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Muhammad v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 15, 2019

RAHEEM MUHAMMAD, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is currently before the Court on a motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution and non-compliance with the Court's orders, ECF No. 45, filed by the remaining defendants: the United States of America, Megan J. Brennan, Patrick R. Donahue, Gerald Roane, Jane Doe Bello, and Jane Doe (collectively, “Federal Defendants”). In response, Plaintiff Raheem Muhammad, proceeding pro se, has filed, inter alia, a motion to strike Federal Defendants' motion, see ECF No. 49. Also pending before the Court are several requests by Plaintiff for reasonable and meaningful accommodations, for the appointment of counsel, and to transfer the case. See ECF Nos. 41, 47, 50.

         For the reasons stated herein, the Court will defer ruling on Federal Defendants' motion to dismiss, and Plaintiff's motions and requests for relief will be denied. Should Plaintiff fail to confer with Federal Defendants as directed below, Federal Defendants' motion will be granted, and this matter will be dismissed promptly for lack of prosecution.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff originally brought this action against Federal Defendants and the District of Columbia. See ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”) at 1-2. He alleges that he suffered injuries when he slipped and fell on a sidewalk outside a Post Office in the District of Columbia. Id. ¶¶ 16-17. He seeks $1 million in compensatory damages. Id. at 13. Plaintiff alleges negligence due to lack of sidewalk maintenance, which he believes was motivated by “racism and apathy.” Id. ¶ 24-34.

         On August 12, 2016, the District of Columbia filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). ECF No. 9. On December 16, 2016, Federal Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b). ECF No. 16. On January 27, 2017, the Court informed Plaintiff of his obligation to respond these motions, providing a deadline of March 3, 2017. See ECF No. 18 at 2. He was advised of the potential consequence of dismissal should he fail to respond. See Id. Instead of filing an opposition, on March 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed his first motion to appoint counsel. ECF No. 19.

         On April 6, 2017, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion to appoint counsel. See ECF No. 20. At the same time, the Court extended Plaintiff's opposition deadline to May 15, 2017. See Id. at 2. On April 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed a “Renewed Motion for an Enlargement of Time to File a Formal Response(s) to Defendant(s)['] . . . Frivolous Motion(s) to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint(s).” ECF No. 21 at 2. He also filed a “Motion to Immediately Remove [Defense] Attorneys.” ECF No. 22 at 2. On May 3, 2017, the Court issued a Minute Order granting Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time, allowing him an additional month to file his oppositions no later than June 16, 2017, or, as previously advised, risk summary dismissal. That same day, the Court issued a second Minute Order denying Plaintiff's motion to remove Defendants' attorneys as “baseless.” On May 12, 2017, Plaintiff moved to vacate both Minute Orders and requested transfer of the case to the District of Maryland. ECF No. 24. On June 26, 2017, Plaintiff then filed a renewed motion to vacate the two Minute Orders. ECF No. 28.

         On September 18, 2017, the case was directly reassigned to the undersigned. And on March 7, 2018, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order: (1) granting the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss in its entirety, (2) granting Federal Defendants' motion to dismiss as to Counts Two and Four (for violations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Fourteenth Amendment, respectively) but denying the motion as to Counts One and Three (for negligence and intentional infliction of emotion distress, respectively), and (3) denying Plaintiff's motions to vacate and requests to transfer the case. See ECF No. 29. Plaintiff appealed these decisions to the District of Columbia Circuit.[1] See ECF No. 30.

         Meanwhile, on April 2, 2018, the Court ordered that Federal Defendants answer the complaint. See Min. Order of Apr. 2, 2018. On August 29, 2018, Federal Defendants filed an answer. ECF No. 35. An Initial Scheduling Conference (“ISC”) was scheduled for October 2, 2018, and the parties were ordered to meet and confer and to submit a joint report pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f) and Local Rule 16.3 in anticipation of that conference. See Min. Order of Aug. 30, 2018. On September 24, 2018, Federal Defendants filed a motion for an extension of time to file the joint report, ECF No. 38, indicating that, despite their efforts to contact Plaintiff by letter and telephone, he had not responded to their requests to meet and confer in advance of the ISC. To date, he has not provided an email address to the Court or opposing counsel. See Id. ¶ 3.

