Diaz v. Guynes et al
ORDER AND REASONS granting 110 Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. (ecm) Modified text on 1/10/2017 (ecm).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
DWAYNE GUYNES, ET AL
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 110). For the
following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.
I. Factual Background
Plaintiff’s Complaint paints an alarming picture of the egregious abuse
she allegedly suffered at the hands of former Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Deputy
Dwayne Guynes. Plaintiff alleges that she began a romantic relationship with
Guynes in 2009. Shortly after Plaintiff and Guynes began dating, Guynes
began to behave in an abusive and controlling manner. Plaintiff contends that
various members of the JPSO facilitated or aided in the abuse. The Complaint
describes several years of severe domestic abuse.
Plaintiff brought claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986
against various members of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for their
alleged role in facilitating Defendant Guynes’s pattern of abuse. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants Fox, Kinler, Pierce, and Platt failed to properly
supervise Guynes, allowing his pattern of abuse to continue. Plaintiff further
alleges that Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand failed to properly
discipline or terminate abusive officers and failed to implement proper policies
to protect individuals such as herself.
She further alleges that Sheriff
Normand had knowledge of the abuse inflicted on her by Guynes and failed to
act to remedy the situation. Plaintiff also brought claims against Defendants
Linden Schmidt, Lawrence Matthews, Brent Baldassaro, and Jamal Cook
arising from an incident at an IHOP in September of 2012 and an alleged false
arrest on February 2, 2013.
II. Procedural History
The procedural history of this matter is long and meandering. Plaintiff
filed her initial pro se Complaint on July 1, 2012. She first enrolled counsel on
February 19, 2014.
Following a protracted delay in effecting service, a
scheduling order was entered on July 20, 2014. Defendant Guynes filed his
first Motion to Dismiss on August 29, 2014. The Court held a status conference
on September 25, 2014, at which time it denied this motion without prejudice
in order to give Plaintiff the opportunity to amend her Complaint with the aid
Because Plaintiff did not timely amend her Complaint, the
scheduling order was vacated at a December 4, 2014 status conference.
Plaintiff finally amended her Complaint on January 12, 2015. On February 3,
2015, Defendant Guynes filed a Motion to Dismiss on grounds of prescription,
which the Court granted on April 27, 2015. During the pendency of that
Motion, the Court held a status conference and set a discovery deadline of
October 1, 2015, a pretrial conference date of November 5, 2015, and a trial
date of November 30, 2015.
On May 27, 2015, against the advice of her counsel, Plaintiff filed a pro
se notice of appeal regarding this Court’s order dismissing her claims against
Defendant Guynes. This ultimately led to the withdrawal of her counsel on
September 22, 2015.
Plaintiff has appeared pro se since that time.
Accordingly, the Court vacated the scheduling order and directed the
remaining defendants to file any dispositive motions. On November 7, 2015,
Defendants Robert Fox, Emmit Pierce, Michael Kinler, Ronald Pratt, and
Sheriff Newell Normand moved for dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims against them.
The Court granted this Motion in part, leaving the following as the only
remaining claims: claims against Defendants Linden Schmidt, Lawrence
Matthews, Brent Baldassaro, and Jamal Cook arising from the incident at
IHOP in September of 2012 and an alleged false arrest on February 2, 2013,
Plaintiff’s Section 1983 claims against the JPSO and Newell Normand, and
Plaintiff’s state law negligence claims against the JPSO and Newell Normand.
The Court held another status conference on April 8, 2016, at which time
the discovery deadline was set for August 26, 2016. The Court stressed that
Plaintiff was obligated to comply with the rules of discovery. Nevertheless, on
April 29, 2016 Plaintiff requested an extension of time in which to answer
discovery. The Court granted this request, giving Plaintiff until May 23, 2016
to respond to Defendants’ written discovery.
