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Ruther v. Kentucky

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 29, 2019

L. Ruther, Plaintiff,
v.
Kentucky et ah, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         This matter is before the Court on its initial review of plaintiff spro se complaint and application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Pro se litigants must comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Jarrell v. Tisch, 656 F.Supp. 237, 239 (D.D.C. 1987). Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires complaints to contain "(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction [and] (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009); Ciralsky v. CIA, 355 F.3d 661, 668-71 (D.C. Cir. 2004). The Rule 8 standard ensures that defendants receive fair notice of the claim being asserted so that they can prepare a responsive answer and an adequate defense and determine whether the doctrine of res judicata applies. Brown v. Califano, 75 F.R.D. 497, 498 (D.D.C. 1977). It also assists the Court in determining whether it has jurisdiction over the subject matter.

         Plaintiff has submitted a one-page cryptically worded document, which has been construed liberally as a Complaint [Dkt. # 1]. The content is largely incomprehensible and thus provides no notice of a claim. Additionally, plaintiff is no stranger to this Court, having had numerous cases dismissed without prejudice for inadequate pleading under Rule 8(a). See, e.g., Ruther v. Wells Fargo, No. 19-cv-937 (UNA) (D.D.C. May 2, 2019); Ruther v. Kentucky, No. 19-cv-1043 (UNA) (D.D.C. Apr. 30, 2019); Ruther v. Democratic Nat'l Committee, No. 19-cv- 1068 (D.D.C. Apr. 30, 2019); Ruther v. Morgan & Moran PA, No. 19-cv-341 (UNA) (D.D.C. Feb. 28, 2019); Ruther v. Canada, No. 18-840 (UNA) (D.D.C. May 16, 2018), qff'd, No. 18- 7088 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 7, 2018); Ruther v. United States of America, No. 17-1116 (UNA) (D.D.C. June 30, 2017); Ruther v. Common Collect LLC, No. 17-cv-1405, 2017 WL 6551194 (D.D.C. Aug. 14, 2017), aff'd sub nom, Ruther v. Gash, 707 Fed. App'x. 3 (Mem.) (D.C. Cir. 2017) (per curiam). Beginning in 2018, some of the dismissal orders included the following footnote:

Plaintiff has been allowed to file numerous civil cases in this court without prepaying the filing fee. Many, if not all, have been dismissed for inadequate pleading under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), and not once has plaintiff amended the complaint in accordance with Rule 8. "Leave to file a claim in forma pauperis has always been a matter of grace, a privilege granted in the court's discretion . . ., and denied in the court's discretion when that privilege has been abused by filing claims or appeals that are frivolous or otherwise not taken in good faith." Ibrahim v. District of Columbia, 208 F.3d 1032, 1036 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). Plaintiff is hereby advised that his persistent filing of nonconforming complaints may result ultimately in the Court enjoining him from proceeding in forma pauperis. See Hurt v. Social Security Admin., 544 F.3d 308, 310 (D.C. Cir. 2008); Butler v. Dep't of Justice, 492 F.3d 440, 446 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

Ruther v. Tennessee, No. 18-cv-1180 (UNA) (D.D.C. June 7, 2018); Ruther v. Georgia, No. 18-cv-1181 (UNA) (D.D.C. May 31, 2018); Ruther v. W. Virginia, `No. 18-cv-1182 (UNA) (D.D.C. May 31, 2018); Ruther v. United States, No. 19-cv-769 (UNA) (D.D.C. Apr. 22, 2019); Ruther v. United States, No. 19-cv-859 (UNA) (D.D.C. Apr. 22, 2019); Ruther v. United States, No. 19-cv-769 (D.D.C. Apr. 22, 2019). Yet, plaintiff persists. In addition to dismissing the instant complaint, the Court will now order plaintiff to show cause why he should not be barred from filing civil actions in forma pauperis.

