Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Benton Division, No. CV 84-4367
Before CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge, and WRIGHT, Senior Circuit Judge.*fn*
In this case, a United States magistrate construed written communication from inmate plaintiffs as a voluntary dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)(i). Plaintiffs-appellants appealed this dismissal of their action, contending it was involuntary due to circumstances, constituting duress. The appellees contend that this court lacks jurisdiction because the dismissal was voluntary and without prejudice and is therefore nonappealable. We hold that this court lacks jurisdiction to review the magistrate's dismissal, whether characterized as voluntary or involuntary, and we dismiss for lack of appellate jurisdiction.
Approximately two years prior to this litigation, United States Magistrate Meyers, whose district includes the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, issued an oral directive to the Bureau of Prisons requiring his approval prior to transferring inmates who have litigation pending in the Southern District. Transfers warranted by security or safety factors are approved by phone. In all other cases, absent compelling circumstances, inmates must remain at Marion so long as they have litigation pending. The magistrate claims that this directive has largely eliminated the extra administrative burdens and expenses of transferred prisoners' litigation.
On July 20, 1984, appellants Geaney and White, then federal prisoners at Marion, filed a lawsuit against federal prison officials and employees, claiming violations of their fifth, eighth, ninth, and fourteenth amendment rights under the Constitution.
In October 1984, appellants filed a pleading captioned "Motion Re Court's Transfer Prohibition." It requested relief from the magistrate's transfer directive and, in the alternative, requested that the magistrate dismiss the appellants' suit. The pleading included notice that should the suit be dismissed, the appellants would appeal the dismissal as one obtained under duress. Magistrate Meyers construed the appellants' pleading as a notice of voluntary dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(8). Appellants were then transferred to federal prisons in Leavenworth, Kansas and Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. This appeal followed.
Appellees contend that plaintiffs lack standing to appeal because the dismissal was voluntary and without prejudice. Cauley v. Wilson, 754 F.2d 769, 770 (7th Cir. 1985).
Appellants argue that the dismissal was involuntary and appealable. They rely on United States v. Procter & Gamble Co., 356 U.S. 677, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1077, 78 S. Ct. 983 (1958). The court in Procter & Gamble was reviewing a dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b) where the government had refused to comply with a discovery order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 34. the government had requested that the discovery order be amended to provide that, if production of requested transcripts were not made, the court would dismiss the complaint. When the government persisted in its refusal to comply with the order, the district court entered a judgment of dismissal. The Court in Procter & Gamble held that the dismissal was appealable, noting: "When the Government proposed dismissal for failure to obey, it had lost on the merits and was only seeking an expeditious review." Id. at 680-81.
We need not decide whether this dismissal was voluntary or involuntary. WE lack jurisdiction under either analysis.
When a plaintiff voluntarily dismisses his action without prejudice, he receives the relief requested and has no rational basis to appeal the dismissal. Cauley, 754 F.2d at 771. Although the judgment is final, it is ordinarily not appealable because the dismissal does not qualify as an involuntary adverse judgment. 5 ...