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White v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

August 7, 2019

AMETHYST NICOLE WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL,[1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          DEBRA C. POPLIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Rules of this Court, and Standing Order 13-02. On June 14, 2019, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause [Doc. 18] directing Plaintiff to show cause on or before June 28, 2019, for her failure to file a dispositive motion and brief in support as directed by the Court's July 16, 2018 Order [Doc. 16]. Plaintiff filed a Response on June 28, 2019, [Doc. 19] stating multiple reasons for why she had not filed her dispositive motion, including several deaths in her family. The Court then entered an Order [Doc. 20] on July 3, 2019, directing Plaintiff to file her dispositive motion and brief in support within thirty days. This deadline has passed without the filing of a dispositive motion. For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned will RECOMMEND that the District Court dismiss this action without prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint [Doc. 1] against the Defendant due to a denial of Title XVI disability benefits. After Plaintiff failed to perfect service within the ninety-day deadline, on March 22, 2018, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause on or before April 4, 2018, as to why her case should not be dismissed. [Doc. 7]. After Plaintiff filed a Motion for an Extension of Time to File [Doc. 8], on April 11, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff an additional forty-five days to effectuate proper service [Doc. 9]. Plaintiff then properly served the Defendant. [Doc. 11].

         After the Commissioner filed his Answer [Doc. 12], the Court entered an Order [Doc. 16] on July 16, 2018, setting forth a briefing scheduling. Specifically, Plaintiff was ordered to file a dispositive motion and a brief in support within forty-five (45) calendar days from the date of the Court's Order. The forty-five (45) day deadline expired on August 30, 2018, without any response from Plaintiff. Based upon Plaintiff's failure to file a dipositive motion, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause [Doc. 18] on June 14, 2019. The Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause on or before June 28, 2019, as to why the undersigned should not recommend to the District Court that this matter be dismissed without prejudice for her failure to prosecute. [Doc. 18]. After Plaintiff responded [Doc. 19], the Court ordered Plaintiff to file her dispositive motion and brief in support by August 2, 2019 [Doc. 20].

         Plaintiff subsequently filed a letter from Karen Moyers, A.P.N.-B.C. [Doc. 21], stating that Plaintiff is a part of the outpatient Program for Assertive Community Treatment at the Helen Ross McNabb Center, detailed Plaintiff's history of mental illness, and requested that Plaintiff's disability “should be backdated to May 2014 instead of May 2016.” [Id. at 3].

         II. ANALYSIS

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), courts have inherent power to dismiss an action due to a plaintiff's failure “to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order.” See Carter v. City of Memphis, Tenn., 636 F.2d 159, 161 (6th Cir. 1980) (“It is clear that the district court does have the power under Rule 41(b), Fed. R. Civ. P., to enter a sua sponte order of dismissal.”) (citing Link v. Wabash R. Co., 370 U.S. 626 (1962)). “The power to invoke this sanction is necessary in order to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and to avoid congestion in the calendars of the District Courts.” Link, 370 U.S. at 629. Moreover, “a district court can dismiss an action for noncompliance with a local rule . . . if the behavior of the noncomplying party rises to the level of a failure to prosecute under Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Tetro v. Elliott Popham Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, & GMC Trucks, Inc., 173 F.3d 988, 992 (6th Cir. 1999). This District's local rules admonish pro se plaintiffs that “[t]he failure . . . to timely respond to an order or pleading addressed to the last address provided to the Clerk may result in dismissal of the case or other appropriate action.” E.D.TN. LR 83.13.

         District Courts consider the following four factors in determining whether to dismiss an action for failure to prosecute under Rule 41(b):

(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 Dept., 529 F.3d 731, 737 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Knoll v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 176 F.3d 359, 363 (6th Cir. 1999)). “‘Although typically none of the factors is outcome dispositive, . . . a case is properly dismissed by the district court where there is a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct.'” Id.

         In the present matter, the Court finds that the record demonstrates delay and contumacious conduct. The Court has repeatedly directed and instructed Plaintiff of missed deadlines, first ordering Plaintiff to show cause regarding her failure to perfect service within the ninety-day deadline. After service was effectuated, and the Court entered a briefing schedule, Plaintiff failed to file her dispositive motion and brief in support. While Plaintiff responded [Doc. 19] to the Court's Order [Doc. 18] directing her to show cause as to why her case should not be dismissed for the failure to prosecute, she subsequently failed to file her dispositive motion, despite the Court warning her that “her failure to meet this extended deadline may result in the dismissal of her case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).” [Doc. 20 at 2].

         The Court notes that Plaintiff responded to the Court's most recent orders [Docs. 19 & 21]. However, Plaintiff again failed to file a dispositive motion setting forth her claims, even as Plaintiff's dispositive motion was originally required to be filed by August 30, 2018. At this point, over eleven months have passed, and the Court is unable to ascertain the alleged errors committed by the Commissioner in the disability decision. Further, even liberally construing Plaintiff's response, the Court is unable to interpret it as a motion for summary judgment.[2]

         Plaintiff has been given ample time to prosecute her case, as well as adequate notice that the failure to file a dispositive motion or comply with the Court's deadlines would result in this Court recommending that her case be dismissed. Given Plaintiffs pattern of failing to meet deadlines imposed by the Court, the Court finds that the only appropriate sanction is dismissal.[3]See Jourdan v. Jabe,951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991) (holding that ...


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