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Farmer v. Parker

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division

August 20, 2019

NICO FARMER, Plaintiff,
TONY PARKER, et al., Defendants.

          William L. Campbell, Jr. Judge.


          Alistair E. Newbern United States Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, pro se and in forma pauperis Plaintiff Nico Farmer alleges that, while he was incarcerated at South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) in Clifton, Tennessee, Defendants Sergeant Matthew Villanueva and Corrections Officer Don Bright beat him and deprived him of showers and hygiene supplies and that several other defendants failed to do anything to address those incidents after Farmer reported them. (Doc. No. 5.) Now pending are two motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Warden Cherry Lindamood, Geneva Roberts, Sergeant Rhonda Staggs, Randall Bridges, Brenda Pevahouse, and Zubulon Stults. (Doc. Nos. 6, 16.) Farmer has not responded to those motions, nor has he responded to this Court's orders directing him to show cause why (1) the motions to dismiss should not be granted as unopposed and (2) this action should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. (Doc. Nos. 17, 18.) Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge will recommend that this action be dismissed without prejudice for failure to prosecute and that the defendants' pending motions to dismiss (Doc. Nos. 6, 16) be found moot.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The origin of this action is Harper v. Parker, No. 1:17-cv-00020, in which Farmer and several other incarcerated plaintiffs alleged that their confinement at SCCF constituted cruel and unusual punishment. On September 10, 2018, the Court adopted the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that Farmer's claims be severed from the other plaintiffs. (Doc. No. 3.) The Court ordered Farmer to file an amended complaint containing only his own claims within twenty-eight days. (Id.) On September 26, 2018, Farmer filed a complaint alleging that, when he was incarcerated at the SCCF, Sergeant Villanueva and Corrections Officer Bright beat Farmer and then deprived him of showers and tissue for three to five days.[1] (Doc. No. 5.) Farmer also alleges that Bright sexually assaulted him and that Farmer reported his mistreatment to Defendants Warden Cherry Lindamood, Geneva Roberts, and Sergeant Rhonda Staggs, who did nothing. (Id.) Farmer's complaint contains no allegations against Defendants Randall Bridges, Brenda Pevahouse, or Zubulon Stults. On October 9, 2018, Lindamood, Roberts, Staggs, Randall, Bridges, Pevahouse, and Stults filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Farmer had failed to state a claim against them.[2] (Doc. Nos. 6, 7.) On the same day, Bright and Villanueva answered the complaint. (Doc. No. 8.)

         On February 19, 2019, the Court ordered Farmer to show cause why it has subject-matter jurisdiction over this action, noting that Farmer's complaint did not reference federal law or contain a request for relief. (Doc. No. 14.) Farmer responded by filing a purported “Amended Complaint” that stated Bright and Villanueva had deprived Farmer of food at the SCCF and used excessive force against him. (Doc. No. 15.) Farmer asked for $100, 000.00 in damages. (Id.) The defendants responded by filing a renewed motion to dismiss, echoing the arguments of their first motion. (Doc. No. 16.)

         On April 26, 2019, the Court declined to construe Farmer's response to the show-cause order as an amended complaint because the filing was not in the form of a complaint and did not incorporate the allegations from his original pleading. (Doc. No. 17.) The Court further found that Farmer's response indicated an intent to assert claims of excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, thereby asserting a basis for the Court's subject-matter jurisdiction. (Id.) However, because Farmer's response did not address either of the defendants' motions to dismiss, the Court ordered him to show cause by May 20, 2019, why those motions should not be granted as unopposed. (Id.) Farmer has not responded to that order.

         Concerned that Farmer had lost interest in this action, the Court ordered him to show cause by July 31, 2019, why his claims should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. (Doc. No. 18.) Farmer also has not responded to that order.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) “confers on district courts the authority to dismiss an action for failure of a plaintiff to prosecute the claim or to comply with the Rules or any order of the Court.” Schafer v. City of Defiance Police Dep't, 529 F.3d 731, 736 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Knoll v. AT&T, 176 F.3d 359, 362-63 (6th Cir. 1999)); see also Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630 (1962) (recognizing “the power of courts, acting on their own initiative, to clear their calendars of cases that have remained dormant because of the inaction or dilatoriness of the parties seeking relief”); Carpenter v. City of Flint, 723 F.3d 700, 704 (6th Cir. 2013) (“It is well settled that a district court has the authority to dismiss sua sponte a lawsuit for failure to prosecute.”). Dismissal for failure to prosecute is a tool for district courts to manage their dockets and avoid unnecessary burdens on opposing parties and the judiciary. See Schafer, 529 F.3d at 736 (quoting Knoll, 176 F.3d at 363). The Sixth Circuit therefore affords district courts “substantial discretion” regarding decisions to dismiss for failure to prosecute. Id.

         Four factors guide the Court's determination of whether dismissal under Rule 41(b) is appropriate: (1) the willfulness, bad faith, or fault of the plaintiff; (2) whether the defendant has been prejudiced by the plaintiff's conduct; (3) whether the plaintiff was warned that failure to cooperate could lead to dismissal; and (4) the availability and appropriateness of other, less drastic sanctions. Knoll, 176 F.3d at 363 (citing Stough v. Mayville Cmty. Sch., 138 F.3d 612, 615 (6th Cir. 1998)). “[N]one of the factors is outcome dispositive, ” but “a case is properly dismissed by the district court where there is a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct.” Id. (citing Carter v. City of Memphis, 636 F.2d 159, 161 (6th Cir. 1980)); see also Muncy v. G.C.R., Inc., 110 Fed.Appx. 552, 555 (6th Cir. 2004) (finding that dismissal with prejudice “is justifiable in any case in which ‘there is a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct on the part of the plaintiff'” (quoting Mulbah v. Detroit Bd. of Educ., 261 F.3d 586, 591 (6th Cir. 2001))). Because dismissal without prejudice is a relatively lenient sanction as compared to dismissal with prejudice, the “controlling standards should be greatly relaxed” for Rule 41(b) dismissals without prejudice where “the dismissed party is ultimately not irrevocably deprived of his [or her] day in court.” Muncy, 110 Fed.Appx. at 556 (citing Nwokocha v. Perry, 3 Fed.Appx. 319, 321 (6th Cir. 2001)); see also M.D. Tenn. R. 41.01 (dismissal of inactive cases) (allowing Court to summarily dismiss without prejudice “[c]ivil suits that have been pending for an unreasonable period of time without any action having been taken by any party”).

         III. Analysis

         Farmer has ignored this Court's show-cause orders, unduly delaying this action. Farmer's claims should therefore be dismissed without prejudice.

         A. ...

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