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Salazar-Martinez v. Bakery-Foods

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

January 23, 2018

ROGELIO SALAZAR-MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CONAGRA BAKERY-FOODS, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This pro se employment-related action, filed by Plaintiff Rogelio Salazar-Martinez, has been referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order of reference from Senior U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish. The undersigned issues these findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation that, for the reasons stated below, the Court should dismiss this action without prejudice under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 41(b).

         Applicable Background

         After Plaintiff filed his complaint [Dkt. No. 3] - a single page listing seven causes of action and no facts attached to which is a dismissal and notice of rights issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), as well as other documents associated (or possibly associated) with an action filed with the EEOC - the Court issued a questionnaire to determine the timeliness of this action, which required Plaintiff to file verified responses no later than December 11, 2017, see Dkt. No. 8, and a notice of deficiency (“NOD”) requiring that Plaintiff also file, no later than that date, an amended complaint on a provided form, see Dkt. No. 7. Both the questionnaire and the NOD warned Plaintiff that his failure to timely comply may result in the dismissal of his action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). See Dkt. No. 7 at 1; Dkt. No. 8 at 1.

         It is now more one month past that deadline to answer the questionnaire and comply with the NOD and more than two months since Plaintiff filed this action, and he has yet to comply with the Court's orders or otherwise contact the Court.

         Legal Standards and Analysis

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), “a district court may dismiss an action sua sponte if the plaintiff fails to comply with court orders.” Nottingham v. Warden, Bill Clements Unit, 837 F.3d 438, 440 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); McCullough v. Lynaugh, 835 F.2d 1126, 1127 (5th Cir. 1988) (per curiam)). Under the same rule, a district court also “may sua sponte dismiss an action for failure to prosecute.” Rosin v. Thaler, 450 Fed.Appx. 383, 383-84 (5th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (citations omitted)). That authority “flows from the court's inherent power to control its docket and prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases.” Boudwin v. Graystone Ins. Co., Ltd., 756 F.2d 399, 401 (5th Cir. 1985) (citing Link v. Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626 (1962)).

         A Rule 41(b) dismissal may be with or without prejudice. See Long v. Simmons, 77 F.3d 878, 879-80 (5th Cir. 1996).

Although “[l]esser sanctions such as fines or dismissal without prejudice are usually appropriate before dismissing with prejudice, ... a Rule 41(b) dismissal is appropriate where there is ‘a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct by the plaintiff and when lesser sanctions would not serve the best interests of justice.'”

Nottingham, 837 F.3d at 441 (quoting Bryson v. United States, 553 F.3d 402, 403 (5th Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (in turn quoting Callip v. Harris Cnty. Child Welfare Dep't, 757 F.2d 1513, 1521 (5th Cir. 1985))); see also Long, 77 F.3d at 880 (a dismissal with prejudice is appropriate only if the failure to comply with the court order was the result of purposeful delay or contumacious conduct and the imposition of lesser sanctions would be futile); cf. Nottingham, 837 F.3d at 442 (noting that “lesser sanctions” may “‘include assessments of fines, costs, or damages against the plaintiff, conditional dismissal, dismissal without prejudice, and explicit warnings'” (quoting Thrasher v. City of Amarillo, 709 F.3d 509, 514 (5th Cir. 2013))).

         By not filing an amended complaint as required by the NOD and by not submitting verified responses to the questionnaire, both as ordered by the Court, Plaintiff has prevented this action from proceeding, and he therefore has failed to prosecute his lawsuit and obey a court order. A Rule 41(b) dismissal of this lawsuit without prejudice is warranted under these circumstances. And the undersigned concludes that lesser sanctions would be futile. The Court is not required to delay the disposition of this case until such time as Plaintiff decides to comply with the Court's orders. Accordingly, the Court should exercise its inherent power to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending case and sua sponte dismiss this action without prejudice.

         To the extent that Plaintiff brings to the Court claims he raised with the EEOC, although the recommended dismissal is without prejudice, because, absent equitable tolling, “this case cannot be timely refiled once dismissed as more than ninety days have elapsed since [Plaintiff] received [the] right-to-sue letter from the EEOC” - dated August 17, 2017 [Dkt. No. 3 at 2-3]; see Jenkins v. City of San Antonio Fire Dep't, 784 F.3d 263, 267 (5th Cir. 2015) (“[W]here the date of receipt is not known, courts should apply a presumption that the plaintiff received the notice in three days.”) - “dismissal of [this] case even without prejudice will operate as a dismissal with prejudice, ” Dudley v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 3:99-cv-2634-BC, 2001 WL 123673, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 12, 2001) (citations omitted); see Berry v. CIGNA/RSI-CIGNA, 975 F.2d 1188, 1191 (5th Cir. 1992) (“If a Title VII complaint is timely filed pursuant to an EEOC right-to-sue letter and is later dismissed, the timely filing of the complaint does not toll the ninety-day limitations period.” (citation omitted)).

         The period for filing an objection to these findings, conclusions, and recommendation affords Plaintiff an opportunity to respond to this limitations issue.

         Reco ...


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