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Ellis v. Okaloosa County Jail

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

July 9, 2019

ROCCO EDWARD ELLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
OKALOOSA COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MICHAEL J. FRANK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The clerk of the court referred this case to the undersigned upon Plaintiff's failure to comply with the undersigned's order of June 3, 2019. The undersigned recommends that this action be dismissed without prejudice for failure to comply with a court orders and failure to prosecute.[1]

         I. Background

         On May 9, 2018, Plaintiff, appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this action for negligence. (Doc. 1). Defendants-Global Prisoners Services d/b/a Texas Prisoner Transport (“GPS”), Stefan Vaugh, and Okaloosa County Jail-moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and lack of jurisdiction. On January 25, 2019, the undersigned recommended that: (1) the Defendants' motions to dismiss be denied without prejudice; and (2) Plaintiff be afforded an opportunity to amend his complaint to correct its deficiencies. (Doc. 67).

         On February 25, 2019, United States District Court Judge Lacey A. Collier adopted the undersigned's report and recommendation. (Doc. 68). Judge Collier directed the Plaintiff to file an amended complaint within 21 days of the order adopting the report and recommendation. (Id.). Judge Collier also warned the Plaintiff that his failure to comply with the court's order “may result in his case being dismissed.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff failed to file his amended complaint by March 18, 2019-the deadline Judge Collier had imposed. On March 25, 2019, therefore, the undersigned ordered Plaintiff to explain why he had failed to comply with Judge Collier's order. (Doc. 71). The undersigned gave Plaintiff thirty days to respond and warned him that his failure to respond likely would result in dismissal of this action.

         On April 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed a response indicating that he had not filed an amended complaint because he wished to proceed with his original complaint. (Doc. 76 at 1).

         On April 29, 2019, the undersigned issued an order informing Plaintiff that he could not proceed with the original complaint and that he was required to file an amended complaint as Judge Collier had directed. (Doc. 78 at 2). The undersigned also directed the clerk of the court to send Plaintiff a civil rights complaint form, a copy of the report and recommendation, and the order adopting the report and recommendation. (Id.). The undersigned imposed a thirty-day deadline for Plaintiff to file his amended complaint. The undersigned again warned Plaintiff that his failure to comply with the order likely would result in dismissal. This order was returned by the U.S. Postal Service with the following notation: “RETURN TO SENDER, ATTEMPTED - NOT KNOWN, UNABLE TO FORWARD.” (Doc. 79).

         On May 31, 2019, Plaintiff sought an extension of time to file the amended the complaint. (Doc. 80). Plaintiff claimed that he was experiencing health-related problems, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms. (Id.). Additionally, Plaintiff admitted that he was also traveling across the country and had missed some of the court's orders due to his travels. (Doc. 80). The undersigned provided Plaintiff until June 24, 2019, to file an amended complaint. The undersigned again warned Plaintiff that his failure to comply with court orders likely would result in dismissal of this action. (Id.). Although that order had been mailed to the address Plaintiff had provided to the clerk of the court, on June 14, 2019, that order was returned by the U.S. Postal with the following notation: “RETURN TO SENDER, NOT DELIVERABLE AS ADDRESSED, UNABLE TO FORWARD.”[2] (Doc. 85).

         On June 24, 2019, Plaintiff filed a “Motion Addressing a June 24th deadline I was only made aware of today.” (Doc. 86). As of today, Plaintiff still has not filed an amended complaint despite Judge Collier initially ordering him to do so by March 18, 2019.

         II. Discussion

         “As a fundamental proposition, orders of the court ‘must be obeyed . . . .'” Kleiner v. First Nat. Bank of Atlanta, 751 F.2d 1193, 1208 (11th Cir. 1985) (quoting United States v. Dickinson, 465 F.2d 496, 509 (5th Cir. 1972)). When orders are not obeyed, a court may enforce its orders through imposition of a sanction. “A federal court has at its disposal an array of means to enforce its orders, including dismissal in an appropriate case.” Degen v. United States, 517 U.S. 820, 827, 116 S.Ct. 1777, 1782 (1996); see e.g., N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 41.1 (“If a party fails to comply with an applicable rule or court order, the Court may strike a pleading, dismiss a claim, enter a default on a claim, take other appropriate action, or issue an order to show cause why any of these actions should not be taken.”). “Federal courts possess an inherent power to dismiss a complaint for failure to comply with a court order.” Foudy v. Indian River Cty. Sheriff's Office, 845 F.3d 1117, 1126 (11th Cir. 2017); Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc. v. Florida Mowing & Landscape Serv., Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1240 (11th Cir. 2009) (“The court may dismiss a claim if the plaintiff fails to prosecute it or comply with a court order.”); see Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-31, 82 S.Ct. 1386, 1388-89 (1962) (noting the inherent power of courts to dismiss an action is not precluded by Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b)). Courts may sua sponte dismiss cases for failure to comply with court orders and for failure to prosecute an action. Costello v. United States, 365 U.S. 265, 286-87, 81 S.Ct. 534, 545 (1961) (noting that a district court may sua sponte dismiss a complaint for a plaintiff's failure to comply with an order of the court); Snider v. Melindez, 199 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 1999) (noting that the Supreme Court has “long held that courts may dismiss actions on their own motion in a broad range of circumstances”).

         In recommending dismissal, the undersigned has taken into consideration the following factors, among others:

         (1) The duration of the Plaintiff's ...


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