Plaintiff failed to meet this
deadline, instead requesting a further extension on June 27, 2016. The next
day, Defendants moved to continue the trial and pretrial deadlines because
Plaintiff had not responded to their discovery requests. The Court granted this
Motion on August 1, continuing all pretrial deadlines but withholding ruling
on the request to continue the trial date until the August 18, 2016 status
At the August 18 conference, the Court ordered Plaintiff to respond to
Defendants’ interrogatories within 15 Days. The court also set a discovery
deadline of November 18, 2016, a pretrial conference date of January 26, 2017,
and a trial date of February 13, 2017. The Court also cautioned Plaintiff that
further failure to comply with the rules of discovery and the orders of this Court
would result in dismissal of her case. The Court also advised her that only
those claims that had survived the earlier motions to dismiss could be pursued
in this action.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims pursuant to Rule
41(b) based primarily on her continued failure to meaningfully participate in
discovery relative to her remaining claims. Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure provides that a court may in its discretion dismiss any action
based on the failure of the plaintiff to prosecute or comply with any order of
the court.1 In applying the sanction of dismissal, courts have traditionally
considered the extent to which the plaintiff, rather than his counsel, is
responsible for the delay or failure to comply with the court’s order.2 Since the
Hulsey v. State of Texas, 929 F.2d 168, 171 (5th Cir. 1991); McCullough v. Lynaugh,
835 F.2d 1126, 1127 (5th Cir. 1988); Brinkmann v. Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Abner, 813
F.2d 744, 749 (5th Cir. 1987).
2 Markwell v. County of Bexar, 878 F.2d 899, 902 (5th Cir. 1989); Price v. McGlathery,
792 F.2d 472, 474–75 (5th Cir. 1986).
plaintiff in this case is in proper person, it is apparent that this Court must
weigh her actions alone in considering dismissal of this action under Rule
41(b). A pro se litigant is not exempt from compliance with relevant rules of
procedural and substantive law.3 A pro se litigant who fails to comply with
procedural rules has the burden of establishing excusable neglect, which is a
strict standard requiring proof of more than mere ignorance.4
Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s conduct is sufficient to warrant
dismissal. A dismissal with prejudice will be affirmed only upon a showing of
(1) a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct by the plaintiff and (2) that
lesser sanctions would not serve the best interests of justice. 5 Generally
speaking, a court should also look to the presence of one or more aggravating
factors, including the extent to which the plaintiff is personally responsible for
the delay, the degree of actual prejudice to the defendant, and whether the
delay was the result of intentional conduct.6
As outlined above, Plaintiff has been wholly uncooperative in the
discovery process, to Defendants’ prejudice. This Court set multiple deadlines
for Plaintiff to respond to Defendants’ straightforward interrogatories relative
to her claims. Plaintiff failed to meet these deadlines for months. When
Plaintiff did finally respond to Defendants’ discovery, her responses were
wholly inadequate. Though the Court has made clear that Plaintiff’s claims
are now limited to those delineated as surviving Defendants’ Motions to
Dismiss, she has steadfastly refused to limit her responses to those claims.
Instead, she has provided Defendants with a putative witness list listing more
Birl v. Estelle, 660 F.2d 592, 593 (5th Cir. 1981); Edwards v. Harris County Sheriff's
Office, 864 F.Supp. 633, 637 (S.D. Tex. 1994).
4 Kersh v. Derozier, 851 F.2d 1509, 1512 (5th Cir. 1988); Birl, 660 F.2d at 593.
6 Rogers v. Kroger Co., 669 F.2d 317, 320 (5th Cir. 1982).
than 67 individuals and organizations, yet fails to provide the basis or subject
matter of their testimony despite Defendants’ requests for the same. This has
made it nearly impossible for Defendants to conduct any meaningful
investigation into Plaintiff’s claims. As Plaintiff has represented herself for
much of this litigation, it is clear that she is personally responsible for this
The Court also finds that lesser sanctions would not suffice. In light of
Plaintiff’s pro se status, this Court has held frequent in-court status
conferences in an effort to ensure Plaintiff understood her obligations under
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Despite these efforts, Plaintiff has
utterly failed at every turn to comply with both her discovery obligations and
the orders of this Court. The Court has been more than accommodating of
Plaintiff’s pro se status. At some point, however, these accommodations must
yield to the Defendants’ interest in resolving this now three-year-old matter.
It would be highly prejudicial to Defendants to force them to continue to incur
legal fees in this action in face of Plaintiff’s contumacious conduct.
Accordingly, dismissal is warranted.
For the forgoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion is GRANTED. Plaintiff’s
claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
New Orleans, Louisiana this 10th day of January, 2017.
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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