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Brown v. First National Bank of Texas

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

October 1, 2019

MICHAEL KEITH BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF TEXAS, ET AL., Defendants.

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

          DAVID L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Michael Keith Brown brings this pro se action appearing to allege that his civil rights have been violated. See Dkt. No. 3. His action 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 United States District Judge David C. Godbey.

         On June 6, 2019, the Court granted Brown leave to proceed in forma pauperis, see Dkt. Nos. 5 & 6, and issued a Notice of Deficiency and Order Regarding Complaint, notifying him “of certain deficiencies in the complaint as filed that must be remedied no later than July 8, 2019 to allow this action to proceed, ” Dkt. No. 7 (further warning him “that failure to comply with this order by filing an amended complaint will result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed” (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); emphasis omitted)) (the “NOD”). Granting Brown's motion, the Court extended the deadline to comply with the NOD to August 9, 2019. See Dkt. Nos. 8 & 9.

         It is now more than one month past the extended deadline to comply with the Court's order, and Brown has failed to file an amended complaint. The undersigned therefore enters these findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendation that, for the reasons explained below, the Court should dismiss this action without prejudice under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 41(b).

         Legal Standards and Analysis

         Rule 41(b) “authorizes the district court to dismiss an action sua sponte for failure to prosecute or comply with a court order.” Griggs v. S.G.E. Mgmt., L.L.C., 905 F.3d 835, 844 (5th Cir. 2018) (citing McCullough v. Lynaugh, 835 F.2d 1126, 1127 (5th Cir. 1988) (per curiam)); accord Nottingham v. Warden, Bill Clements Unit, 837 F.3d 438, 440 (5th Cir. 2016) (failure to comply with a court order); Rosin v. Thaler, 450 Fed.Appx. 383, 383-84 (5th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (failure to prosecute).

         This 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)); see also Lopez v. Ark. Cnty. Indep. Sch. Dist., 570 F.2d 541, 544 (5th Cir. 1978) (“Although [Rule 41(b)] is phrased in terms of dismissal on the motion of the defendant, it is clear that the power is inherent in the court and may be exercised sua sponte whenever necessary to ‘achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.'” (quoting Link, 370 U.S. at 631)).

         The Court's authority under Rule 41(b) is not diluted by a party proceeding pro se, as “[t]he right of self-representation does not exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law.” Wright v. LBA Hospitality, 754 Fed.Appx. 298, 300 (5th Cir. 2019) (per curiam) (quoting Hulsey v. Texas, 929 F.2d 168, 171 (5th Cir. 1991) (quoting, in turn, Birl v. Estelle, 660 F.2d 592, 593 (5th Cir. Nov. 1981))).

         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))).

         “When a dismissal is without prejudice but ‘the applicable statute of limitations probably bars future litigation, '” that dismissal operates as - i.e., it is reviewed as - “a dismissal with prejudice.” Griggs, 905 F.3d at 844 (quoting Nottingham, 837 F.3d at 441); see, e.g., Wright, 754 Fed.Appx. at 300 (affirming dismissal under Rule 41(b) - potentially effectively with prejudice - where “[t]he district court had warned Wright of the consequences and ‘allowed [her] a second chance at obtaining service'” but she “disregarded that clear and reasonable order”).

         By not filing an amended complaint as required by the NOD, Brown has prevented this action from proceeding. And, by so doing, he has failed to prosecute his lawsuit and also failed to obey a court order. A Rule 41(b) dismissal of this lawsuit without prejudice is warranted under these circumstances. 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 Brown decides to comply with the Court's directives. The Court should therefore exercise its inherent power to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and sua sponte dismiss this action without prejudice.

         Reco ...


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