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Madrid v. Pease

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 7, 2017

JOHN MADRID, Plaintiff,
v.
P. PEASE, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STAY CASE PENDING PAYMENT OF COSTS OF PRIOR ACTION FOURTEEN (14) DAY DEADLINE

          BARBARA A. MCAULIFFE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff John Madrid is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action proceeds on Plaintiff's second amended complaint against Defendants Pease, Mendez, Burnes, Thatcher, Aguerralde, and Sauceda for excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 17.) Plaintiff's claim stems from a use of force incident at Pleasant Valley State Prison (“PVSP”) on February 7, 2010. This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.

         Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion to stay this case pending the payment of costs of a prior action, filed on September 1, 2017 (ECF No. 23), along with a request for judicial notice in support of the motion (ECF No. 24.) Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendants' motion on October 10, 2017 (ECF No. 27), and Defendant filed a reply on October 17, 2017 (ECF No 28.) The motion is deemed submitted without oral argument. Local Rule 230(1).

         II. Motion to Stay Pending Payment of Costs

         Defendants assert that on March 7, 2011, Plaintiff brought a lawsuit in state court regarding claims arising out of the same incident as this current federal lawsuit, and that the state court lawsuit was subsequently dismissed as premature under California law. According to Defendants, they incurred unnecessary fees and costs in defending that premature suit.

         Further, Defendants assert that Defendants Burnes and Thatcher are also owed judgments from their small claims lawsuits against Plaintiff arising out of the same incident as this federal lawsuit. Although Defendants do not seek enforcement of those judgments here, they assert that the Court should consider those unpaid judgments in determining this motion.

         This incident was also previously litigated by Plaintiff in federal court, although it was voluntarily dismissed prior to service of any defendant. Nevertheless, Defendants assert that they were prejudiced by the passage in time of several years while the prior federal lawsuit was pending and while Plaintiff delayed in bringing the current lawsuit. In sum, Defendants argue that under the totality of the circumstances, Plaintiff should be ordered to pay the $546 in costs that they incurred in defending the initial state court lawsuit before he be allowed to proceed in this current federal lawsuit.

         Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing that the law cited by Defendants does not support their motion under the circumstances of this case. Plaintiff also argues that he was not assessed any costs in his state court lawsuit upon the dismissal of that action, which was without prejudice, and that he was never previously sanctioned or otherwise ordered to pay any costs before refiling suit.

         Defendants argue in reply that a defendant is not required to have sought an assessment of costs against Plaintiff in a prior lawsuit before moving for another court to require Plaintiff to pay those costs before proceeding in a later suit. They further argue that such a requirement would be unfair and would incentivize defendants to always seek costs, creating an undue hardship on plaintiffs as well. Defendants assert that the Court's broad powers allow it to require costs here to protect litigants from the harassment of repeated lawsuits, and that the payment of their costs from the initial state court action should be required as a prerequisite here.

         A. Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(d) provides as follows:

(d) Costs of a Previously Dismissed Action. 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) may stay the proceedings until the plaintiff has complied.

         Rule 41(d) gives federal courts broad discretion to order the payment of costs and to stay cases, though neither is mandatory. Esquivel v. Arau, 913 F.Supp. 1382, 1386 (C.D. Cal. 1996).

         On its face, Rule 41(d) applies to cases in which a “plaintiff . . previously dismissed an action in any court” and files a subsequent action; that is, when the prior litigation was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff. Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit has held that a court's power is not limited to situations involving voluntary dismissals. Rather, courts also have an inherent power to dismiss an action based on or including the same claim as a prior involuntarily ...


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