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Chaney v. Brooks

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

September 23, 2019

WALTER LEE CHANEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BROOKS, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Michael J. Frank United States Magistrate Judge.

         The undersigned recommends that this section 1983 action be dismissed for maliciousness, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and 1915A(b)(1), because the Plaintiff failed to disclose eight prior civil actions that he had filed.[1]

         I. Background

         On June 28, 2019, Plaintiff, an inmate of the Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”) filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). United States Magistrate Judge Charles A. Stampelos granted Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 4). Plaintiff was not required to prepay any portion of the filing fee. (Doc. 4). Judge Stampelos reviewed Plaintiff's civil rights complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and ordered Plaintiff to amend his complaint because the complaint was “insufficient as filed.” (Doc. 5). On February 15, 2019, Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint. (Doc. 15). The undersigned reviewed Plaintiff's first amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A and determined that Plaintiff failed to state a facially plausible claim for relief against several of the named Defendants. (Doc. 17). On May 1, 2019, the undersigned ordered Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint or a notice of voluntary dismissal. (Id.). On August 14, 2019, Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint, the operative pleading in this action. (Doc. 22).

         II. Discussion

         A. Screening for Maliciousness

         The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), was enacted in “an effort to stem the flood of prisoner lawsuits in federal court.” Harris v. Garner, 216 F.3d 970, 972 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc); see Procup v. Strickland, 792 F.2d 1069, 1071 (11th Cir. 1986) (per curiam) (“Recent years have witnessed an explosion of prisoner litigation in the federal courts.”). Under the PLRA, a federal court is required to conduct an initial screening of a prisoner complaint to determine whether the action is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A.

         Courts may “oblige prisoners to supply available information concerning prior lawsuits that concern their incarceration.” In re Epps, 888 F.2d 964, 969 (2d Cir. 1989). When a complaint form requires a plaintiff to list his litigation history, and the plaintiff's statements are made under penalty of perjury, a plaintiff's affirmative misrepresentation regarding his prior litigation history constitutes abuse of the judicial process warranting dismissal of the case for “maliciousness.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and § 1915A(b)(1); Rivera v. Allin, 144 F.3d 719, 731 (11th Cir. 1998), abrogated in part on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 127 S.Ct. 910 (2007); see also, e.g., Sears v. Haas, 509 Fed.Appx. 935, 935-36 (11th Cir. 2013) (holding that dismissal for maliciousness was warranted when the plaintiff failed to disclose cases he had previously filed); Harris v. Warden, 498 Fed.Appx. 962, 964-65 (11th Cir. 2012) (holding that dismissal for abuse of the judicial process was warranted when an inmate failed to disclose prior cases); Jackson v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 491 Fed.Appx. 129, 132-33 (11th Cir. 2012) (holding that dismissal of an action for maliciousness was warranted when the plaintiff failed to disclose existence of a prior case). Furthermore, a “district court [is] entitled to conclude that Plaintiff ha[s] abused the judicial process when he failed to” show good cause for not disclosing all prior lawsuits filed. Redmon v. Lake Cty. Sheriff's Office, 414 Fed.Appx. 221, 226 (11th Cir. 2011).

         B. The Plaintiff's Omissions

         Section IV of the Northern District of Florida complaint form utilized by the Plaintiff required Plaintiff to disclose information regarding prior civil cases he filed in state and federal courts. (Doc. 22 at 4). Question B of Section IV asks, “Have you initiated other actions in federal court dealing with the same or similar facts/issues involved in this action? Plaintiff responded “Yes, ” and listed Chaney v. Whitehurt, et al., No. 3:11-cv-801-TJC-JBT (M.D. Fla. Aug. 1, 2011). (Id.). Question C of Section IV asks:

Have you initiated other actions (besides those listed above in Question (A) and (B)) in either state or federal court that relate to the fact or manner of your incarceration (including habeas corpus petitions) or the conditions of your confinement (including civil rights complaints about any aspect of prison life, whether it be general circumstances or a particular episode, and whether it involved excessive force or some other wrong)?

(Id. at 5). Plaintiff responded “Yes, ” and listed Chaney v. Moore, No. 8:01-cv-00846-RAL (M.D. Fla. May 01, 2001). (Id.). The form states that a Plaintiff should “Attach additional pages as necessary to list cases.). Plaintiff attached exhibits to his second amended complaint, which disclosed that Plaintiff also had filed the following federal civil cases:[2]

1. Chaney v. Smith, et al., No. 3:10-cv-00345-MMH-JBT (M.D. Fla. Apr. 22, 2010);
2. Chaney v. McDonell, et al., No. 3:13-cv-00112-TJC-JRK (M.D. Fla. Jan. 31, 2013);
3. Chaney v. Hassett, et al., No. 3:11-cv-801-TJC-JBT (M.D. Fla. Aug. ...

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