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Spatz v. Cascade County

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

July 18, 2018

COLTON JAMES SPATZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CASCADE COUNTY, CASCADE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, SHERIFF BOB EDWARDS, COMMANDER DAN O'FALLEN, C/Os BENNETT, LIGHT, VANZOUT, TIBBETTS, GAMEON, WALTERS, and GRUNEWALD, and MEDICAL STAFF, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          John Johnston United States Magistrate Judge

         On April 17, 2018, this Court issued an Order requiring Plaintiff Colton Spatz to update his address within 60 days in compliance with Local Rule 5.2(b). (Doc. 9.) Mr. Spatz has not filed a response to the Court's Order or a Notice of Change of Address as required by Local Rule 5.2(a). Accordingly, this matter should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to comply with the Court's April 17, 2018 Order and the Court's Local Rules.

         The Court has the inherent power to sua sponte dismiss a case for lack of prosecution or failure to comply with a court order. Henderson v. Duncan, 779 F.2d 1421, 1423 (9th Cir. 1986); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1260 (9th Cir. 1992). However, dismissal is a harsh penalty and should be imposed as a sanction only in extreme circumstances. Henderson, 779 F.2d at 1423.

         The following factors must be considered before dismissal is imposed as a sanction for failure to prosecute or failure to comply with a court order: (1) the public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation; (2) the court's need to manage its docket; (3) the risk of prejudice to the defendants/respondents; (4) the availability of less drastic alternatives; and (5) the public policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits. Pagtalunan v. Galaza, 291 F.3d 639 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1260-61).

         “The public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation always favors dismissal.” Yourish v. California Amplifier, 191 F.3d 983, 990 (9th Cir. 1999). Without an ability to communicate with Mr. Spatz, this matter could linger indefinitely. This factor weighs in favor of dismissal.

         For much the same reasons, the second factor supports dismissal. The Ninth Circuit has noted that “[i]t is incumbent upon us to preserve the district courts' power to manage their docket without being subject to the endless vexatious noncompliance of litigants. . . .” Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1261. “The trial judge is in the best position to determine whether the delay in a particular case interferes with docket management and the public interest.” Pagtalunan, 291 F.3d 639 (citing Yourish, 191 F.3d 983). The Court must be able to manage its docket. It cannot do so if there is no way to communicate with Mr. Spatz. Therefore, this factor favors dismissal.

         The third factor requires the Court to weigh the risk of prejudice to Defendants. “To prove prejudice, a defendant must establish that plaintiff's actions impaired defendant's ability to proceed to trial or threatened to interfere with the rightful decision of the case.” Malone v. United States Postal Service, 833 F.2d 128, 131 (9th Cir. 1987). Mr. Spatz's refusal to update his address makes prejudice a foregone conclusion. The longer this matter sits, the more prejudice to Defendants.

         The Court has considered the possibility of and provided less drastic alternatives. Alternatives may include “allowing further amended complaints, allowing additional time, or insisting that appellant associate experienced counsel.” Nevijel v. North Coast Life Insurance Co., 651 F.2d 671, 674 (9th Cir. 1981). Although less drastic alternatives to a dismissal should be considered, the court is not required to exhaust all such alternatives prior to dismissal. Id. Mr. Spatz was advised on numerous occasions of the requirement of keeping the Court and opposing counsel apprised of his current address and the consequences of failing to do so. See Notice of Case Opening (Doc. 3 at 2); February 27, 2018 Order (Doc. 4 at 9); April 17, 2018 Order to Update Address (Doc. 9). He was given an opportunity to notify the Court of his new address but has not done so. Given Mr. Spatz's refusal to keep his address updated, the Court can envision no further alternatives to dismissal.

         The last factor weighs against dismissal of the Complaint because public policy favors the disposition of cases on their merits. Pagtalunan, 291 F.3d 639 (citing Hernandez v. City of El Monte, 138 F.3d 393, 399 (9th Cir. 1998)). Since the other four factors weigh in favor of dismissal, however, dismissal is an appropriate sanction.

         Based upon the foregoing the Court issues the following:

         RECOMMENDATIONS

         1. This matter should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Clerk of Court should be directed to close this matter and enter judgment pursuant to Rule 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         2. The Clerk of Court should be directed to have the docket reflect that the Court certifies pursuant to Rule 24(a)(3)(A) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure that any appeal of this decision would not be taken in good faith.

         NOTICE OF RIGHT TO OBJECT TO FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS AND ...


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