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Jones v. Brown

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 13, 2020

WILLIAM JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
MRS. BROWN, MRS. WANDA, MRS. MUHAMAD, MR. JOHN, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          OPINION SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

          JOSEPH F. LEESON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND

         William Jones, proceeding pro se, commenced this action on March 1, 2019, alleging violation of his civil rights by agents and employees of a halfway house in which he was residing. See generally, ECF No. 2. At the time of the filing of the Complaint, Jones also filed a motion for leave proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 1. On March 5, 2019, this Court issued an Order granting Jones leave to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 5. In the Court's Order, Jones was notified that he would “be required to complete USM-285 forms so that the Marshals can serve the Defendants. Failure to complete those forms may result in dismissal of [his] case for failure to prosecute.” Id.

         On May 21, 2019, the U.S. Marshals Service filed proof of service indicating that service had been effectuated on four of the Defendants-“Mrs. Brown, ” “Mrs. Wanda, ” “Mrs. Muhammad, ” and “Mr. John.” ECF No. 7. The Marshals also filed on that date USM-285 forms indicating that service on Defendants “Mrs. Augustine, ” “Agent Mayo, ” and “Mrs. Branch, ” had not been successfully effectuated. ECF No. 8. According to the Marshals, the address provided for each of these Defendants, “600 East Luzerne St., Philadelphia, PA, ” was a vacant building with a padlocked gate and fence surrounding it. Id. On July 1, 2019, the Court issued an Order directing the Marshals to mail to Jones three new USM-285 forms so that Jones could provide updated addresses for these Defendants. ECF No. 10. The Court's Order stated that failure of Jones to return the completed USM-285 forms “within thirty days” of the date of the Order “may result in dismissal of this action against Defendants Augustine, Mayo, and Branch.” Id.

         On September 24, 2019, having received no correspondence from Jones, and it being brought to the attention of the Court that Jones had failed to submit revised USM-285 forms to the Marshals, the Court issued an Order dismissing the Complaint without prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) against Defendants Augustine, Mayo, and Branch, for failure to timely provide revised USM-285 forms to the U.S. Marshals Service as directed in the July 1, 2019 Order. ECF No. 11. Observing that Defendants Brown, Wanda, Muhammad, and John had failed to Answer or otherwise respond to the Complaint, the Court's Order also directed Jones to (1) move pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) on or before October 24, 2019, for the Clerk of the Court to enter default on behalf of these Defendants, and (2) move pursuant to Rule 55(b) for entry of default judgment against the same Defendants on or before November 25, 2019. Id.

         On November 25, 2019, with no motion by Jones for either entry of default or default judgment having been filed as directed, the Court issued an Order directing Jones to “show cause, in writing, by December 13, 2019, as to why his Complaint should not be dismissed with prejudice for his failure to prosecute his case and abide by Court directives.” ECF No. 12 (emphasis in original). The Order further advised Jones that “[f]ailure to comply with this directive will result in immediate dismissal of this action.” Id.

         Nothing has been filed on the docket, nor has the Court received any correspondence from Jones, since the Court's November 25, 2019 Order.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A district court's authority to sua sponte dismiss a proceeding where a party fails to prosecute its claims derives from a court's inherent authority to control its own proceedings. Hewlett v. Davis, 844 F.2d 109, 114 (3d Cir. 1988) (“The power to dismiss for failure to prosecute . . . rests in the discretion of the trial court and is part of its inherent authority to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and to avoid congestion in its docket.”). Indeed, this inherent authority “has been expressly recognized in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).”[1] Link v. Wabash R. Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630 (1962). In the Third Circuit, a district court may exercise its inherent authority and dismiss a case for failure to prosecute where the following factors weigh in favor of dismissal:

(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.

Parks v. Ingersoll-Rand Co., 380 Fed.Appx. 190, 194 (3d Cir. 2010) (emphasis in original) (quoting Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984)). While dismissal for failure to prosecute must be a sanction of last resort, “where a plaintiff's actions amount to the willful refusal to prosecute or blatant failure to comply with a district court order, dismissal for failure to prosecute is appropriate.” Roberts v. Ferman, 826 F.3d 117, 123 (3d Cir. 2016)

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Court finds that in their totality, the Poulis factors outlined above-personal responsibility, prejudice to adversaries, history of dilatoriness, willfulness, alternative sanctions, and meritoriousness of the claims-weigh in favor of dismissal of Jones's Complaint.

         As to the first factor, Jones “proceeded pro se, so the responsibility for any failure to prosecute falls on him.” In re Buccolo, 308 Fed.Appx. 574, 575 (3d Cir. ...


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