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Charles v. Astrue

September 28, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge



On October 26, 2009, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income. (Doc. 1.) The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), and the matter has been assigned to the Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings in this case, including entry of final judgment. (Docs. 13, 15, 17.)

On November 10, 2009, the Court issued a scheduling order directing (1) Plaintiff to serve upon Defendant a letter brief within thirty (30) days after service of the administrative record, (2) Defendant to serve a response to Plaintiff's letter brief within thirty-five (35) days thereafter, (3) the parties to file any stipulation to a remand within fifteen (15) days after Defendant's response, and (4) Plaintiff to file and serve an opening brief within thirty (30) days of Defendant's response if Defendant did not agree to a remand to the Commissioner. (Doc. 9 ¶¶ 3-6.) The scheduling order further stated that "[v]iolations of this order or of the federal or local rules of procedure may result in sanctions pursuant to Local Rule [110]." (Id. ¶ 15.) An informational order for pro se litigants issued on March 10, 2010, also expressly warned Plaintiff that failure to comply with the local rules, federal rules, or a court order, including the informational order itself, would be grounds for dismissal or other appropriate sanctions. (Doc. 16 at 8.)

On May 17, 2010, Defendant served and lodged the administrative record. (Doc. 18.) Plaintiff did not file an opening brief within the Court's prescribed time period, and the parties did not stipulate to an extension of time for Plaintiff to do so. Accordingly, the Court ordered Plaintiff, by September 24, 2010, either to file his opening brief or to show cause why the Court should not impose sanctions, including dismissal, for Plaintiff's failure to do so. (Doc. 19 at 2.) The order to show cause admonished Plaintiff that "failure to timely comply with this order will result in dismissal of this action." (Id.) Plaintiff has not filed his opening brief or otherwise responded to the order to show cause.


A. Legal Standard

Local Rule 110 provides that "[f]ailure of counsel or of a party to comply with these Rules or with any order of the Court may be grounds for imposition by the Court of any and all sanctions authorized by statute or Rule or within the inherent power of the Court." A court may dismiss an action, with prejudice, because of a party's failure to prosecute an action, failure to obey a court order, or failure to comply with local rules. See, e.g., Hells Canyon Pres. Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 403 F.3d 683, 689 (9th Cir. 2005) (recognizing that a court may dismiss an action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) sua sponte for a plaintiff's failure to prosecute or comply with the rules of civil procedure or the court's orders); Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 53 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) ("Failure to follow a district court's local rules is a proper ground for dismissal.").

In determining whether to dismiss an action for lack of prosecution, failure to obey a court order, or failure to comply with local rules, the Court must consider the following factors: (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, (4) the public policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits, and (5) the availability of less drastic sanctions. Omstead v. Dell, Inc., 594 F.3d 1081, 1084 (9th Cir. 2010); In re Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) Prods. Liab. Litig., 460 F.3d 1217, 1226 (9th Cir. 2006); Pagtalunan v. Galaza, 291 F.3d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 2002). "Where a court order is violated, the first two factors support sanctions and the fourth factor cuts against a default. Therefore, it is the third and fifth factors that are decisive." Adriana Int'l Corp. v. Thoeren, 913 F.2d 1406, 1412 (9th Cir. 1990).

B. Analysis

1. The Public's Interest in Expeditious Resolution of Litigation

"[T]he public has an overriding interest in securing 'the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.'" In re Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) Prods. Liab. Litig., 460 F.3d at 1227 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 1). "Orderly and expeditious resolution of disputes is of great importance to the rule of law. By the same token, delay in reaching the merits, whether by way of settlement or adjudication, is costly in money, memory, manageability, and confidence in the process." Id. "The public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation always favors dismissal." Pagtalunan, 291 F.3d at 642. Accordingly, Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's order and to pursue his case further weighs in favor of dismissal.

2. The Court's Need to Manage Its Docket

As for the second factor, district courts retain broad discretion to control their dockets, and in the exercise of that power they may impose sanctions including, where appropriate, dismissal. Adams v. Cal. Dep't of Health Servs., 487 F.3d 684, 688 (9th Cir. 2007). The Court "is in the best position to determine whether the delay in a particular ...

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