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Scott N. Johnson v. Kevin M. Cairns

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


April 21, 2011

SCOTT N. JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEVIN M. CAIRNS, INDIVIDUALLY AND D/B/A DANTE'S ON THE RIVER; NANCY C. CAIRNS, INDIVIDUALLY AND D/B/A DANTE'S ON THE RIVER, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

On February 24, 2011, this case came before the undersigned for a status (pretrial scheduling) conference. (Dkt. No. 15.)*fn1 Prior to that status conference, plaintiff Scott N. Johnson filed a status report on his own behalf. (Dkt. No. 16.) Defendants Kevin and Nancy Cairns (the "defendants"), proceeding without counsel in this action, neither filed a status report nor appeared at the status conference and accordingly, the undersigned issued an Order to Show Cause on February 24, 2011. (Dkt. No. 18.)

On March 16, 2011, the defendants filed a timely response to the Order to Show Cause. (Dkt. No. 20.) Therein, defendants apologized for their failure to attend the status conference. They revealed a misunderstanding that the action was "over" because their bank teller had informed them that Mr. Johnson was not allowed to proceed with further lawsuits. (Id.) This explains, but does not excuse, defendants' failure to appear at the status conference. It neither explains nor excuses defendants' prior failure to file a status report.

Defendants may not rely on passing suggestions by their acquaintances indicating that defendants might lack the obligation to fully defend themselves in the pending action. To the contrary, defendants are obligated to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Eastern District Local Rules until the court informs them otherwise. Even though they are not represented by an attorney, defendants are obligated to fully comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Eastern District Local Rules. See Local Rule 110 ("Failure 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."); Local Rule 183(a) ("Any individual representing himself or herself without an attorney is bound by the Federal Rules of Civil or Criminal Procedure, these Rules, and all other applicable law."); King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987) ("Pro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.").

Notwithstanding the foregoing, because defendants are proceeding without counsel and may not have fully understood their obligations as defendants in this action, the undersigned discharges the Order to Show Cause and will not sanction defendants at this time. However, their future failure to abide by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Eastern District Local Rules may subject defendants to sanctions, including possibly entry of default judgment against them. See e.g., Thompson v. Housing Auth. of City of L.A., 782 F.2d 829, 831 (9th Cir. 1986) (per curiam) ("District courts have inherent power to control their dockets. In the exercise of that power they may impose sanctions including, where appropriate, default or dismissal.").

For the reasons stated above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. The Order to Show Cause (Dkt. No. 18) is discharged. IT IS SO ORDERED.


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