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Ilarraza v. Chuta

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 22, 2017

JULIO E. RIVERA ILARRAZA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES CHUTA, Defendants.

          Rambo, J

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOSEPH F. SAPORITO, JR. U.S. Magistrate Judge

         This is a pro se prisoner civil rights action which is before the court on a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute (Doc. 41) filed by the defendant, James Chuta. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the motion be granted.

         I. Statement of the Case

         On December 7, 2015, the plaintiff, Julio Rivera-Ilarraza, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging that prison officials at SCI Mahanoy violated his constitutional rights by denying him the right to take part in Native American religious services and by failing to provide him with an interpreter to learn more about his Native American religion. Also, he claims he was prevented from growing his hair long. Ilarraza claims to be an ethnic Native American who identifies as a female, although he is biologically a male.

         On February 10, 2017, we recommended that Chuta's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Doc. 16) be granted in part and denied in part. Our report recommended that only Ilarraza's First Amendment claim survived the motion to dismiss. (Doc. 31). Our report and recommendation was adopted by the court on April 3, 2017. (Doc. 34).

         Presently pending before us is Chuta's motion to dismiss (Doc. 41) the plaintiff's surviving claim on the ground that Ilarraza failed to prosecute his case now that he has been released from prison and his address of record is incorrect or inaccurate. (Doc. 41). It appears that Ilarraza has not received filings at this last known address as the docket reflects that the mailed documents have been returned as undeliverable or “paroled.” (Doc. 33; Doc. 36; Doc. 37; Doc. 40; Doc. 44; Doc. 47). For the reasons set forth herein, we recommend that the motion to dismiss be granted.

         II. Legal Standards

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b), a court may dismiss an action “[f]or failure of the plaintiff to prosecute or to comply with [the Federal Rules] or any order of court....” Although dismissal is an extreme sanction that should only be used in limited circumstances, dismissal is appropriate if a party fails to prosecute the action. Harris v. City of Philadelphia, 47 F.3d 1311, 1330 (3d Cir. 1995).

         The following six factors determine whether dismissal is warranted: (1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to discovery; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of other sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense. Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir.1984); see also Emerson v. Thiel Coll., 296 F.3d 184, 190 (3d Cir. 2002); Huertas v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 408 Fed. App'x. 639 (3d Cir. 2010). The court must balance the factors and need not find that all of them weigh against plaintiff to dismiss the action. Emerson, 296 F.3d at 190. Because dismissal for failure to prosecute involves a factual inquiry, it can be appropriate even if some of the Poulis factors are not satisfied. Hicks v. Feeney, 850 F.2d 152, 156 (3d Cir. 1988); Curtis T. Bedwell & Sons, Inc. v. Intl. Fid. Ins. Co., 843 F.2d 683, 696 (3d Cir. 1988) (holding that not all Poulis factors must weigh in favor of dismissal).

         III. Discussion

         We find that the Poulis factors warrant dismissal of plaintiff's case. First, as a pro se litigant, Ilarraza is solely responsible for prosecuting his claim. Hoxworth v. Blinder, Robinson & Co., 980 F.2d 912, 920 (3d Cir. 1992). Second, Chuta is prejudiced by Ilarraza's failure to prosecute. Prejudice occurs when a plaintiff's failure to prosecute burdens a defendant's ability to prepare for trial. Ware v. Rodale Press, Inc., 322 F.3d 218, 222-23 (3d Cir.2003). Chuta is faced with excessive and possible irremedial burdens or costs due to Ilarraza's delay in resolving the issue in this matter. On May 24, 2017, Chuta filed a motion to extend the discovery deadline. (Doc. 38). In that motion, Chuta sought additional time to depose Ilarraza and to allow counsel more time to determine his whereabouts. The motion further alleged that the delay was caused by Ilarraza because of his failure to leave an accurate address and his failure to update his address on the docket. We granted the motion and extended discovery until July 24, 2017. (Doc. 39). Despite the attempts by Chuta's counsel to depose Ilarraza, not knowing Ilarraza's whereabouts precludes Chuta from discovery. On August 24, 2017, we granted Chuta's motion to extend the dispositive motions deadline. (Doc. 45; Doc. 46). Thus, this factor favors Chuta.

         With regard to the third factor, the court notes that, early on, Ilarraza participated in the case while an inmate. However, upon his release from prison, he has not moved the case forward, he did not leave an accurate address for counsel and the court to contact him, and he has made no other filing since May 20, 2016, when he filed his brief in opposition to Chuta's first motion to dismiss. (Doc. 30). This leads to the conclusion that, as to the third factor, there is now a history of dilatoriness. This factor favors Chuta.

         As to the fourth factor, the facts to date lead to a conclusion that at this point, Ilarraza's failure to prosecute is willful or in bad faith. He filed this lawsuit, yet failed to keep the court and opposing counsel apprised of his current address. For this reason, we find Ilarraza's actions to be willful and in bad faith. See Williams v. Cambridge Integrated Serv. Grp., 235 Fed. App'x 870, 872 (3d Cir. 2007) (plaintiff's failure to update his address of record and his delay of over five months to inquire about his case was not excusable neglect); Books v. Hastings, 3 ...


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