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West v. Jackson County Jail

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 8, 2019

QUINCY L. WEST, Plaintiff,
JACKSON COUNTY JAIL, et. al., Defendants.


          Gary M. Purcell, Judge

         Plaintiff, a state prisoner appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff initiated this action on November 19, 2018. Doc. No. 1. On January 10, 2019, the undersigned issued an Order explaining that following the screening of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B), the undersigned concluded Plaintiff's claims were deficient in several respects. Doc. No. 14. Plaintiff appears to be attempting to assert three Eighth Amendment claims related to conditions of confinement, excessive force, and medical care. Id. at 2-3. However, as explained in the Court's Order, his allegations are insufficient standing alone to support his claims. Id. at 3-7. Additionally, Plaintiff's factual allegations supporting his claims do not refer to any actions by, or omissions of, an individual defendant. Id. at 7-8. After detailing the deficiencies, the undersigned granted Plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint to allege plausible constitutional claims and ordered him to do so no later than February 11, 2019. Id. at 10.

         Instead of filing an amended pleading, Plaintiff filed a letter with the Court that, even construed broadly, did not cure the deficiencies explained in the Court's previous Order. Doc. No. 15. On February 20, 2019, the undersigned provided Plaintiff another opportunity to file an amended complaint no later than March 5, 2019, and also enclosed a court-approved form for 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions. Doc. No. 16.

         Following Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's Order, the undersigned issued an Order to Show Cause on March 15, 2019, directing Plaintiff to show cause why his action should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute and/or failure to comply with the Court's orders. Doc. No. 17. To date, Plaintiff has neither filed an amended pleading, nor responded to the Court's Order to Show Cause.

         II. Standard for Dismissal

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b), the Court may dismiss an action, sua sponte, if “the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with . . . a court order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); see also Olsen v. Mapes, 333 F.3d 1199, 1204 n.3 (10th Cir. 2003) (holding that despite Rule 41(b)'s reference to a defendant's motion, “the Rule has long been interpreted to permit courts to dismiss actions sua sponte for a plaintiff's failure to prosecute or comply with the rules of civil procedure or court's orders”). “The ‘authority of a court to dismiss sua sponte for lack of prosecution has generally been considered an inherent power, governed . . . by the control necessarily vested in courts to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.'” U.S. ex rel. Jimenez v. Health Net, Inc., 400 F.3d 853, 855 (10th Cir. 2005) (quoting Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-31 (1962)). “The federal courts are not a playground for the petulant or absent-minded; our rules and orders exist, in part, to ensure that the administration of justice occurs in a manner that most efficiently utilizes limited judicial resources.” Id. at 856.

         While a court should impose “dismissal for failure to prosecute . . . only after careful exercise of judicial discretion, ” “dismissal is an appropriate disposition against a party who disregards court orders and fails to proceed as required by court rules.” Id. at 855. However, because dismissal with prejudice is an “extreme sanction, ” appropriate only in cases of willful misconduct, the court must consider: (1) “the degree of actual prejudice” to defendants; (2) “the amount of interference with the judicial process”; (3) Plaintiff's “culpability”; (4) “whether the court warned [Plaintiff] in advance that dismissal of the action would be a likely sanction for noncompliance”; and (5) if “lesser sanctions” would be more effective. Ehrenhaus v. Reynolds, 965 F.2d 916, 921 (10th Cir. 1992) (quotations omitted); see also Gripe v. City of Enid, 312 F.3d 1184, 1188 (10th Cir. 2002) (holding that when a court dismisses a complaint with prejudice under Rule 41(b), it should consider the “‘Ehrenhaus criteria'”) (quoting Mobley v. McCormick, 40 F.3d 337, 340-41 (10th Cir. 1997)).

         III. Analysis

         Although plaintiff proceeds without an attorney, he bears the responsibility of prosecuting this case with due diligence. The Court must liberally construe pro se filings; however, pro se status does not excuse the obligation of any litigant to comply with the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. Green v. Dorrell, 969 F.2d 915, 917 (10th Cir. 1992); see also Nielsen v. Price, 17 F.3d 1276, 1277 (10th Cir. 1994). Plaintiff has disregarded this Court's explicit Orders regarding the filing of an amended complaint, thereby unduly delaying resolution of this matter.

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure give a district court ample tools to deal with a recalcitrant litigant, including dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(b). Jones v. Thompson, 996 F.2d 261, 264 (10th Cir. 1993). Applying the Ehrenhaus factors, supra., the undersigned finds Plaintiff's failure to prosecute and comply with the Court's Order warrants dismissal.

         Regarding the first factor, Plaintiff's failure to file a pleading conforming to the Order for an amended complaint adversely affects potential defendants in this matter by keeping the lawsuit in limbo and depriving them of the opportunity to defend against claims asserted against them. Additionally, the absence of a pleading complying with the Court's Order impedes the Court's ability to review pleadings from Plaintiff and future defendants for consideration in reaching a fair and just conclusion of Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff's inaction is inconsistent with the true adjudication of an adverse and non-frivolous dispute.

         Second, continued noncompliance with the judicial process by failing to comply with the Court's Orders flouts the Court's authority, similar to the Tenth Circuit's determination in Ehrenhaus. Ehrenhaus, 965 F.2d at 921. Additionally, Plaintiff's persistent failure to comply with the Court's Orders compels the Court's continuous monitoring of this matter and unnecessary issuance of orders, in turn ...

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