         On September 25, 2018, the Court issued an Order rescheduling the ISC for November 8, 2018. ECF No. 40. In the same Order, the Court noted that Plaintiff's conduct violated the prior Minute Order of August 30, 2018. See Id. at 1. The parties were again instructed to meet and confer and to submit a joint report, and Plaintiff was specifically directed to promptly contact opposing counsel to begin the meet-and-confer process. See Id. He was also explicitly warned that if he failed to meet and confer, or to attend the rescheduled ISC, the matter may be dismissed for want of prosecution or for violation of the Court's orders. See id.

         On October 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Fourth Renewed Motion for Reasonable and Meaningful Accommodations, for Appointment of Counsel, and to Transfer the Case (“Fourth Combined Motion”). ECF No. 41. On November 1, 2018, Federal Defendants filed another motion for an extension of time to file a joint status report in advance of the rescheduled ISC, ECF No. 42, reporting that Plaintiff had once again failed to respond in any manner to their repeated attempts to contact him. The Court issued Orders on November 5, 2018, ECF No. 43, and December 6, 2018, Min. Order of Dec. 6, 2018, vacating the ISC and waiving the requirement to submit a joint statement. Based on the circumstances, the Court directed Federal Defendants to respond to Plaintiff's Fourth Combined Motion and to file a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute, if they were so inclined. See ECF No. 43; Min. Order of Dec. 6, 2018. In these Orders, the Court once again highlighted Plaintiff's lack of compliance and the attendant consequences. See ECF No. 43, Min. Order of Dec. 6, 2018.

         Federal Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution and non-compliance, ECF No. 45 (“MTD”), on December 17, 2018. On December 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed a response to the Court's Orders of November 5 and December 6, 2018, combined with a Fifth Renewed Motion for Reasonable and Meaningful Accommodations, for Appointment of Counsel, and to Transfer the Case (“Fifth Combined Motion”). See ECF No. 46. On December 31, Plaintiff filed a motion to strike, apparently directed at Federal Defendants' motion to dismiss. See ECF No. 49 (“MTS”). On January 2, 2019, the Court again advised Plaintiff of his obligations to specifically respond to Federal Defendants' pending motion to dismiss, providing him with a deadline of January 16, 2019. ECF No. 48. On January 31, 2019, Plaintiff filed a response to the Court's Order of January 2, 2019 (“Second Response”). See ECF No. 50.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with [the Federal Rules] or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); see also LCvR 83.23 (“A dismissal for failure to prosecute may be ordered by the Court upon motion by an adverse party, or upon the Court's own motion.”).[2] “A Rule 41(b) dismissal is proper if, in view of the entire procedural history of the case, the litigant has not manifested reasonable diligence in pursuing the cause.” Bomate v. Ford Motor Co., 761 F.2d 713, 714 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (per curiam). Dismissal may be supported by “evidence in the record of ‘bad faith, deliberate misconduct, or tactical delay.'” Gardner v. United States, 211 F.3d 1305, 1309 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Trakas v. Quality Brands, Inc., 759 F.2d 185, 188 (D.C. Cir. 1985)).

         The D.C. Circuit has further held that the considerations relevant to the determination of a Rule 41(b) motion include: (1) the effect of a plaintiff's conduct on the court's docket, (2) whether the defendant has been prejudiced by the plaintiff's conduct, and (3) whether deterrence “is necessary to protect the integrity of the judicial system.” Bristol Petroleum Corp. v. Harris, 901 F.2d 165, 167 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). A malfeasant party places a severe burden on the judicial system if “the court [is required] to expend considerable ...


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