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Smith v. Corrections Corp. of America

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 23, 2018

CARTRELL R. SMITH SR., JASON LUTZ, and ROBERT ORGAN Plaintiffs,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORP. OF AMERICA. TORRANCE COUNTY, and CHAD MILLER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING CLAIMS OF PLAINTIFFS SMITH AND LUTZ

         THIS MATTER is before the Court under 28 U.S.C. § § 1915A and 1915(e)(2)(B) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and 41(b) on the Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights filed by Plaintiffs Cartrell R. Smith, Sr. and Jason Lutz (Doc. 1) and amended Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights filed by Plaintiff Jason Lutz (Doc. 14). The Court will dismiss the claims of Plaintiff Jason Lutz for failure to comply with a Court Order and failure to prosecute. The Court will dismiss Plaintiff Cartrell Smith's claims for failure to state a claim for relief and for failure to comply with a Court Order.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights (“Complaint”) was filed on October 31, 2016 by pro se Plaintiffs Cartrell R. Smith, Sr., Jason Lutz, and Robert Organ. (Doc. 1). The Complaint asserts violation of Plaintiffs' civil rights in connection with strip searches conducted at the Torrance County Detention Facility. Although the Complaint is signed by all three Plaintiffs, it appears to have been drafted and submitted by Plaintiff Cartrell Smith. (See, e.g., Doc. 1 at 9-10, 16, 22-23, 24). The claims of Plaintiff Robert Organ were previously dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) for failure to comply with a Court Order and failure to prosecute on October 27, 2017. (Doc. 43).

         Plaintiff Lutz filed an amended Complaint on December 21, 2016 (Doc. 14). On November 14, 2017, the Court entered an Order noting that mailings to Plaintiff Jason Lutz were being returned to the Court. (Doc. 53). The Order directed Plaintiff Lutz to notify the Court of any change of address or otherwise show cause why his claims should not be dismissed. The Order was mailed to his address of record at the Torrance County Correctional Facility. Plaintiff Lutz's response to the show-cause Order was due no later than December 5, 2017. (Doc. 53).

         The copy of the November 14, 2017 Order mailed to Plaintiff Lutz was also returned to the Court as undeliverable. (Doc. 55). The Court, sua sponte, undertook a search of the New Mexico correctional system online records, which indicated Plaintiff Lutz was now incarcerated at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility. As indicated on the Court's docket, the Court re-mailed a copy of the November 14, 2017 Order to Plaintiff Lutz at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility address on November 21, 2017. Plaintiff Lutz has never responded to the November 14, 2017 Order.

         Mailings to Plaintiff Cartrell Smith were also returned to the Court as undeliverable. On November 14, 2017, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause, directing Plaintiff Smith to provide the Court with a new address or show cause why his claims should not be dismissed within 21 days of entry of the Order. (Doc. 52). The Order notified Smith that, if he failed to respond or show cause within 21 days, the case could be dismissed without further notice. The November 14, 2017 Order was mailed to Smith at his address of record at the Torrance County Detention Center. (Doc. 52).

         The deadline for Smith to respond to the Order was December 5, 2017. Plaintiff Smith did submit a notice of change of address on November 21, 2017. (Doc. 56). However, mail sent to Smith's alleged new address was also returned as undeliverable. (Doc. 58, 60). The Court's docket reflects that Plaintiff Smith left a message on the Court's inmate voicemail system on December 8, 2017, claiming to want to update his address. Smith then filed a notice of change of address on December 15, 2017. (Doc. 61). Both the message on the Court's inmate voicemail system and the December 15, 2017 notice were submitted after the December 5, 2017 deadline under the Court's Order to Show Cause.

         II. THE CLAIMS OF JASON LUTZ WILL BE DISMISSED FOR FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH A COURT ORDER AND FAILURE TO PROSECUTE

         On November 14, 2017, the Court entered an Order noting that the record reflects that certain mailings to Plaintiff Jason Lutz were returned as undelivered (see Doc. 45, 46, 53). The Court stated that “[i]t appears that Plaintiff has been transferred or released from custody without advising the Court of his new address, as required by D.N.M. LR-Civ. 83.6, thus severing contact with the Court.” (Doc. 53). The Order required Plaintiff Lutz to show cause why this action should not be dismissed. See Bradenburg v. Beaman, 632 F.2d 120, 122 (10th Cir. 1980) (“It is incumbent on litigants, even those proceeding pro se, to follow the federal rules of procedure. . . The same is true of simple, nonburdensome local rules . . ..” (citation omitted)). The Order notified Plaintiff Lutz that failure to comply with the Order may result in dismissal without further notice. The Court's Order was also returned as undelivered. (Doc. 55).

         Although not obligated to do so, the Court undertook to find a new address for Plaintiff Lutz. Upon locating the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility address, the Court mailed a copy of the Order to that address. That mailing was not returned to the Court. Plaintiff Lutz, however, did not respond to the November 14, 2017 Order.

         Plaintiff Lutz has failed to notify the Clerk in writing of his current address, show cause why the action should not be dismissed, respond to the Court's Order to Show Cause, or otherwise communicate with the Court. The Court may dismiss an action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) for failure to prosecute, to comply with the rules of civil procedure, or to comply with court orders. See Olsen v. Mapes, 333 F.3d 1199, 1204, n. 3 (10th Cir. 2003). Therefore, the Court will dismiss all claims by Plaintiff Jason Lutz for failure to comply with the Court's Order and for failure to prosecute this proceeding. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b).

         III. THE CLAIMS OF PLAINTIFF SMITH WILL BE DISMISSED FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM AND TO COMPLY WITH A COURT ORDER

         Plaintiff Cartrell Smith is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis on civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has the discretion to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint sua sponte for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under either Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) the Court must accept all well-pled factual allegations, but not conclusory, unsupported allegations, and may not consider matters outside the pleading. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Dunn v. White, 880 F.2d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 1989). The court may dismiss a complaint under rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim if “it is ‘patently obvious' that the plaintiff could not prevail on the facts alleged.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991) (quoting McKinney v. Oklahoma Dep't of Human Services, 925 F.2d 363, 365 (10th Cir. 1991)). A plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A claim should be dismissed where it is legally or factually insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         Under § 1915(e)(2)(B) the Court may dismiss the complaint at any time if the Court determines the action fails to state a claim for relief or is frivolous or malicious. 28 U.S.C. § 915(e)(2)(B)(2). The authority granted by § 1915 permits the court the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke v. Williams,490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). See also Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d at 1109. The authority to “pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations” means that a court is not bound, as it usually is when making a determination based solely on the pleadings, to accept without question the truth of the plaintiff's allegations. Denton v. Hernandez,504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992). The Court is not required to accept the truth of the plaintiff's allegations but, instead, may go beyond the pleadings and consider any other materials filed by the parties, as well as court proceedings subject to judicial notice. Denton, 504 U.S. at 32-33. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court liberally construes the factual allegations. See Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1520-21 (10th Cir. 1992). However, a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are judged by the same legal standards that apply to all litigants and a pro se plaintiff must ...


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