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Stillwell v. Dunlap

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

September 10, 2019

STEVEN L. STILLWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
DUNLAP, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Michael J. Frank United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before this court on Plaintiff's failure to respond to the undersigned's order of August 19, 2019. The undersigned recommends that this action be dismissed without prejudice for failure to comply with court orders and failure to prosecute.[1]

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, a former inmate of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), commenced this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleged violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and named only one Defendant. Plaintiff also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2). On November 2, 2018, Chief Magistrate Judge Elizabeth M. Timothy denied this motion without prejudice. (Doc. 4). Judge Timothy imposed a thirty-day deadline for Plaintiff to either pay $400.00 ($350.00 filing fee and $50.00 administrative fee) or submit a properly completed motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Id.). On January 4, 2019, Plaintiff's second motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis was docketed. (Doc. 6). On January 9, 2019, Judge Timothy granted this motion and assessed an initial partial filing fee of $13.66. (Doc. 7). Judge Timothy imposed a thirty-day deadline for Plaintiff to comply with the order and warned Plaintiff that his failure to comply “may result in a recommendation of dismissal of this action.” (Id. at 7). The time elapsed for Plaintiff to comply, and Plaintiff failed to pay the initial partial filing fee.

         The undersigned reviewed Plaintiff's complaint and found that it was deficient in several respects. (Doc. 9). On April 23, 2019, the undersigned issued an order directing the Plaintiff to amend his complaint to correct the deficiencies or to file a voluntary dismissal. (Id.). The undersigned imposed a thirty-day deadline to comply and warned Plaintiff that his failure to comply would “likely result in dismissal of this action for: (a) failure to comply with an order of this court; (b) failure to prosecute; and (c) failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” (Id. at 12). Plaintiff failed to comply by the deadline.

         On June 3, 2019, the undersigned issued an order directing Plaintiff to explain why he failed to comply with the undersigned's order of April 23, 2019. (Doc. 10). The undersigned imposed a thirty-day deadline and again warned Plaintiff that his failure to comply would likely result in dismissal.

         On July 10, the undersigned issued an order to show cause directing Plaintiff to explain why he failed to comply with Judge Timothy's order directing him to pay the initial partial filing fee of $13.66. (Doc. 11). The undersigned imposed a thirty-day deadline for Plaintiff to comply and again warned Plaintiff that his failure to comply likely would result in dismissal of this action.

         On July 22, 2016, the clerk of the court docketed a letter from Santa Rosa Correctional Institution indicating that these orders could not be delivered to the Plaintiff at the address provided. (Doc. 12). Upon review of the Florida Department of Corrections website, the court became aware of Plaintiff's release from prison. Thus, the undersigned issued an order directing Plaintiff to file a notice indicating his desire to prosecute this case and to pay his initial partial filing fee. (Doc. 13). The undersigned imposed a deadline of September 3, 2019, to comply. Plaintiff failed to comply with the undersigned's order.

         II. Discussion

         “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)).

         Federal 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 seven factors, among others:

(1) The duration of the Plaintiff's failure to comply. On January 9, 2019, Judge Timothy issued an order directing Plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $13.66. (Doc. 7). Judge Timothy's order provided Plaintiff thirty days to comply. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to comply with Judge Timothy's order since February 8, 2019.
(2) The Plaintiff's failure to comply with several court orders. The Plaintiff has failed to comply with ...

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