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Smith v. Department of Welfare Child Support Enforcement

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 8, 2017

MARILYN M. SMITH, WILLIAM VON SMITH, and MICHAEL LEE SMITH, Plaintiffs
v.
DEPARTMENT OF WELFARE CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Marilyn M. Smith (“Smith”) filed this pro se civil action in October of 2015, initially naming as defendants the “Department of Welfare Child Support [E]nforcement” and “Supply Depot.” (Doc. 1). No other identifying information for the defendants was provided. (Id.) Smith also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (Doc. 17). In March of 2016, she filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 13). None of these filings was signed by any listed plaintiff other than Smith, and Smith did not explain why or how she was filing a lawsuit on behalf of the other plaintiffs listed in the caption. On multiple occasions Smith also filed various miscellaneous documents without any explanation as to their relevance to her lawsuit. (See Docs. 5, 8-12, 14, 15).

         On June 6, 2016, this court issued a memorandum opinion and order addressing Smith's filings. (Doc. 19). In that opinion, after reviewing Smith's pro se pleadings, as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court dismissed her lawsuit without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 19 at 3-5); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The court permitted Smith to file a second amended complaint by June 24, 2016, (Doc. 19 at 5), and also outlined the standards for sufficient civil pleading, (id. at 4).

         Smith failed to comply with the court's order. While she did file a document entitled “Facts” on June 13, 2016, (Doc. 21), and some documents several weeks later that are completely unrelated to her lawsuit, (Doc. 22), she did not timely file a second amended complaint as ordered. Not until November 3, 2016-132 days after the court-imposed deadline-did Smith file a second amended complaint. (See Doc. 23).

         Smith also filed a new civil lawsuit the following day, Smith v. Garrnet, No. 1:16-CV-02236 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 4, 2016), which contains similar claims as those in the instant lawsuit. Smith named a litany of defendants in her second lawsuit, some named in her first lawsuit and some who are new.[1] Id., ECF No. 1. She also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on this lawsuit as well. Id., ECF No. 2. She then amended the second case's complaint on December 21, 2016. Id., ECF No. 3.

         Because the lawsuits are based on the same underlying claims, the court will consolidate and consider them together as one lawsuit, [2] under case number 1:15-CV-02068. For the following reasons, the consolidated action will be dismissed with prejudice.

         II. Standard of Review

         Title 28, U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) states that “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). “The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Davis v. Samuels, 608 F. App'x 46, 48 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)).

         “In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, courts must ‘accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh, 824 F.3d 353, 360 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)). “While ‘accept[ing] all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, ' the district court ‘may disregard any legal conclusions.'” Id. (quoting Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11).

         A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be liberally construed and “held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]'” Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)). Nonetheless, the complaint still “must contain allegations permitting ‘the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Jackson v. Div. of Developmental Disabilities, 394 F.App'x 950, 951 n.3 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (nonprecedential) (quoting Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010)).

         III. Discussion

         Initially, the court notes that Smith did not file her second amended complaint until more than four months after the court-imposed deadline of June 24, 2016. This failure to prosecute alone is sufficient grounds for dismissal of Smith's case. See Roberts v. Ferman, 826 F.3d 117, 122-23 (3d Cir. 2016) (noting district courts have power to dismiss for failure to prosecute in response to blatant failure to comply with court orders as part of their “inherent authority to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and to avoid congestion” in their dockets).

         Even taking into consideration the “Facts” document filed by Smith on June 13, 2016, (Doc. 21), together with the second amended complaint filed on November 3, 2016, (Doc. 23), as well as the pleadings filed in the second civil lawsuit, Smith still completely fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted. None of Smith's pleadings contain sufficient factual allegations or coherent claims ...


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