United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jeffrey Cole, Magistrate Judge.
plaintiff, Rondell Watts, has been given two 30-day
extensions in which to pay his $400 filing fee, or file a
complete and accurate application to proceed in forma
pauperis and explain the discrepancies between his
previous application and his testimony at his administrative
hearing on his application for Supplemental Security Income.
Each time the plaintiff was granted extra time to comply with
the court's orders, he was warned that failure to do so
could result in his case being dismissed. Under the most
recent order granting him an extension, dated May 12, 2016,
he had to comply by June 13, 2016. He has filed nothing, and
six months have passed. As this case has been inactive for
more than six months, it is dismissed for want of prosecution
under Local Rule 41.1.
Watts applied for Social Security disability benefits in
March 2011, claiming he was no longer able to work as of
March 1, 2008. [Dkt. #26 (Certified Transcript), at 402].
It's unclear what became of that application, but in July
2012, he tried again. [Dkt. #26 (Certified Transcript), at
415-21]. This time, he said he became unable to work as of
April 1, 2008 [Dkt. #26 (Certified Transcript), at 415, 446],
due to depression and anxiety. [Dkt. #26 (Certified
Transcript), at 505, 516]. Mr. Watts's application was
denied throughout the administrative process, with an
administrative law judge eventually conducting a hearing and
determining that he could still perform simple, medium work
that didn't involve more than incidental contact with the
public or joint tasks with other employees. [Dkt. #26
(Certified Transcript), at 53].
Watts then filed an action for review of the denial of his
application under 42 U.S.C. §405(g). He began the case
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. In
his November 9, 2015 in forma pauperis application,
he did not answer question 2(b) and the last job he held,
which would indicate he had never been employed. He did not
answer question 3, which asked whether he was married. He did
not answer question 4(d), which asked whether he received any
pension, social security benefits, disability, or life
insurance. Indeed, his responses to question 4 indicated
that, in the last twelve months, he had received no income of
any kind - not even public assistance or gifts. And, finally,
he did not answer question 11, which asks about dependents.
[Dkt. #4]. Given that the application was incomplete, the
court denied it on February 9, 2016, and gave Mr. Watts 30
days in which to file an amended application or pay the
filing fee. [Dkt. #20].
Watts filed a second application on February 19, 2016. This
time, he answered question 3, saying he wasn't married,
and answered question 11, saying he had no dependents. He
still left question 2(b) unanswered, again indicating that he
had never had a job. He answered question 4(d) in the
negative, claiming he received no pension, social security
benefits, disability, or life insurance. He continued to
claim that, in the previous 12 months, he had existed on no
income whatsoever; no salary, no benefits, no gifts, no
public assistance of any kind. [Dkt. #24, at 2; question 4].
Based on Mr. Watts's answers the second time around, his
application was granted. [Dkt. #25].
turned out to be a mistake. On March 2, 2016, the
Commissioner filed the Certified Transcript of the
administrative proceedings in Mr. Watts's claim, and it
became clear that Mr. Watts's in forma pauperis
application was not entirely accurate. At his administrative
hearings, Mr. Watts testified that he received multiple forms
of public assistance [Dkt. #26 (Certified Transcript), at 78,
154-55, 164], contrary to his response to question 4(f) in
both of the applications he filed. Contrary to his response
to question 2(b) in both of his applications, he has had jobs
in the past, most recently in 2010. [Dkt. #26 (Certified
Transcript), at 79, 119-21, 132-33, 425, 430-32, 462-65].
There was also testimony indicating that his girlfriend and
family gave him money [Dkt. #26 (Certified Transcript), at
93-94, 132, 164], contrary to his answers to questions 4(e)
order dated March 8, 2016, the court denied Mr. Watts'
second application. It pointed out the foregoing
discrepancies, and indicated that, given some of the
prevarication in his administrative hearing testimony
regarding his criminal history and illegal drug use [Dkt. #26
(Certified Transcript), at 104-05], the suspicion was that he
had lied on his application and his claim of impecuniousness
was unreliable. But, the order did allow that Mr. Watts may
have made a mistake. Mr. Watts' in forma
pauperis application was then denied, and he was given
30 days in which to pay the filing fee or his case would be
dismissed. [Dkt. #26].
days came and went and there was nothing from Mr. Watts. The
court entered another order on April 11, 2016, noting that
Mr. Watts had had two chances to file a proper application to
proceed in forma pauperis and hadn't managed to
do so. The court also noted that Mr. Watts had failed to
comply with the previous order in the time allowed. But, as
he was proceeding pro se, the court gave him an
additional 30 days in which to pay the filing fee to avoid
dismissal of his case, or to file a statement explaining the
contradictions between his application and the administrative
record in his case. [Dkt. #28].
before the deadline, on May 10, 2016, Mr. Watts filed a
motion for an extension of time because he has carpal tunnel
syndrome and it takes him more time to write things. He also
said that he was on Prozac the day of his administrative
hearing, and didn't know when he filled out his second
application that he had to change his answer to say he
received public assistance. [Dkt. #29, at 1, 47]. He attached
a number of exhibits that did seem to indicate he was being
treated for carpal tunnel syndrome, and in an order dated May
12, 2016, the court granted Mr. Watts's motion for an
extension of time. The court gave him a final chance, and an
additional 30 days, to comply with the court's orders -
by paying the filing fee or providing a statement explaining
the contradictions between his in forma pauperis
applications and the administrative record in his case - or
his case would be dismissed. The court pointed out that the
fact that he was on Prozac during the hearing could not
account for those discrepancies. Prozac would not cause him
to fabricate a work history or receipt of public assistance.
It certainly could not account for the documentary evidence
supporting his work history. The problem, the court
explained, was not with Mr. Watts's administrative
hearing testimony, it was with his answers on his
applications. [Dkt. #30].
then, as already noted, the court has heard nothing from Mr.
Watts. Under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(A), a court must
dismiss a case if the allegation of poverty in an in
forma pauperis application is untrue. Thomas v. Gen.
Motors Acceptance Corp., 288 F.3d 305, 306 (7th Cir.
2002). In this instance, while Mr. Watts may have lied in his
application, that doesn't necessarily mean his allegation
of poverty was untrue. Still, lying on an IFP application
ought to warrant some sanction, see McRoyal v.
Commonwealth Edison Co., 263 F.App'x 500, 502 (7th
Cir. 2008)(“. . . the wrongful act of making false
statements to the court is always harmful.”), but the
problem is a monetary sanction in a case like this probably
wouldn't have much effect. Thomas, 288 F.3d at
307. As it happens, the court need not parse these
considerations because Mr. Watts compounded his situation by
failing to comply with the most recent court order for over
six months. Under Local Rule 41.1, that warrants dismissal.
Even pro se litigants must follow the rules. See
McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993);
Jenkins v. Miles, 553 Fed.Appx. 638, 640-641 (7th
Cir. 2014)(Posner, J.)(affirming dismissal of pro se
plaintiffs case); S.E.C. v. Spadaccini, 256
Fed.Appx. 794, 795 (7th Cir. 2007). Cf. Korsunskiy v.
Gonzales, 461 F.3d 847, 850 (7th Cir. 2006).
foregoing reasons, the plaintiffs case is dismissed ...