United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION (ISSUING PREFILING
E. Hudson United States District Judge
action arises from Plaintiff William Sherrod Henderson's
("Plaintiff') ongoing, and historically meritless,
dispute with Defendant Michelle Mitchell
("Defendant"), former sheriff of Richmond,
Virginia. Plaintiff filed the present action on September 22,
2016. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) The Complaint contains no factual
allegations, and the attached Civil Cover Sheet merely states
"I was put into false imprisonment." (Id.)
Consequently, the Court dismissed the Complaint on September
27, 2016, for failure to state a claim. (Mem. Order, ECF No.
2.) Additionally, due to Plaintiffs continuous and harassing
pattern of filing meritless lawsuits against Defendant, the
Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause in writing as to why he
should not be permanently enjoined from future filings.
(Id.) Because he has failed to provide a sufficient
response to the Court's show cause Order, and for the
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff will be enjoined from
filing future lawsuits pertaining to the same subject matter
in this Court without prior approval.
October, 2014, Plaintiff began filing lawsuits in this Court
alleging that his signature was forged on a plea agreement
and that he was falsely imprisoned at the Richmond City Jail.
Since then, Plaintiff has brought a total of twelve civil
actions, all based on the same facts, naming a combination of
defendants, including Mitchell, one of her deputy sheriffs,
and an assistant public defender. In each case, the Court
granted Plaintiffs Motion to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis but dismissed the Complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction or for failure to state a claim. The
Court has given Plaintiff multiple opportunities to amplify
the legal and factual allegations of his Complaints.
See Order at 4, Henderson v. Former City Sheriff
of Richmond, et al, No. 3:16cvl55-HEH (E.D. Va. Mar. 14,
2016); Order at 4, Henderson v. Mitchell, et al.,
No. 3:16cv61-HEH (E.D. Va. Jan. 29, 2016); Order at 4,
Henderson v. Mitchell, et al., No. 3:15cv752-HEH
(E.D. Va. Dec. 10, 2015); Order at 4, Henderson v.
Commonwealth of Virginia, et al., No. 3:14cv684-HEH
(E.D. Va. Oct. 20, 2014). The Court has also warned Plaintiff
that continuing to file meritless actions could result in an
injunction preventing him from filing future lawsuits.
See Order at 3, Henderson v. Former City Sheriff
of Richmond, et al, No. 3:16cv486-HEH (E.D. Va.
July 7, 2016); Order at 3, Henderson v. Former City
Sheriff of Richmond, et al., No. 3:16cv359-HEH (E.D. Va.
June 20, 2016); Order at 4, Henderson v. Mitchell, et
al, No. 3:16cv246-HEH (E.D. Va. May 5, 2016).
Nevertheless, Plaintiff has continued his pattern of baseless
fillings, leaving the Court with no choice but to consider
whether a prefiling injunction is appropriate.
All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a), authorizes district
courts to restrict access to federal courts of parties who
repeatedly file frivolous litigation." Armstrong v.
Koury Corp., 16 F.Supp.2d 616, 620 (M.D. N.C. 1998)
(citing In re Burnley, 988 F.2d 1 (4th Cir. 1992)
(recognizing district court's power to impose limits upon
those who abuse the judicial system)). In so doing, "the
judge must ensure that the injunction is narrowly tailored to
fit the specific circumstances at issue." Cromer v.
Kraft Foods N. Am., Inc., 390 F.3d 812, 818 (4th Cir.
2004) (citation omitted). A prefiling injunction is
"narrowly tailored to fit the specific circumstances at
issue" when it "address[es] only filings in [a
particular action] or related actions." Cromer,
390 F.3d at 819; see also Thomas v. Fulton, 260
F.App'x 594, 596 (4th Cir. 2008) (holding that a district
court injunction was overbroad because it prohibited
plaintiff from any "further filings against government
officials and their counsel" without leave of court).
