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Akins v. Jefferson County Department of Human Resources

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 24, 2017

JANIE SUE AKINS, Pro Se Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This employment discrimination action was filed on April 25, 2016, by the pro se Plaintiff, Janie Sue Akins, against the Defendant, her former employer, the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources. (Doc. 1). The case comes before the Court on the Defendant's motion, filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to dismiss the Plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 20). The motion also alleges that the Plaintiff's action should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(b), for failure to comply with prior orders of this Court. For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be GRANTED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 30, 2016, this Court entered the following Order:

On May 25, 2016, the Plaintiff was ordered to file an Amended Complaint within 21 days. (Doc. 4 at 1)[1]. In that same order, the Plaintiff was warned that “[f]ailure to file an amended complaint within the time prescribed may result in the dismissal of all claims for want of prosecution. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41 (b).” (Doc. 4 at 2). More than 21 days have elapsed and no Amended Complaint has been filed. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b).

(Doc. 9 at 1) (emphasis in original). On July 19, 2016, this Court noted:

The Plaintiff has now filed a document entitled “Motion to Not Reassign or Dismiss This Case.” (Doc. 10) (emphasis in original). In that document, the Plaintiff states that computer problems prevented her from receiving service of the orders entered in this case when they were entered. She also explains that she only recently, on July 5, 2016, received “the court documents, ” but does not specify which documents are referenced. She states that “she was not knowledgeable of [the Court's orders] until after the requested date.” (Doc. 10 at 1). She requests that her case not be dismissed or reassigned, that this Court provide future notices to her via regular mail, and that this court reconsider its denial of appointed counsel.
The Court treats the motion as a motion to alter or amend made pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The motion is GRANTED to the extent that the order dismissing this case is hereby VACATED, and this case is REINSTATED. The Plaintiff is hereby ORDERED to file her Amended Complaint within 21 days after the date of this Order. The failure to file an Amended Complaint within the time prescribed may result in the dismissal of all claims for want of prosecution. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41 (b). The Clerk of Court is hereby ORDERED to send service copies off all Orders in this case to the pro se Plaintiff by U.S. Mail. The Plaintiff's motion is DENIED to the extent she again seeks the appointment of counsel and that she asks that this case not remain reassigned to the undersigned.

(Doc. 11 at 1-2) (emphasis in original and footnote omitted). On August 9, 2016, this Court entered an Order which stated, in pertinent part:

         Instead of filing an Amended Complaint, the Plaintiff has filed a 4 page, single spaced letter, in 10-point font, which has been docketed as an Amended Complaint. This letter does not have the case caption, and fails to comply with the magistrate's directive that

[t]he amended complaint must refer to the federal statute or statutes being invoked, comply with the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, and be suitable for service on the defendant or defendants named therein. In the amended complaint, the plaintiff must clearly set forth the facts concerning any incident about which she complains. Specifically, she must (1) identify each defendant she alleges participated in the violation of her rights; (2) describe what each defendant did that amounted to a violation of her rights; (3) state when and where the incidents underlying the violation of her rights occurred; (4) describe how the acts and/or omissions of each defendant resulted in harm to her; (5) identify the nature of that harm (e.g., loss of money, income, or property, or interference with her right to engage in or refrain from some activity); and (6) state the relief she seeks (e.g., compensatory and/or punitive damages or some form of injunctive relief, including any request for attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses). Conclusory and general assertions are insufficient to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The amended complaint must include all of the plaintiff's claims in this action and must not refer back to the original complaint. Only claims set forth in the amended complaint will be considered.

(Doc. 4 at 2). Most importantly, the letter fails to give any dates so that the Court can determine whether this action is timely filed. The letter also fails to refer to the federal statute or statutes being invoked, so that the Court can determine whether it has jurisdiction.

