United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE FINDINGS AND
RECOMMENDATIONS RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR COSTS AND STAY
Lawrence J. O'Neill UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE
Lacedric Johnson, a state prisoner proceeding pro se
and in forma pauperis in this action brought under
28 U.S.C. § 1983, previously brought a suit in state
court against the same Defendants based on the same facts,
but on different legal theories. After the parties litigated
briefly, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the case.
Approximately three months later, he filed this case.
now move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
41(d) to recoup the attorney's fees and
costs they expended in the state-court action, and request
that the Court stay this case until Plaintiff pays those fees
and costs. The Magistrate Judge issued Findings &
Recommendations (“F&Rs”), which recommended
that Defendants' request be denied entirely. See
Doc. 32 at 1. Defendants timely filed objections, and
Plaintiff timely filed a statement of non-opposition to the
F&Rs. Docs. 34, 35.
following reasons, the Court declines to adopt the F&Rs.
The Court finds that, as a matter of law, Defendants are not
entitled to an award of attorney's fees, but awards them
the costs associated with defending Plaintiff's
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
August 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Superior
Court for the County of Fresno, asserting two California
common law claims against Defendants for (1) intentional
infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) and (2)
conversion. Doc. 24 at 4. Defendants demurred, and in
December 2013, the trial court sustained the demurrer as to
the IIED claim, but overruled it as to the conversion claim.
Id. at 31. In April 2014, the trial court granted
Plaintiff's motion to dismiss the case voluntarily
without prejudice. Id. at 40.
months later, Plaintiff filed this case, which asserts
various constitutional claims and reasserted Plaintiff's
conversion claim against the same Defendants named in the
state-court case based on the same facts as alleged in
Plaintiff's state court case. Plaintiff testified that he
did so because, among other reasons, (1) other prison
officers-not Defendants-physically assaulted him and
interfered with his ability to litigate the case, and (2) he
“chose to pursue the claims in the federal forum which
better protects inmates['] fundamental rights during
litigation and is better served to promote the judicial
process.” Doc. 38 at 5. After twice screening
Plaintiff's complaint, the Court eventually found
Plaintiff had stated certain constitutional claims, and
exercised supplemental jurisdiction over the conversion
claim. See Docs. 16, 20, 22. This case now proceeds
on those claims. See Docs. 20, 22.
after being served, Defendants filed a motion under Rule
41(d) to recover the costs they expended in defending
Plaintiff's state-court case and to stay this case until
Plaintiff pays those costs, with a deadline of sixty days.
Doc. 23. Defendants request approximately $400 in costs and
$4, 100 in attorney's fees, for a total of approximately
$4, 500 in fees and costs. See Doc. 23-1 at 5.
Magistrate Judge issued F&Rs in which she recommends that
Defendants' motion be denied entirely. Doc. 32. The
Magistrate Judge reasoned that to award Defendants fees and
costs with a sixty- day deadline, when Plaintiff is a
prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, would
effectively amount to a dismissal, which is “an unduly
harsh penalty.” Doc. 32 at 5.
object to the F&Rs “as effectively exempting
Plaintiff from Rule41(d) due to his in forma
pauperis status, ” and ask the Court to conduct a
de novo review of their Rule 41(d) motion. Doc. 34 at 2
(citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Rule 72(b)(3)).
Plaintiff has no objections to the F&Rs.Doc. 34.
Rule 41(d) provides in relevant part:
If a plaintiff who previously dismissed an action in any
court files an action based on or including the same claim
against the same defendant, the court: (1) may order the
plaintiff to pay all or part of the costs of that previous
action; and (2) ...