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Martocci v. Hyman

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 15, 2018

JOHN C. MARTOCCI, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES F. HYMAN, etc., et. al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Michael A. Hammer UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on this Court's January 2, 2018 Order to Show Cause why Plaintiff's Complaint should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41. D.E. 68. Plaintiff failed to file a response to the Order to Show Cause and appear for a telephone conference held before the Undersigned on March 15, 2018. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, the Undersigned did not hear oral argument and has considered this matter on the papers. For the reasons below, the Court respectfully recommends that the District Court dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice.

         I. Background

         On January 7, 2016, Plaintiff, who was a state inmate at that time, filed the instant Complaint against employees of both Harbor House and the Talbot Hall Assessment Center, seeking a change in his halfway house classification from “moderate treatment” to work release. Complaint, D.E. 1. Defendants submitted a letter to the Court dated December 28, 2017, D.E. 67, advising the Court that Plaintiff pro se has failed to respond to any discovery requests. Plaintiff was required to serve all outstanding written discovery responses by November 20, 2017. Amended Pretrial Scheduling Order, Oct. 27, 2017, D.E. 66.

         Thereafter, this Court directed Plaintiff to show cause in writing by January 24, 2018 why this action should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41 and failure to comply with this Court's Orders. See Order to Show Cause, January 2, 2018, D.E. 68. Plaintiff failed to respond. Additionally, the Court set a telephone conference for March 15, 2018. Plaintiff failed to appear for the call. Moreover, the record reflects that Plaintiff neither contacted Defendants nor the Court to seek an extension of the deadlines by which to produce discovery.

         II. Legal Analysis

         A. Standards for Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b)

         Dismissal of a plaintiff's complaint may be appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) “if the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). In Poulis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 747 F.2d 863 (3d Cir. 1984), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit provided the factors that this Court must weigh in determining whether to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). Specifically, the Court must consider six factors in deciding whether the sanction of dismissal is appropriate: (1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility, (2) prejudice to the adversary, (3) history of dilatoriness, (4) willful or bad faith conduct of an attorney, (5) alternative sanctions, and (6) meritoriousness of the claim or defense. Poulis, 747 F.2d at 868; Emerson v. Thiel College, 296 F.3d 184, 1903d Cir. 2002) (applying Poulis factors). No single Poulis factor is dispositive, and dismissal may be appropriate even if some of the factors are not met. Hovey v. LaFarge North America Inc., Civ. No. 07-2193, 2008 WL 305701, *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 29, 2008) (citing Mindek v. Rigatti, 964 F.2d 1369, 1373 (3d Cir. 1992)). See also Rosado v. Adams, Civ. No. 07-1914, 2009 WL 1181217, *1-3 (M.D. Pa. April 30, 2009) (applying Poulis analysis to dismissal for failure to prosecute under Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b)); Vrlaku v. Citibank, Civ. No. 05-1720, 2005 WL 2338852, *2-3 (D.N.J. Sept. 23, 2005) (same, and noting that “[a] Court may raise a motion to dismiss an action under Rule 41 sua sponte under its inherent case management powers.”). See also OPTA Systems, LLC v. Daewoo Electronics America, 483 F.Supp.2d 400, 404 (D.N.J. 2007) (“Failure to prosecute does not require that a party take affirmative steps to delay the case. A failure to comply with court orders, failure to respond to discovery or other failure to act is sufficient to constitute lack of prosecution.”) (citations omitted). Although not all these factors necessarily apply in every case, the Court is obligated to consider any factors that do apply.

         B. Consideration of the Poulis Factors

         i. The extent of the party's personal responsibility

         In the instant case, Plaintiff has failed to respond to the Orders of this Court requiring responses to written discovery. Nor has Plaintiff contacted the Court to explain his failure to comply. As a result, this case has been brought to a virtual standstill with no indication that Plaintiff intends to continue to prosecute his claims. Accordingly, the Undersigned can conclude only that Plaintiff does not intend to further litigate his claims and has willfully chosen to abandon this suit.

         The Court recognizes that as a pro se litigant, Plaintiff is not represented by counsel and may encounter challenges that a represented party would not face. However, at the same time, Plaintiff cannot contend that his failure to prosecute this matter is the fault of counsel. See, e.g., Clarke v. Nicholson, 153 Fed.Appx. 69, 73 (3d Cir. 2005), cert. denied, 548 U.S. 907 (2006) (“[U]nlike a situation in which a dismissal is predicated upon an attorney's error, the plaintiff here was pro se and directly responsible for her actions and inaction in the litigation.”). Moreover, the record reflects that Plaintiff's failure to prosecute is not the result of his inability to comprehend or address a highly complicated or technical legal issue; it is the result of Plaintiff's failure to take basic action necessary to prosecute his claims, such as responding to discovery when directed to do so, responding to Court Orders, or explaining his inability to do so. In any event, a pro se plaintiff is solely responsible for prosecuting his case. Briscoe v. Klaus, 538 F.3d 252, 258-59 (3d Cir. 2008) (citations omitted).

         Accordingly, the first Poulis factor weighs in favor of dismissal.

         ii. Prejudice ...


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