William Roberts v. Gavin Newsom et al

Filing 24

ORDER OF DISMISSAL by Judge Cormac J. Carney, IT THEREFORE IS ORDERED that this lawsuit is DISMISSED without prejudice. No further filings shall be accepted under this case number. re Complaint (Prisoner Civil Rights) 1 . (et)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 WILLIAM ROBERTS, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 15 Case No. 5:20-cv-01810-CJC (MAA) ORDER OF DISMISSAL v. GAVIN NEWSOM et al., Defendants. 16 17 18 I. SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS 19 On June 15, 2020, Plaintiffs Narvis Nonnette, William Roberts, and Richard 20 Cooper filed a pro se putative class action lawsuit in this Court as case no. 5:20-cv- 21 01218-CJC-MAA, alleging violations of their civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 22 § 1983 (“Nonnette”). (Nonnette Compl., ECF No. 1.) On June 19, 2020, the Court 23 advised the Nonnette plaintiffs that a putative class action lawsuit cannot be brought 24 pro se, that multiple inmate pro se plaintiffs cannot bring a single lawsuit in this 25 Court, and that each plaintiff separately is required to pay the full filing fee or 26 submit an application to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 4.) The Court 27 ordered each plaintiff to advise whether he wanted to proceed with the Nonnette 28 lawsuit, dismiss his claims, or sever his claims into a separate prisoner civil rights 1 action. (Id.) On August 28, 2020, Plaintiff William Roberts (“Plaintiff”) requested 2 that his claims be severed from the Nonnette case. (Nonnette ECF No. 13.) On 3 August 31, 2020, the Court granted Plaintiff’s request to sever his claims and 4 directed the clerk to docket the Nonnette Complaint in a new lawsuit with a new 5 case number. (Nonnette ECF No. 14.) 6 On September 3, 2020, the Nonnette Complaint was filed in this case solely 7 with respect to Plaintiff’s claims. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) After multiple applications 8 to proceed in forma pauperis, on February 5, 2021 the Court granted Plaintiff’s 9 amended Request to Proceed Without Prepayment of Filing Fees with Declaration 10 of Support. (ECF No. 19.) 11 On February 11, 2021, the Court screened the Complaint pursuant to 28 12 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B) and dismissed the Complaint with leave to 13 amend (“Order”). (Order, ECF No. 21.) The Order provided that “[n]o later than 14 March 15, 2021, Plaintiff must either: (1) file a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) 15 that addresses the deficiencies set forth above; or (2) advise the Court that Plaintiff 16 does not intend to pursue this lawsuit further and will not file a FAC.” (Id. at 4–5.) 17 The Order “advised that failure to comply with this order w[ould] result in a 18 recommendation that the lawsuit be dismissed without prejudice for failure to 19 prosecute and/or comply with court orders. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b); C.D. Cal. 20 L.R. 41-1.” (Id. at 5.) 21 On April 6, 2021, in the absence of a filed FAC, the Court issued an Order to 22 Show Cause (“OSC”), ordering Plaintiff to show cause by May 6, 2021 why the 23 Court should not recommend that the case be dismissed for want of prosecution. 24 (OSC, ECF No. 22.) The OSC stated that if Plaintiff filed a FAC or dismissed the 25 case before that date, the OSC would be discharged. (Id.) The OSC “advised that 26 failure to comply with this order w[ould] result in a recommendation that the 27 lawsuit be dismissed without prejudice for failure to prosecute and/or comply 28 with court orders. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b); C.D. Cal. L.R. 41-1.” (Id.) 2 1 On April 19, 2021, the OSC was returned to the Court as undeliverable by the 2 U.S. postal service. (ECF No. 23.) The returned envelope was stamped with “NOT 3 IN CUSTODY, RETURN TO SENDER.” (Id.) 4 To date, Plaintiff has failed to file a FAC, failed to respond to either the Order 5 or OSC, and has not updated his address with the Court. Indeed, Plaintiff has not 6 communicated with the Court since February 1, 2021. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 II. LEGAL STANDARD Central District of California Local Rule 41-6 states: A party proceeding pro se must keep the Court and all other parties informed of the party’s current address as well as any telephone number and email address. If a Court order or other mail served on a pro se plaintiff at his address of record is returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable and the pro se party has not filed a notice of change of address within 14 days of the service date of the order or other Court document, the Court may dismiss the action with or without prejudice for failure to prosecute. C.D. Cal. L.R. 41-6. 17 District courts may dismiss cases sua sponte for failure to prosecute or for 18 failure to comply with a court order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). 19 Hells Canyon Pres. Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 403 F.3d 683, 689 (9th Cir. 2005); 20 see also Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629–30 (1962) (holding that the 21 court has “inherent power” to dismiss cases sua sponte for lack of prosecution). 22 Unless the Court states otherwise, a dismissal under Rule 41(b) operates as an 23 adjudication on the merits. Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b). “Dismissal is a harsh penalty and 24 is to be imposed only in extreme circumstances.” In re: Phenylpropanolamine 25 (PPA) Prods. Liab. Litig., 460 F.3d 1217, 1226 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Malone v. 26 USPS, 833 F.2d 128, 130 (9th Cir. 1987)). 27 28 “A Rule 41(b) dismissal ‘must be supported by a showing of unreasonable delay.’” Omstead v. Dell, 594 F.3d 1081, 1084 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Henderson 3 1 v. Duncan, 779 F.2d 1421, 1423 (9th Cir. 1986)). In addition, the court must weigh 2 the following factors in determining whether a Rule 41(b) dismissal is warranted: 3 “(1) the public’s interest in expeditious resolution of litigation; (2) the court’s need 4 to manage its docket; (3) the risk of prejudice to the defendants/respondents; (4) the 5 availability of less drastic alternatives; and (5) the public policy favoring disposition 6 of cases on their merits.” Pagtalunan v. Galaza, 291 F.3d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 2002). 7 The Ninth Circuit will “affirm a dismissal where at least four factors support 8 dismissal, or where at least three factors strongly support dismissal.” Dreith v. Nu 9 Image, Inc., 648 F.3d 779, 788 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Yourish v. Cal. Amplifier, 10 191 F.3d 983, 990 (9th Cir. 1999)). Finally, “in order to warrant a sanction of 11 dismissal, the party’s violations of the court’s orders must be due to wilfulness or 12 bad faith.” Id. 13 14 III. 15 ANALYSIS A. 16 The Public’s Interest in Expeditious Resolution and the Court’s Need to Manage Its Docket 17 The first and second factors (the public’s interest in expeditious resolution of 18 litigation and the Court’s need to manage its docket) 1 weigh in favor of dismissal. 19 “Orderly and expeditious resolution of disputes is of great importance to the rule of 20 law.” In re: Phenylpropanolamine, 460 F.3d at 1227. “The public’s interest in 21 expeditious resolution of litigation always favors dismissal.” Pagtalunan, 291 F.3d 22 at 642 (quoting Yourish, 191 F.3d at 990). In addition, district courts “have an 23 inherent power to control their dockets,” In re: Phenylpropanolamine, 460 F.3d at 24 1227 (quoting Thompson v. Hous. Auth. of Los Angeles, 782 F.2d 829, 831 (9th Cir. 25 1986)), and “are best suited to determine when delay in a particular case interferes 26 27 28 1 The first two factors are usually reviewed together “to determine if there is an unreasonable delay.” In re Eisen, 31 F.3d 1447, 1452 (9th Cir. 1994). 4 1 with docket management and the public interest.” Yourish, 191 F.3d at 990 2 (quoting Ash v. Cvetkov, 739 F.2d 493, 496 (9th Cir. 1984)). 3 Plaintiff has failed to file a FAC or otherwise respond to the Order or OSC, 4 has failed to update his mailing address, and has not otherwise participated in this 5 lawsuit since February 1, 2021. The Court concludes that Plaintiff’s inaction and 6 lack of communication with the Court constitute willful unreasonable delay. See, 7 e.g., Thomas v. Maricopa Cnty. Jail, 265 F. App’x. 606, 607 (9th Cir. 2008) 8 (holding that district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing pro se prisoner 9 lawsuit for failure to respond to a court order for almost three months). Plaintiff’s 10 noncompliance also interferes with the public’s interest in the expeditious 11 resolution of this litigation and hinders the Court’s ability to manage its docket. See 12 In re: Phenylpropanolamine, 460 F.3d at 1227 (“[The Ninth Circuit] defer[s] to the 13 district court’s judgment about when a delay becomes unreasonable ‘because it is in 14 the best position to determine what period of delay can be endured before its docket 15 becomes unmanageable.”) (quoting In re Eisen, 31 F.3d at 1451)). The first and 16 second factors favor dismissal. 17 18 B. Risk of Prejudice to Defendants 19 The third factor (risk of prejudice to the defendants) also weighs in favor of 20 dismissal. “A defendant suffers prejudice if the plaintiff’s actions impair the 21 defendant’s ability to go to trial or threaten to interfere with the rightful decision of 22 the case.” In re: Phenylpropanolamine, 460 F.3d at 1227 (quoting Adriana Int’l 23 Corp. v. Thoeren, 913 F.2d 1406, 1412 (9th Cir. 1990)). “The law also presumes 24 prejudice from unreasonable delay.” Id. The risk of prejudice to a defendant is 25 related to a plaintiff’s reason for failure to prosecute an action. Pagtalunan, 291 26 F.3d at 642. “Whether prejudice is sufficient to support an order of dismissal is in 27 part judged with reference to the strength of the plaintiff’s excuse for the default.” 