         1. Legal Standard

         An individual's right to access to the courts "is neither absolute nor unconditional." In re Green, 669 F.2d 779, 785 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (per curiam). Furthermore, "[a]n in forma pauperis litigant's access to the courts is a matter of privilege, not of right, and should not be used to abuse the process of the courts." Williams v. McKenzie, 8 34 F.2d 152, 154 (8th Cir. 1987). The Court "has an obligation to protect and preserve the sound and orderly administration of justice." Urban v. United Nations, 768 F.2d 1497, 1500 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (quoting In re Martin-Trigona, 737 F.2d 1254, 1262 (2d Cir. 1984)). To that end, the Court "may employ injunctive remedies to protect the integrity of the courts and the orderly and expeditious administration of justice," Urban, 768 F.2d at 1500, such as denying "prospectively" one's privilege to proceed in forma pauperis. Hurt v. Social Security Admin., 544 F.3d 308, 310 (D.C. Cir. 2008). In determining whether to issue an injunction, the Court must make substantive findings as to the frivolous or harassing nature of the litigant's actions and as to any pattern constituting harassment. In re Powell, 851 F.2d 427, 431 (D.C. Cir. 1988). Similarly, before revoking the privilege to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court must consider "the number, content, frequency, and disposition of [the litigant's] previous filings to determine if there is a pattern of abusing the IFP privilege in his litigation history." Butler v. Dep't of Justice, 492 F.3d 440, 446 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

         2. Plaintiffs Litigation History

         As indicated above, most of plaintiff s complaints are repetitive and largely incoherent, and many filed here and in other district courts have named the same defendants. A search of this Court's civil dockets by the name L. Ruther reveals that since 1994, plaintiff has filed at least 40 cases in this court alone that did not survive the screening process, most of which were dismissed in 2017 and 2018. See list attached. Additionally, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has noted:

Mr. Ruther is no stranger to the federal courts. "Ruther has a longstanding history of filing frivolous lawsuits in this court," noted a federal district court, 17 years ago. Ruther v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., No. 01-671-A, 2001 WL 34360376 (E.D. Va. June 18, 2001), qff`d, 21 Fed.Appx. 230 (4th Cir. 2001). Since then, Mr. Ruther has filed at least 35 cases in 13 federal district courts, although this appears to be his first foray into the Court of Federal Claims. A common theme throughout the opinions dismissing his complaints is that Mr. Ruther files barely legible complaints consisting of, when readable, frivolous claims.

Ruther v. United States, No. 18-1 HOC, 2018 WL 5095451, at *l n.3 (Fed. CI. Oct. 17, 2018) (collecting cases).

         3. Plaintiffs Abuse of the IFP Privilege

         The "inquiry" is whether plaintiff "has abused a special privilege of the court to such an extent that that privilege should not again be extended to him here." Butler, 492 F.3d at 446. This Court finds that plaintiff has reached that point. The Court has been more than tolerant in liberally construing plaintiffs complaints, allowing him to proceed in forma pauperis, and expending significant staff time and resources to process, review and resolve his cases. The Court finds that plaintiff has a history of filing frequent and repetitive lawsuits, and that these relentless filings are harassing to the Court. Cf. with Butler, 492 F.3d at 446-7 (finding an abuse of the in forma pauperis privilege from, inter alia, plaintiffs "pattern" of filing repetitive FOIA actions where "[a]ll but one [of 15 such cases] were dismissed on either summary judgment, a motion to dismiss, or for failure to respond."); see Id. at 445-6 (examining Supreme Court cases finding abuse of IFP privilege); see also Hurt, 544 F.3d at 310 (concluding that "'the number, content, frequency, and disposition' of [Hurt's] filings shows an especially abusive pattern, aimed at taking advantage of the IFP privilege.")' Like Butler, "it appears that filing [civil] actions is a 'pastime' for [plaintiff]." Butler, 492 F.3d at 447, 4. Conclusion

         For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that plaintiff has abused the privilege of proceeding IFP and proposes to issue an Order barring him from filing any new civil actions in this judicial district without payment of the applicable filing fee. See Hurt, 544 F.3d at 311 (revoking IFP privilege, dismissing all appeals, and directing the Clerk "to refuse to accept any more of Hurt's civil appeals that are not accompanied by the appropriate filing fees.") Before the Court issues such an order, it must ...


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