Assigned on Briefs May 1, 2017
from the Chancery Court for Hardeman County No. 15563 William
C. Cole, Chancellor
appeal arises from the dismissal of a pro se inmate's
complaint for failure to prosecute. After filing his
complaint in 2005, the plaintiff took no action in the case
for more than 10 years. In 2015, the trial court directed the
plaintiff to show cause why the case should not be dismissed
for failure to prosecute. Instead of providing an explanation
for the delay, the plaintiff sought a default judgment
against the defendant. The trial court then dismissed the
case with prejudice. On appeal, we find no abuse of
discretion in the trial court's decision. We therefore
affirm the judgment of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed and Remanded
Lamar Hayes, Whiteville, Tennessee, Pro se.
I. Pentecost and Jonathan D. Buckner, Jackson, Tennessee, for
the appellee, Glen Turner, Warden, Hardeman County
B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., and John W. McClarty, J.,
B. GOLDIN, JUDGE.
and Procedural History
David Hayes is an inmate at the Hardeman County Correctional
Facility in Whiteville, Tennessee. Respondent/Appellee Glen
Turner is the warden of that facility. On August 10, 2005,
Mr. Hayes filed a pro se action against Mr. Turner in the
Hardeman County Chancery Court seeking to obtain documents
related to his incarceration. On September 6, 2005, Mr.
Turner submitted the requested documents to the trial court
for release to Mr. Hayes as determined by the court. No
further action was taken in the case until December 2015.
December 1, 2015, the trial court issued a written notice to
Mr. Hayes that the case would be dismissed for failure to
prosecute absent a showing of good cause. Mr. Hayes responded
by filing a motion for default judgment against Mr. Turner in
the amount of $12 million. Mr. Turner then filed a motion to
dismiss and a response in opposition to Mr. Hayes's
motion for default judgment. On May 18, 2016, the trial court
entered an order denying Mr. Hayes's motion for default
judgment and dismissing the case with prejudice. Thereafter,
Mr. Hayes timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court.
Hayes challenges the trial court's decision to dismiss
the case for failure to prosecute. As he did in the trial
court, Mr. Hayes represents himself pro se on appeal. Parties
who decide to represent themselves are entitled to equal
treatment by the courts. Murray v. Miracle, 457
S.W.3d 399, 402 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014). Nevertheless, the
courts must not excuse pro se litigants from complying with
the same substantive and procedural rules that represented
parties are expected to observe. Hessmer v. Hessmer,
138 S.W.3d 901, 903 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003). Accordingly, Mr.
Hayes, like any other plaintiff in a civil proceeding, had an
obligation to pursue his claims in a manner consistent with
the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. See Morris v.
State, 21 S.W.3d 196, 202 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1999).
judges inherently possess broad authority to control their
dockets and the proceedings in their courts. Hodges v.
Attorney Gen., 43 S.W.3d 918, 921 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000).
Moreover, the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure expressly
authorize trial judges to dismiss cases for failure to
prosecute. Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41.02. The decision to dismiss a
case for failure to prosecute lies within the sound
discretion of the trial judge, and we will not reverse that
decision unless it appears that ...