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Sullivan v. Allen

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

February 28, 2018

BRADDIE SULLIVAN, Plaintiff,
v.
LISA ALLEN, DAVE BAKER and RANDY JONES, Defendants.

          GUYTON JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          REEVES JUDGE

         This is a pro se prisoner's civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Braddie Sullivan (“Plaintiff”) against Defendants Lisa Allen, Dave Baker and Randy Jones.[1] Plaintiff's complaint alleges that he was terminated from his prison work position in retaliation for having filed a grievance alleging that an African-American inmate with less seniority had received a work position that Plaintiff had sought [Doc. 1].

         On May 15, 2017, the Court issued a scheduling order setting this case for trial on April 17, 2018, and establishing firm deadlines for discovery, dispositive motions and pretrial statements [Doc. 27]. Pursuant to that order, Plaintiff was directed to file a Pretrial Narrative Statement on or before February 13, 2018, and was advised explicitly that his “failure to file a Pretrial Narrative Statement will result in dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint for failure to prosecute and to comply with the orders of this Court” [Doc. 27 ¶ 6].

         The February 13, 2018, deadline has passed and Plaintiff has not filed a Pretrial Narrative Statement. Accordingly, this action will be DISMISSED for want of prosecution under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).

         I. Rule 41(b) Analysis

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) provides for involuntary dismissal of a complaint if “the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order . . . .” See, e.g., Knoll v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 176 F.3d 359, 362-63 (6th Cir. 1999). Dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) may be sua sponte. Jourdan v. Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 109 (6th Cir. 1991). In determining whether involuntary dismissal is warranted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b) for failure to prosecute, a court is to consider four factors:

(1) whether the party's failure is due to willfulness, bad faith, or fault; (2) whether the adversary was prejudiced by the dismissed party's conduct; (3) whether the dismissed party was warned that failure to cooperate could lead to dismissal; and (4) whether less drastic sanctions were imposed or considered before dismissal was ordered.

Schafer v. City of Defiance Police Dep't, 529 F.3d 731, 737 (6th Cir. 2008).

         As to the first factor, the Court finds that Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's scheduling order is due to his own willfulness and fault. Local Rule 83.13 imposes upon a pro se litigant the obligation to both monitor the progress of his case and to prosecute it diligently. Moreover, that same rule provides that the failure of a pro se Plaintiff to timely respond to an order sent to the last address provided to the Clerk may result in dismissal of the case. Here, the docket entry for the scheduling order bears the notation “c/m” [Doc. 27], indicating that a copy was mailed to Plaintiff at his reported address, and there is no indication in the record that the order was returned as undeliverable or that he did not receive it.

         The case law is clear that “while pro se litigants may be entitled to some latitude when dealing with sophisticated legal issues, acknowledging their lack of formal training, there is no cause for extending this margin to straightforward procedural requirements that a layperson can comprehend as easily as a lawyer.” Jourdan, 951 F.2d at 109. The Court's scheduling order set a clear and firm deadline for the filing of a Pretrial Narrative Statement and Plaintiff nevertheless failed to adhere to that deadline, in violation of both the local rules and the scheduling order itself. Accordingly, the first factor weighs in favor of dismissal.

         As to the second factor, the Court finds that there is some prejudice to Defendants as Plaintiff's failure to comply timely with the Court's order will impact their ability to prepare for trial.

         As to the third factor, the record reflects that Plaintiff expressly was warned that a failure to file a Pretrial Narrative Statement by February 13, 2018, as directed would result in dismissal of his complaint for failure to prosecute and to comply with the orders of this Court. [Doc. 27 ¶ 6]. In addition, Local Rule 83.13 also cautions that the failure of a pro se party to timely respond to an order may result in dismissal of the case or other appropriate action. Thus, Plaintiff's failure to adhere to the scheduling order despite being placed on notice of the consequences of non-compliance also weighs in favor of dismissal.

         Finally, as to the fourth factor, the Court finds that any alternative sanctions would not be effective. The Court already placed Plaintiff on notice that his failure to comply with the Court's scheduling order would be grounds for dismissal. Nevertheless, Plaintiff failed to file a Pretrial Narrative Statement within the allotted time and otherwise has not monitored the progress of the case. Moreover, Plaintiff's non-compliance with the Court's scheduling order is not limited to his failure to file a Pretrial Narrative Statement, but ...


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