Additionally, prior to issuing a prefiling injunction, the
Court "must afford a litigant notice and an opportunity
to be heard." Cromer, 390 F.3d at 819.
determining whether a prefiling injunction is appropriate, a
court must weigh all of the relevant circumstances, including
the following four factors:
(1) the party's history of litigation, in particular
whether he has filed vexatious, harassing, or duplicative
lawsuits; (2) whether the party had a good faith basis for
pursuing the litigation, or simply intended to harass; (3)
the extent of the burden on the courts and other parties
resulting from the party's filings; and (4) the adequacy
of alternative sanctions.
Cromer, 390 F.3d at 818 (citing Safir v. United
States Lines, Inc., 792 F.2d 19, 24 (2d Cir. 1986)).
"Ultimately, the question the court must answer is
whether a litigant [with] a history of vexatious litigation
is likely to continue to abuse the judicial process and
harass other parties." Whitehead v. Paramount
Pictures Corp., No. 1:08cv792 (AJT), 2009 WL 1491402 at
*3 (E.D. Va. May 26, 2009) (quoting Safir, 792 F.2d
at 24). The record at hand supports such conclusions.
initial matter, a litigant is entitled to notice and an
opportunity to be heard before a court enjoins him from
filing. Cromer, 390 F.3d at 819. In this case, the
Court has provided Plaintiff with notice and an opportunity
to be heard by ordering him, on September 27, 2016, to show
cause in writing as to why a prefiling injunction should not
be issued. (See Mem. Order at 3-5, ECF No. 2.) That
Order specifically outlined the four Cromer
prefiling injunction factors and invited Plaintiff to address
them in his response. (Id.) The Court gave Plaintiff
a deadline of October 21, 2016, to respond to the show cause
Order. (Id.) On October 19, 2016, without addressing
the show cause Order, Plaintiff informed the Court in a
letter that he had relocated from Florida to California. (ECF
No. 4.) Thereafter, out of an abundance of caution, the Court
issued another show cause Order, delivered it via certified
mail to Plaintiffs California address, and extended his reply
deadline until November 15, 2016. (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff
received this notice. In addition to signing the certified
mail return receipt, (ECF No. 8), Plaintiff responded to the
Court's show cause Order by mailing the Court a copy of
the Order, a newly executed Motion to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis, and a copy of his original Complaint. (ECF No.
7.) Therefore, Plaintiff received ample notice of the
Court's intention to consider issuing a prefiling
injunction. He was also given an adequate opportunity to be
heard, but has chosen not to avail himself of that
opportunity by failing to address the issue.
to whether a prefiling injunction is appropriate, the Court
concludes that each Cromer factor weighs in favor of
enjoining Plaintiff. His recent pattern of filing lawsuits,
considered in conjunction with his previous litigation
history, necessitates a prefiling injunction. However, the
Court must emphasize that its goal is neither punitive nor
intended to foreclose good faith filings. Rather, it is
intended to impose reasonable limitations designed to
efficiently screen further litigation without hindering the
orderly administration of justice.
first factor to consider is Plaintiffs litigation history.
Cromer, 390 F.3d at 818. Plaintiff has now filed
twelve lawsuits stemming from the same set of facts, the six
most recent, within the span of five months. Despite repeated
dismissals, he relentlessly refiles similar complaints. It is
worth noting that a prefiling injunction was necessary to
curtail Plaintiffs incessant filing of employment
discrimination actions against Henrico County in 2013.
See Henderson v. County of Henrico Human Resources,
No. 3:1 Icv739-HEH, 2013 WL 871510 (E.D. Va. Mar. 8, 2013).
Likewise, his most recent series of filings demonstrates a
pattern that appears will continue without Court action. This
litigation history evinces a need for prefiling relief.
the Court must consider the lack of a good faith basis for
litigation. Cromer, 390 F.3d at 818. Plaintiff has
repeatedly been admonished by this Court that his claims
merely consist of baseless conclusory allegations and
conjecture. He is on notice that these threadbare claims are
insufficient, yet he continues to file the same unsupported
pleadings in each case. Because he expends no effort to
correct the deficiencies in his pleadings, even after being
repeatedly admonished to do so, each successive filing
repeats similar frivolous claims. ...