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Fox v. Carbon County Jail

United States District Court, D. Utah

January 14, 2020

JUSTIN ALLEN FOX, Plaintiff,
v.
CARBON COUNTY JAIL et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION & DISMISSAL ORDER

          JILL N. PARRISH, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         BACKGROUND

         • August 28, 2018 Order granting IFP status and requiring filing of inmate-account statement; Complaint filed. (Doc. Nos. 4 & 5.)

         • August 31, 2018 Account statement filed. (Doc. No. 6.)

         • October 25, 2018 Order for Plaintiff to file consent to collection of filing fee. (Doc. No. 7.)

         • November 26, 2018 Consent filed. (Doc. No. 8.)

         • May 28, 2019 Order requiring Plaintiff to within thirty days cure deficient complaint. (Doc. No. 9.)

         The Court has not directly heard from Plaintiff since November 26, 2018 (over thirteen 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, 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.”).

         The Court now considers the factors as follows:

         Factor 1: Degree of actual ...


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