Be that as it may, the Court will allow the Plaintiff one more opportunity to clearly, and in an organized and understandable fashion, set out a proper Complaint. The new Complaint should be filed into the record within 21 days after the date of this order. It must be double spaced, in 14 point type, have a case caption identical to the one at the beginning of this Order and otherwise comply with the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Further, it should have numbered sections (with discussion) which correspond to the magistrate's directive in document 4. The failure to file an Amended Complaint, which complies with these requirements, within the time prescribed, may result in the dismissal of all claims for want of prosecution. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 41 (b).
To the extent that the Plaintiff's letter could be considered another motion for the appointment of counsel, that motion is, again, DENIED.

(Doc. 13 at 1-3).

         The Amended Complaint was due on August 30, 2016. The Plaintiff filed nothing by the deadlines. On September 2, 2016, the Plaintiff filed another letter which did not comply with this Court's previous directives. (Doc. 14). That letter will not be considered by the Court.

         On September 6, 2015, a week after the deadline for doing so, the Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 15). The record reflects that the Defendant was finally served on January 30, 2017. On February 15, 2017, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 20). On February 16, 2017, this Court entered an Order which provided:

The Jefferson County Department of Human Resources has filed a motion to dismiss this case pursuant to Rules 41(b) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 20). In accordance with this Court's Uniform Initial Order (doc. 7), entered in this case on June 29, 2016, the pro se Plaintiff may file any response to the motion no later than March 8, 2017. The Defendant's reply is due no later than March 20, 2017.

(Doc. 21 at 1). The Plaintiff has filed no response to the motion, and the Defendant has filed no reply. The motion is now ripe for review.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Rule 41(b)

         Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). Unless otherwise noted, dismissal under this rule is with prejudice. Id. “A dismissal [with prejudice] bar[s] the plaintiff from prosecuting any later lawsuit on the same claim.” Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). The Eleventh Circuit has noted:

Although dismissal with prejudice is a drastic remedy, “[t]he court's power to dismiss is an inherent aspect of its authority to enforce its orders and insure prompt disposition of lawsuits.” Goforth v. Owens, 766 F.2d 1533, 1535 (11th Cir.1985). Moreover while dismissal is an extraordinary remedy, “dismissal upon disregard of an order, especially where the litigant has been forewarned, generally is not an abuse of discretion.” Moon v. Newsome, 863 F.2d 835, 837 (11th Cir.1989).

Hickman v. Hickman, 563 F.App'x 742, 743 (11th Cir. 2014).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         Generally, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). However, to survive a motion to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (“Twombly”).

         A claim has facial plausibility “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (“Iqbal”). That is, the complaint must include enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation and footnote omitted). Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon “labels or conclusions” or “naked assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations. Id. at 555, 557 (citation omitted).

         Once a claim has been stated adequately, however, “it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563 (citation omitted). Further, when ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must “take the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Glover v. Liggett Group, Inc., 459 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir. 2006)).

         Finally,

[Courts] construe pleadings filed by pro se parties liberally. Alba v. Montford, 517 F.3d 1249, 1252 (11th Cir.2008). This liberal construction, however, “does not give a court license to serve as de facto counsel for a party, or to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an action.” GJR Invs., Inc. v. Cnty. of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir.1998) (citations omitted), overruled on other grounds, v. as stated in Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 709 (11th Cir.2010). Moreover, pro se litigants still are required to conform to procedural rules. Albra v. Advan, Inc., 490 F.3d 826, 829 (11th Cir.2007).

Hickman, 563 F.App'x at 743.

         III. ALLEGATIONS IN THE AMENDED COMPLAINT[2]

         The Plaintiff's Complaint appears to make two claims-one for “DISABILITY” and one for “RACISM.”

         A. Disability

         The Plaintiff vaguely states that her “ADHD disability was used to terminate [her] job [and] [her] letter of accommodations request was ignored.” (Doc. 15 at 1).She then implies, but does not specifically state, that she may have been late from time to time because of her condition. She also states that she was pulled over by the police which she says “appeared to be done on purpose to cause me late arrival on days I almost made it on time.” (Doc. 15 at 2). The Amended Complaint states:

How could they get away with ignoring my letter of accommodations for my ADHD disability; it is obvious they used it against me because all the years I was employed there it never mattered that I was a few minutes late ...

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