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Girato v. State

United States District Court, D. Utah

December 30, 2019

STATE OF UTAH, Respondent.




         • April 5, 2018 Petitioner submitted federal habeas-corpus petition. (Doc. No. 1.)

         • February 19, 2019 Petitioner's motion for appointed counsel denied and motion for service of process granted. (Doc. No. 4.) Respondent ordered to answer Petition within forty-five days and Petitioner ordered to respond to answer within thirty days of answer's filing. (Id.)

         • July 2, 2019 Respondent's Motion to Dismiss filed. (Doc. No. 11.)

         • October 24, 2019 Petitioner ordered to within thirty days show cause why action should not be dismissed for failure to respond to Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 12.)

         Petitioner has not contacted the Court since he filed his petition on April 15, 2018 (more than twenty months ago).


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) allows involuntary dismissal of an action “[i]f the [petitioner] fails to prosecute or to comply with . . . a court order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). This Court 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 [respondent] file a motion to dismiss, the Rule has long been interpreted to permit courts to dismiss actions sua sponte for a [petitioner'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.”).

         In determining whether to dismiss this action, the Court applies the factors from Ehrenhaus v. Reynolds, 965 F.2d 916 (10th Cir. 1992)--i.e., “(1) the degree of actual prejudice to [Respondent]”; (2) “the amount of interference with the judicial process”; (3) the litigant's culpability; (4) whether the noncomplying litigant was warned that dismissal was a likely sanction; and (5) “the efficacy of lesser sanctions.” Id. at 921 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Davis v. Miller, 571 F.3d 1058, 1061 (10th Cir. 2009) (applying Ehrenhaus factors in habeas case). Dismissal with prejudice is appropriate only when these factors overshadow the judicial system's strong preference to decide cases on the merits. DeBardeleben v. Quinlan, 937 F.2d 502, 504 (10th Cir. 1991). The Ehrenhaus factors are not “a rigid test; rather, they represent criteria for the district court to consider [before] imposing dismissal as a sanction.” Ehrenhaus, 965 F.2d at 921; see also Lee v. Max Int'l, LLC, 638 F.3d 1318, 1323 (10th Cir. 2011) (“The Ehrenhaus factors are simply a non-exclusive list of sometimes-helpful ‘criteria' or guide posts the district court may wish to ‘consider' in the exercise of what must always be a discretionary function.”); Chavez v. City of Albuquerque, 402 F.3d 1039, 1044 (10th Cir. 2005) (describing Ehrenhaus factors as “not exhaustive, nor . . . equiponderant”); Archibeque v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 70 F.3d 1172, 1174 (10th Cir. 1995) (“[D]etermining the correct sanction is a fact specific inquiry that the district court is in the best position to make.”).

         Factor 1: Degree of actual prejudice to Respondent.

         Prejudice may be inferred from delay, uncertainty, and rising attorney's fees. Faircloth v. Hickenlooper, No. 18-1212, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 36450, at *5 (10th Cir. Dec. 26, 2018) (unpublished); Jones v. Thompson, 996 F.2d 261, 264 (10th Cir. 1993); see also Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Summit Park Townhome Ass'n, 886 F.3d 852, 860 (10th Cir. 2018) (concluding substantial prejudice when plaintiff “sparked months of litigation” and defendants “wasted eight months of litigation”); Riviera Drilling & Exploration Co. v. Gunnison Energy Corp., 412 Fed.Appx. 89, 93 (10th Cir. 2011) (unpublished) (approving district court's observation that “delay would ‘prolong for the defendants the substantial uncertainty faced by all parties pending litigation'”) (citation omitted).

         Reviewing the docket here, the Court concludes that Petitioner's neglect prejudices Respondent, who has spent time defending this lawsuit. Respondent has adhered to the Order, (Doc. No. 4), to file a response, (Doc. No. 11). The Motion to Dismiss thoroughly recites the facts and law, analyzes the issues, and provides seventeen relevant exhibits in support. (Id.) This apparently took Respondent considerable time and resources--and for naught as Petitioner has been completely unresponsive.

         Including preparing his Motion to Dismiss and exhibits, Respondent has wasted over ten months of litigation. To let the case proceed when Petitioner has not met his duty may make Respondent spend more unnecessary time and money to defend a case that Petitioner seems to have no interest in pursuing. This factor weighs toward dismissal. See Kalkhorst v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 18-cv-580-KLM, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 215598, at *8 (D. Colo. Dec. 19, 2018); seealso Tolefree v. Amerigroup Kan., Inc., No. 18-2032-CM-TJJ, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 195448, at *5 (D. Kan. Nov. 15, 2018) (“Defendants have had plaintiff's allegations pending in an open court case for nearly ten months, with no end in sight. Plaintiff, on the other hand, has shown little interest in pursuing her claims or following court orders.”); Oliver v. Wiley, No. 09-cv-441-PAB, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92836, at *5 (D. Colo. Aug. 18, 2010) (“Applicant's failure to provide the Court with a current address . . . and ...

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