United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
DARREN LEWIS (TDCJ No. 2210403), Petitioner,
350th DISTRICT COURT, Respondent.
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. HORAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Darren Lewis, a Texas prisoner, filed a motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis, see Dkt. No. 3,
which was construed as an attempt to initiate a federal
habeas action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. His action was
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 United States
District Judge A. Joe Fish.
23, 2019, the Court ordered the Clerk of Court to provide
Lewis a form petition for habeas corpus relief under Section
2254. See Dkt. No. 4 (citing Rule 2(c), Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts). The Court then ordered Lewis to “complete the
form petition, sign and date it, and return it to the Court
no later than August 22, 2019.” Id. (emphasis
omitted). And he was warned “that failure to comply
with this order will result in a recommendation that the
Court dismiss this action without prejudice under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) for failure to prosecute and
obey an order of the Court.” Id.
did subsequently file a motion requesting exculpatory and
mitigating evidence. See Dkt. No. 5. But he has
failed to follow the Court's order to amend his claims on
a form petition as required by the Habeas Rules. And it is
now more than one month past deadline to do so.
undersigned therefore enters these findings of fact,
conclusions of law, and recommendation that the Court should
dismiss this action without prejudice under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 41(b).
Standards and Analysis
all rules in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 41
generally applies to habeas proceedings under Section 2254.
See Rule 12, Rules Governing Section 2254 in the
United States District Courts.
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).
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)).
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.
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
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 ...