United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Cynthia Reed Eddy Chief United States Magistrate Judge
plaintiff, Jason Petty, a former inmate at SCI-Somerset,
filed a civil rights complaint in this Court on February 19,
2019 (ECF No. 1) while he was still incarcerated; he was
granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 11). On
March 21, 2019, Plaintiff filed a notice of change of address
which indicated he had been released and no longer resided at
SCI-Somerset. The Complaint concerns alleged violations of
civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the
calculation of his sentence and parole term(s). In his
Complaint Plaintiff names as defendants, who are being sued
individually and in their official capacities: Ted Johnson,
Chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole;
John Wetzel, Secretary of Corrections for the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections (“DOC”); and Eric Tice,
Superintendent of SCI-Somerset.
20, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint
(ECF No. 12) and a brief in support thereof. (ECF No. 13). By
Order entered May 22, 2019, Plaintiff's response to the
motion to dismiss was due by June 24, 2019. (ECF No. 14).
This Order was sent to Plaintiff at his most recent address
of record. On July 11, 2019, the Court then issued an Order
to show cause on or before July 25, 2019 why this action
should not be dismissed with prejudice for
Plaintiff's failure to prosecute. (ECF No. 16). To date,
Plaintiff has failed to respond in any manner to the
outstanding motion to dismiss and has not responded to the
Order to show cause.
plaintiff's failure to comply with court orders may
constitute a failure to prosecute the action, rendering the
action subject to dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b),
which states in pertinent part:
Involuntary Dismissal; Effect. If the plaintiff fails to
prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order, a
defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against
it. Unless the dismissal order states otherwise, a dismissal
under this subdivision (b) and any dismissal not under this
rule -except one for lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, or
failure to join a party under Rule 19 - operates as
adjudication on the merits.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b).
plain terms, a district court has the power to dismiss a
claim of a plaintiff pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 41(b) on
motion of a defendant, for failure to comply with an order of
the court. A federal court also has the inherent authority to
dismiss a proceeding sua sponte based on a
party's failure to prosecute the action. Link v.
Wabash R.R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629-30 (1962); Adams
v. Trustees of New Jersey Brewery Employees' Pension
Trust Fund, 29 F.3d 863, 871 (3d Cir. 1994) (“The
Supreme Court affirmed, stating that a court could dismiss
sua sponte under Rule 41(b).”); Mindek v.
Rigatti, 964 F.2d 1369 (3d Cir. 1992) (dismissal was
appropriate response to deliberate defiance of court orders
where district court judge determined that no other sanction
would adequately insure future compliance). See also
Kenney v. Cal. Tanker Co., 381 F.2d 775, 777 (3d Cir.
1967) (“authority of a court to dismiss sua
sponte for lack of prosecution has generally been
considered an ‘inherent power,' governed not by
rule or statute but by the control necessarily vested in
courts to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the
orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.”)
(quoting Link 370 U.S. at 630-31).
determining whether to dismiss an action for failure to
prosecute, the court must balance the six factors set forth
in Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747
F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1994). These factors are (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 or the
attorney was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness
of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis
of alternative sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the
claim or defense. Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868.
Poulis does not, however, “provide a magic
formula whereby the decision to dismiss or not to dismiss a
plaintiff's complaint becomes a mechanical calculation
easily reviewed” by the Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit. Mindek, 964 F.2d at 1373.
the decision is committed to the sound discretion of the
trial court, Collinsgru v. Palmyra Bd. of Educ., 161
F.3d 225, 230 (3d Cir. 1998), and a great deal of deference
will be given the district court which is in the best
position to weigh all of the Poulis factors and any
other pertinent matters. Mindek, 964 F.2d at 1373
(“the decision must be made in the context of the
district court's extended contact with the litigant.
Ultimately, the decision to dismiss constitutes an exercise
of the district court judge's discretion and must be
given great deference by this Court - a court which has had
no direct contact with the litigants and whose orders,
calendar, docket and authority have not been violated or
the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recognized
that “no single Poulis factor is dispositive,
” Ware v. Rodale Press, Inc., 322 F.3d 218,
222 (3d Cir. 2003), and “not all of the Poulis
factors need be satisfied in order to dismiss a
complaint.” Mindek, 964 F.2d at 1373; see
also Allen v. American Fed. of Gov't Emp., 317
Fed.Appx. 180, 181 (3d Cir. 2009) (district court did not
abuse its discretion in dismissing complaint without
explicitly weighing the Poulis factors when
plaintiff failed to file an amended complaint as ordered by
the above principles as our guidepost, this Court will review
the Poulis factors in this case, seriatim.
extent of the party's personal responsibility. The court
notes that the plaintiff is proceeding pro se.
Hence, he bears sole responsibility for the failure to file
any response to the motions to dismiss and failure to move
the Court for yet more additional time or otherwise
communicate with the Court.
Prejudice to the adversary. Plaintiff's failure to
respond to Defendants' compelling dispositive motion
obviously prejudices defendants, who remain in limbo and must
continue to endure the uncertainty associated with this type
of litigation. While the prejudice would not appear to be
overwhelming, this factor weighs in Defendants' favor.
History of dilatoriness. Other than his failure to respond to
the motion to dismiss and Show Cause order, there has not
been much occasion for dilatoriness. Thus, this factor is not
highly significant, although it ...