United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, United States District Judge
United States of America sued Defendant John Steele on behalf
of the Internal Revenue Service over Mr. Steele's failure
to pay federal income taxes. In the complaint, the Government
seeks a judgment as to Mr. Steele's indebtedness and a
tax lien on a farm in Bagdad, Kentucky. Mr. Steele has since
filed a number of motions in attempt to dismiss this lawsuit,
as has the United States and the Court addresses the most
recent of these here. For the following reasons, Mr.
Steele's motions are DENIED and the
motion of the United States is GRANTED.
John K. Steele, a sovereign citizen, believes that he has no
duty to pay federal income taxes. [R. 12.] Because of this,
he also maintains that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear
this case. Id. As a result of his failure to pay
taxes, the United States brought this action seeking judgment
that Mr. Steele is indebted to the Government as well as a
tax lien on Mr. Steele's property.
Mr. Steele has filed a Motion to Strike Ex Parte
Conference for Joint Report of Rule 26(f) Report held on
March 2, 2017, because he believes the conference violated a
court order. [R. 32.] Mr. Steele claims this Court
“ordered that the initial attorneys conference would be
stayed until March 3, 2017, ” and thus, by holding the
conference on March 2, the parties violated this order. [R.
32 at 2.]
the Rule 26(f) conference was not stayed; this Court granted
a stay for the deadline of the conference, pushing
the deadline from February 17, 2017 to March 3, 2017. [R.
26.] Therefore, the March 2, 2017, Rule 26(f) conference was
timely: it was not held in violation of a court order. Mr.
Steele received notice of the deadline by receipt of the
Court's Order [R. 26], and while a pro se
litigant is afforded more leniency than litigants represented
by legal counsel, such leniency has limits: “Where . .
. a pro se litigant fails to comply with easily
understood court-imposed deadlines, there is no basis for
treating that party more generously than a represented
litigant.” Pilgram v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d
413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996).
Mr. Steele claims he was not provided notice of the
conference. [R. 32 at 2.] In the Joint Rule 26(f)
Report, the other parties indicated they had attempted to
contact Mr. Steele, but were unable to do so because he had
not provided a working e-mail address or telephone number.
[R. 30 at 1.] The Eastern District of Kentucky requires all
pleadings to include the “name, address, and telephone
number of the filing party's attorney(s) of record or, if
the party is not represented by counsel, of the filing
party.” LR 5.1(a). In addition to these requirements,
all pro se litigants must include a current
telephone number, residential address, and mailing address in
their first filing. LR 5.2(d). Failure to provide the
required information can result in dismissal (when the
pro se litigant is the plaintiff) or sanctions.
Id. Mr. Steele provided his mailing address in his
first filing to this Court, however, he did not provide a
phone number or e-mail address. [R. 12.] Nor did he offer an
explanation for such deficiencies. Prior to this meeting, the
United States already requested a fourteen-day extension of
the deadline, in part, because they were still attempting to
reach Mr. Steele to schedule the conference. [R. 24.] The
Order granting that extension was mailed to Mr. Steele,
demonstrating to him that the other parties had attempted to
contact him. Because the United States did provide its e-mail
address, telephone number, and address [R. 24 at 2], Mr.
Steele could have then responded to the Government's
motion to this Court or contacted the Government to schedule
the conference. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 26 requires parties to
confer “as soon as practicable” to plan for
discovery. While Mr. Steele may not have had actual notice of
the date of the conference, as opposing counsel had been
unable to reach him, he had adequate constructive notice of
the pending requirement to convene and should have known that
other parties would attempt to schedule the required meeting.
Mr. Steele's absence at the meeting is a product of his
own failure to provide adequate contact information and
failure to proceed in this action according to the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of the Eastern
District of Kentucky, not because of any malice or negligence
of another party. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to
Strike the Rule 26(f) Report [R. 32] is
next motion, Mr. Steele filed a Mandatory Judicial Notice and
Motion for Sanctions, requesting this Court to sanction the
United States' Attorney, Mr. Kyle Bishop, for his
“disregard for due process.” [R. 46.] On May 1,
2017, the United States filed a motion electronically for
Partial Summary Judgment against Mr. Steele. [R. 41.] This
motion was served on Mr. Steele via United States Postal
Service, but was returned to Mr. Bishop undelivered. [R. 46
at 1.] Mr. Bishop immediately contacted Mr. Steele on June 7,
2017, when he received the returned motion. Id. Mr.
Steele received an e-mailed copy of the motion on June 7,
2017, the same day as Mr. Bishop's phone call.
Id. Though Mr. Steele did not receive the motion
until five weeks after it was filed, this Court has not yet
entered a scheduling order for this matter to set deadlines
for dispositive motions, nor has this Court ruled on the
Government's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Though
the five week delay did not permit Mr. Steele to answer
within twenty-one (21) days, as required by Local Rule 7.1,
the Court will afford Mr. Steele more leniency as a pro
se litigant. Mr. Steele's Response was filed on
June 19, 2017, within twenty-one days of receiving the United
States' motion via email, thus, this Court will permit an
extension of the deadline in this case to consider Mr.
Steele's Response [R. 47] timely. Therefore, any delay in
Mr. Steele receiving the Motion has not caused any undue
hardship or prejudice for him.
Court finds no basis to sanction Mr. Bishop. The record does
not reflect any dishonesty or malicious behavior on behalf of
Mr. Bishop. Accordingly, Mr. Steele's Motion for
Sanctions against Mr. Bishop [R. 46] is
Mr. Steele has filed a counterclaim against the United
States, citing a failure to adequately “establish and
disclose clear explanations of the [tax] laws” as a
defense to this lawsuit. [R. 44.] The United States filed
their complaint against Mr. Steele on December 2, 2016, and
Mr. Steele was personally served on December 10, 2016, at his
residence in Cincinnati, Ohio. [R. 1; R. 4.] Rather than file
an Answer within 21 days, as required by Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
12(a)(1)(A), Mr. Steele sent the United States a letter on
December 27, 2017, stating his response would be filed within
the next thirty (30) days. [R. 6.] On January 30, 2017, Mr.
Steele filed his Answer, without stating any counterclaims or
cross-claims. On May 30, 2017, Mr. Steele filed a
counterclaim against the United States, claiming a failure to
adequately “establish and disclose clear explanations
of the [tax] laws.” [R. 44.] The United States moved to
dismiss this Counterclaim on July 6, 2017. [R. 53]. Mr.
Steele filed an Opposition to R. 53 Motion to Dismiss