Court Opinion: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Oct. 24

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

Goodge v. Montgomery et al.

Michael Goodge filed two identical civil complaints in the district court. The district court dismissed without prejudice the second of those complaints. Goodge appealed that dismissal. Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S. Code 1291, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Goodge is a prisoner at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center in Colorado Springs. On June 30, Goodge filed with the district court a pro se prisoner complaint against six named defendants, Valerie Montgomery, Taylor Fithan, Patrick Kennedy, Joseph Roy Ball, Kip Hallman and Jorge Dominics. The district court docketed the complaint as case number 1:23-cv-01691-SBP, the opinion noted.

On that same day, Goodge sent the clerk of the district court a pro se handwritten letter, along with a handwritten affidavit that was similar in some respects to a civil complaint. The clerk of the district court construed the documents as a civil complaint and, in turn, docketed them as a new civil case with case number 1:23-cv-01692-SBP, the opinion added.

The magistrate judge assigned to the 01692 case issued an order directing Goodge to cure deficiencies in the filed documents by completing and filing a “current District of Colorado form Prisoner complaint.” The order also directed Goodge to complete and file a motion and affidavit for leave to proceed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915.

On July 24, Goodge filed a set of pro se documents that included a motion and affidavit for leave to proceed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915, as well as a three-page handwritten document describing the testimony of a witness whose testimony he intended to present. Notably, Goodge handwrote both the 01691 case number and the 01692 case number on his documents, the opinion noted. The clerk of the district court docketed the documents as a prisoner complaint in the 01692 case.

On Aug. 7, the district court issued an order dismissing the 01692 case without prejudice as duplicative of the 01691 case. The district court noted Goodge “ha[d] submitted the same letters, motions, and Prisoner Complaint” in each case, and “[a]s a result, the parties, claims, and relief sought by [Goodge] in the two cases [we]re identical and duplicative of one another.” “Because th[e] [01692] case [wa]s identical and duplicative of” the 01691 case, i.e., “the lower-numbered action,” the district court chose to dismiss “th[e] higher- numbered second action . . . without prejudice.” The district court also, in its order of dismissal, “certifie[d] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal from th[e] order would not be taken in good faith and therefore” denied Goodge “in forma pauperis status . . . for the purpose of appeal.” 

The district court entered judgment in the case that same day. Goodge then filed a notice of appeal.

Goodge, in his opening brief, repeated many of the allegations contained in both of the complaints he filed in the district court, the opinion added. Goodge didn’t, however, challenge the district court’s conclusion the 01692 case was duplicative of the pending 01691 case.

According to the opinion, it’s well-established federal district courts possess the power to administer their own dockets, citing the decision Hartsel Springs Ranch of Colo., Inc. v. Bluegreen Corp. The district court dismissed the 01692 case without prejudice because it was duplicative of the pending 01691 case, the opinion added. By doing so, the district court clearly intended to conserve judicial resources and promote the efficient disposition of Goodge’s claims, the opinion continued. 

The 10th Circuit found no abuse of discretion on the part of the district court in dismissing the 01692 case without prejudice.

The judgment of the district court was affirmed by the 10th Circuit and Goodge’s motion to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis was denied.

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