation states
otherwise, the dismissal is without prejudice. But if the
plaintiff previously dismissed any federal-or state-court
action based on or including the same claim, a notice of
dismissal operates as an adjudication on the merits.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(B). By contrast, Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 41(a)(2) provides that “(e)xcept as
provided in Rule 41(a)(1), an action may be dismissed at the
plaintiff's request only by court order, on terms that
the court considers proper.” Because properly filed
notices of voluntary dismissal are self-effectuating, the
issue before this Court is whether Petitioner retains his
unilateral rights under Rule 41(a)(1), or is limited to the
procedures available under Rule 41(a)(2). The answer depends
on whether any of the filings that the United States
submitted prior to the notice constitute an
“answer” or “motion for summary
judgment” under Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(i).
Sixth Circuit precedent prevents this Court from construing
the United States' motion to deny and dismiss with
prejudice as an answer or a motion for summary judgment for
purposes of Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(i), see, e.g.,
Aamot v. Kassel, 1 F.3d 441, 444 (6th Cir. 1993)
(“(W)e decline to agree with the District Court's
action and follow those cases which ‘treat' motions
to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) as summary
judgment motions for purposes of barring voluntary
dismissal.”), and the United States did not submit any
other motions or a response.
this Court finds that Petitioner filed his notice of
voluntary dismissal (Doc. 163) before the United States field
an answer or a motion for summary judgment within the meaning
of Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(i), that “notice of dismissal is
self-effectuating, leaving no basis upon which (this Court)
can prevent . . . dismiss(al) without prejudice.”
Aamot, 1 F.3d at 445; see also Ames v. Ethicon
Endo-Surgery, Inc., No. 11-2942, 2012 WL 215234, at *1
(W.D. Tenn. Jan. 24, 2012) (“Rule 41(a)(1) explicitly
leaves the option to dismiss in the plaintiff's hands:
once (a) plaintiff gives his notice, the lawsuit is no
more.” (quoting Aamot, 1 F.3d at 444));
White v. Berkebile, No. 5:09-cv-0796, 2009 WL
6700835, at *2-3 (S.D.W.V. Dec. 4, 2009) (dismissing §
2255 motion without prejudice where the petitioner filed a
notice of voluntary dismissal before the United States filed
a response in opposition or in support of the collateral
MOTION TO DENY AND DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE
discussed, a petitioner can voluntarily dismiss his or her
§ 2255 motion without an order of the district court by
filing a notice of dismissal at any time before service of an
answer or motion for summary judgment by the United States,
whichever occurs first. Ames, 2012 WL 215234, at *1.
The Sixth Circuit has held that this rule should be
“taken at face value” and that district courts
should assume that the rule “means what it says.”
Aamot, 1 F.3d at 444 (quoting Carter v. United
States, 547 F.2d 258, 259 (5th Cir. 1997)). Because Rule
41(a)(1)(A)(i) “does not sanction a case-by-case
analysis of the amount of effort expended by the (United
States)” and the instant action was “no
more” after submission of the notice of voluntary
dismissal, Ames, 2012 WL 215234, at *1, the United
States' motion to deny and dismiss (Doc. 161) must be
denied as moot.
foregoing reasons, the Clerk's Office will be DIRECTED to
terminate Petitioner's successive § 2255 petition
(Doc. 162) and the civil action associated therewith (E.D.
Tenn. Case No. 4:16-CV-120-TRM). The dismissal will be
without prejudice. The ...