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Stevens v. Weber County

United States District Court, D. Utah

January 14, 2020

TIMOTHY SHAWN STEVENS, Plaintiff,
v.
WEBER COUNTY et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION & DISMISSAL ORDER

          DALE A. KIMBALL JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         BACKGROUND

         • October 9, 2018 Motion to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) filed. (Doc. No. 1.)

         • October 15, 2018 Order granting IFP status and requiring filing of inmate-account statement; Complaint filed. (Doc. No. 3 & 4.)

         • December 17, 2018 Order for Plaintiff to file consent to collection of filing fee. (Doc. No. 7.)

         • January 2, 2019 Consent filed. (Doc. No. 8.)

         • April 10, 2019 Change of address filed. (Doc. No. 9.)

         • May 24, 2019 Order entered requiring Plaintiff to within thirty days cure deficient complaint. (Doc. No. 10.)

         • June 6, 2019 May 24, 2019 Order returned to sender, marked, "NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS." (Doc. No. 11.)

         The Court has not heard from Plaintiff since April 10, 2019 (over nine months ago).

         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). The Court may dismiss actions sua sponte for failure to prosecute. Olsen v. Mapes, 333 F.3d 1199, 1204 n.3 (10th Cir. 2003) (stating, though Rule 41(b) requires defendant file motion to dismiss, Rule has long been construed to let courts dismiss actions sua sponte when plaintiff fails to prosecute or comply with 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) (recognizing dismissal for failure to prosecute as “standard” way to clear “deadwood from the courts' calendars” when prolonged and unexcused delay by plaintiff).

         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 County 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). For purposes of this Order only, the Court assumes the statute of limitations has expired on Plaintiff's claims if he were to refile them after dismissal.

         When the dismissal is effectively with prejudice, this Court applies the factors from Ehrenhaus v. Reynolds, 965 F.2d 916 (10th Cir. 1992)--namely, “(1) the degree of actual prejudice to [Defendant]”; (2) “the amount of interference with the judicial process”; (3) the litigant's culpability; (4) whether the court warned the noncomplying litigant that dismissal of the action was a likely sanction; and (5) “the efficacy of lesser sanctions.” Id. at 921 (internal quotation marks omitted). Dismissal with prejudice is proper only when these factors outweigh 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, ...


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