28 Malone, 833 F.2d at 131. 5 1 Plaintiff continuously has refused to file a FAC without explanation. As 2 Plaintiff has not updated his address with the Court after being released from 3 custody, the Court cannot ascertain Plaintiff’s reason for failing to prosecute this 4 lawsuit or comply with Court orders. See Carey v. King, 856 F.2d 1439, 1441 (9th 5 Cir. 1988) (“It would be absurd to require the district court to hold a case in 6 abeyance indefinitely just because it is unable, through the plaintiff’s own fault, to 7 contact the plaintiff to determine if his reasons for not prosecuting his lawsuit are 8 reasonable or not.”) As “a presumption of prejudice arises from the plaintiff’s 9 unexplained failure to prosecute,” the third factor favors dismissal. See Hernandez 10 v. City of El Monte, 138 F.3d 393, 400 (9th Cir. 1998). 11 12 C. 13 The fourth factor (the availability of less drastic alternatives) also supports 14 dismissal. “The district court need not exhaust every sanction short of dismissal 15 before finally dismissing a case, but must explore possible and meaningful 16 alternatives.” Henderson, 779 F.2d at 1424. 17 Availability of Less Drastic Alternatives The Court considered and implemented less drastic alternatives prior to 18 dismissal. The Court twice warned Plaintiff that failure to file a FAC would result 19 in a recommendation that the action be dismissed for failure to prosecute and/or 20 failure to comply with Court orders pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 41(b). (Order 5; OSC.) See In re: Phenylpropanolamine, 460 F.3d at 1229 22 (“Warning that failure to obey a court order will result in dismissal can itself meet 23 the ‘consideration of alternatives’ requirement.”). The Court also extended 24 Plaintiff’s deadline to a FAC from March 15, 2021 to May 6, 2021. (OSC.) See 25 Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1992) (holding that the district 26 court’s allowance of an additional thirty days for plaintiff to file an amended 27 complaint was an attempt at a less drastic sanction). As Plaintiff has not provided 28 his updated address to the Court, no alternatives to dismissal currently are available. 6 1 See Carey, 856 F.2d at 1441 (concluding that there was no less drastic sanction 2 available than dismissal where mail addressed to plaintiff was returned by the post 3 office as undeliverable and plaintiff did not provide updated address to court). The 4 fourth factor weighs in favor of dismissal. 5 6 D. Public Policy Favoring Disposition on the Merits 7 As to the fifth factor, “[p]ublic policy favors disposition of cases on the 8 merits.” Pagtalunan, 291 F.3d at 643. However, “a case that is stalled or 9 unreasonably delayed by a party’s failure to comply with deadlines . . . cannot move 10 toward resolution on the merits.” In re: Phenylpropanolamine, 460 F.3d at 1228. 11 Thus, “this factor lends little support to a party whose responsibility it is to move a 12 case towards disposition on the merits but whose conduct impedes progress in that 13 direction.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). The case has been stalled by 14 Plaintiff’s failure to file a FAC, otherwise respond to the Order or OSC, or update 15 his address with the Court. Still, the public policy favoring the resolution of 16 disputes on the merits is strong and, under the circumstances, outweighs Plaintiff’s 17 noncompliance and inaction. 18 19 E. Dismissal Without Prejudice 20 In summary, Plaintiff’s failure to file a FAC or otherwise respond to the 21 Order or OSC, failure to update his mailing address, and failure to otherwise 22 participate in this lawsuit since February 1, 2021 constitute willful unreasonable 23 delay. Four of the Rule 41(b) dismissal factors weigh in favor of dismissal, 24 whereas only one factor weighs against dismissal. “While the public policy 25 favoring disposition of cases on their merits weighs against [dismissal], that single 26 factor is not enough to preclude imposition of this sanction when the other four 27 factors weigh in its favor.” Rio Props., Inc. v. Rio Int’l Interlink, 284 F.3d 1007, 28 1022 (9th Cir. 2002). The Court concludes that dismissal of this action for failure 7 1 to prosecute and to comply with Court orders is warranted, but, consistent with Rule 2 41(b) and this Court’s exercise of its discretion, the dismissal is without prejudice. 3 4 5 6 IV. CONCLUSION IT THEREFORE IS ORDERED that this lawsuit is DISMISSED without prejudice. No further filings shall be accepted under this case number. under n 7 8 DATED: __June 4, 2021______ HON. CORMAC J. CARNEY C J. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE STATES JUDGE T U 9 10 Presented by: 11 12 13 _______________________________ ___________ _ _ _ MARIA A. AUDERO MARIA A UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE TED 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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