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Wallace v. Aldridge

United States District Court, D. Utah

January 29, 2019

JAMES LEE WALLACE, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH ALDRIDGE et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DISMISSING CASE WITHOUT PREJUDICE

          JILL N. PARRISH UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         • May 11, 2017 Plaintiff filed this complaint, alleging violations of federal civil rights that occurred in 2013 while he was an inmate at the Weber County correctional facility. (Doc. No. 3.)

         • January 30, 2018 The court dismissed certain defendants and ordered that service of process be effected on remaining defendants. Remaining defendants were ordered to file, in sequence, an answer, a Martinez report, and a dispositive motion. (Doc. No. 8.) The Order further stated, “[i]f served with a summary-judgment motion . . . Plaintiff must submit a response within 30 days of the motion's filing date.” (Doc. No. 8.)

         • March 14, 2018 Defendants filed their answer. (Doc. No. 16.)

         • April 3, 2018 Plaintiff filed a change of address. (Doc. No. 17.)

         • June 12, 2018 Defendants filed their Martinez report. (Doc. No. 18.)

         • July 12, 2018 Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 25.)

         • Nov. 29, 2018 The court ordered plaintiff to show cause within 30 days why this action should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute and file a response to defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 32.)

         The court has not heard from plaintiff for nearly ten months (since April 3, 2018), during which time this litigation has ground to a halt as a result of plaintiff's failure to file two required responses: a response to defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and a response to this court's Order to Show Cause.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) allows involuntary dismissal of an action “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with . . . a court order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). District courts may dismiss actions sua sponte for failure to prosecute. Olsen v. Mapes, 333 F.3d 1199, 1204 n.3 (10th Cir. 2003) (“Although the language of Rule 41(b) requires that the defendant file a motion to dismiss, the Rule has long been interpreted to permit courts to dismiss actions sua sponte for a plaintiff's failure to prosecute or comply with . . . court orders.”); see also Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630 (stating court has inherent authority to clear “calendar[] of cases that have remained dormant because of the inaction or dilatoriness of the parties seeking relief”); Bills v. United States, 857 F.2d 1404, 1405 (10th Cir. 1988) (“Dismissal for failure to prosecute is a recognized standard operating procedure in order to clear the deadwood from the courts' calendars where there has been prolonged and unexcused delay.”).

         Generally, “a district court may, without abusing its discretion, [dismiss a case without prejudice] without attention to any particular procedures.” Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents at Araphoe Cty. Justice Ctr., 492 F.3d 1158, 1162 (10th Cir. 2007). But a dismissal without prejudice is effectively a dismissal with prejudice if the statute of limitations has expired on the dismissed claims. Gocolay v. N.M. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 968 F.2d 1017, 1021 (10th Cir. 1992). Thus, the court must determine if the statute of limitations has expired on plaintiff's claims if he were to refile them after dismissal.

         “Utah's four-year residual statute of limitations . . . governs suits brought under [§] 1983.” Fratus v. Deland, 49 F.3d 673, 675 (10th Cir. 1995). And “[a]ctions under § 1983 normally accrue on the date of the [alleged] constitutional violation, ” Garza v. Burnett, 672 F.3d 1217, 1219 (10th Cir. 2012), as § 1983 claims “accrue when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury that is the basis of the action.” Workman v. Jordan, 32 F.3d 475, 482 (10th Cir. 1994). The court notes that “[a] plaintiff need not know the full extent of his injuries before the statute of limitations begins to run, ” Industrial Constructors Corp. v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 15 F.3d 963, 969 (10th Cir. 1994); see also Romero v. Lander, 461 Fed.Appx. 661, 669 (2012) (section 1983 case), and ...


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