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Vittatoe v. Carter County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

June 6, 2017



          Leon Jordan United States District Judge.

         The Court is in receipt of a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 2] and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1] filed pro se by Fred L. Vittatoe. At the time he filed his Complaint and in forma pauperis motion, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Carter County Detention Center [see Docs. 1, 2]. However, after filing his Complaint and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, Plaintiff filed a notice of change of address with the Court, reflecting that he had been released from incarceration [Doc. 5].

         On April 27, 2017, the Court entered an Order, advising Plaintiff that his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis was deficient, as it was not accompanied by a certified copy of his inmate trust account for the previous six-month period. [Doc. 6 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2))]. The Court noted that, in such situations, the Court would typically “order the pro se Plaintiff to obtain a copy of his inmate trust account statement from prison administrators” [Id.]. However, given that Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated, the Court instead directed the Clerk to send Plaintiff a blank copy of the form application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis for non-prisoners, and ordered Plaintiff to “complete, sign, and return the form within thirty days of the date of entry of this Order” [Id.]. Plaintiff was placed on notice that his failure to comply within the time required would lead the Court to presume that Plaintiff is not a pauper, assess the full amount of fees, and order the case dismissed for want of prosecution [Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b))].

         The Order, along with a copy of the relevant form, was mailed to Plaintiff at the most recent address that he provided to the Court. More than 30 days have now passed, and Plaintiff has not filed any response to the Court's Order, nor has the Order been returned to the Court as undeliverable.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) gives this Court the authority to dismiss a case for “failure of the plaintiff to prosecute or to comply with these rules or any order of the court.” See, e.g., Nye Capital Appreciation Partners, L.L.C. v. Nemchik, 483 F. App'x 1, 9 (6th Cir. 2012); Knoll v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 176 F.3d 359, 362-63 (6th Cir. 1999). Involuntary dismissal under Rule 41(b) “operates as an adjudication on the merits.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); see Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629 (1962) (“The authority of a federal trial court to dismiss a plaintiff's action with prejudice because of his failure to prosecute cannot seriously be doubted.”).

         The Court considers four factors when considering dismissal under Rule 41(b):

(1) whether the party's failure is due to willfulness, bad faith, or fault; (2) whether the adversary was prejudiced by the dismissed party's conduct; (3) whether the dismissed party was warned that failure to cooperate could lead to dismissal; and (4) whether less drastic sanctions were imposed or considered before dismissal was ordered.

Wu v. T.W. Wang, Inc., 420 F.3d 641, 643 (6th Cir. 2005); see Regional Refuse Sys., Inc. v. Inland Reclamation Co., 842 F.2d 150, 155 (6th Cir. 1988).

         As to the first factor, the Court finds that Plaintiff's failure to respond or comply is, in fact, the fault of the Plaintiff. Plaintiff's instant failure to respond may be willful (if he received the Order and declined to respond), or it may be negligent (if he did not receive the Order because he has once again moved and failed to update his address and to monitor this action pursuant to Local Rule 83.13).[1] Either way, the fault lies with Plaintiff, and the first factor weighs in favor of dismissal. The second factor, however, weighs against dismissal: since the Defendants have not yet been served or made to appear, they have not been prejudiced by any delay. By contrast, the third factor clearly weighs in favor of dismissal, as Plaintiff has failed to comply with the Court's Order, despite being expressly warned of the possible consequences of such a failure. Finally, the Court finds that alternative sanctions would not be effective. Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis; therefore, the Court has no indication that Plaintiff has the ability to pay a monetary fine. The Court does not believe that dismissal without prejudice would be an effective sanction to promote Plaintiff's respect for this Court's deadlines and orders, given that the threat of dismissal with prejudice was not effective in compelling Plaintiff's compliance.[2] The Court thus concludes that, in total, the factors weigh in favor of dismissal of Plaintiff's action with prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(b).

         For the reasons discussed herein, Plaintiff is ASSESSED the full filing fee of $400.00, and this action is hereby DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE pursuant to Rule 41(b). The Court CERTIFIES that any appeal from this action would not be taken in good faith and would be totally frivolous. See Fed. R. App. P. 24. Accordingly, should Plaintiff file a notice of appeal, he is DENIED leave to appeal in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24.

         IT IS SO ORDERED.



[1] The Court notes that, pursuant to Local Rule ...

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