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Walner v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 7, 2017

JOHNNIE LEE WALNER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER DISMISSING THE ACTION FOR PLAINTIFF'S FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE COURT'S ORDER AND FAILURE TO PROSECUTE

          Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Johnnie Lee Walner initiated this action seeking judicial review of the administrative decision denying an application for benefits under the Social Security Act. However, Plaintiff has failed to prosecute the action and failed to comply with the Court's orders to file an opening brief. Accordingly, the action is DISMISSED without prejudice.

         I. Relevant Background

         Johnnie Lee Walner initiated this action by filing a complaint on November 1, 2016, seeking judicial review of the decision to denying an application for Social Security benefits. (Doc. 1) On December 2, 2016, the Court entered its Scheduling Order, setting forth the applicable deadlines for the action. (Doc. 7-1) Pursuant to the Scheduling Order, the parties exchanged confidential letter briefs, with Defendant serving the Commissioner's response on August 29, 2017. (Doc. 22)

         In the Scheduling Order, Plaintiff was ordered to file an opening brief addressing “each claimed error” by the administrative law judge within thirty days of the date of service of the Commissioner's response. (See Doc. 7-1 at 2, 4, explaining the applicable briefing deadlines.) Thus, Plaintiff was to file his opening brief in this action no later than September 28, 2017. (See id.) However, Plaintiff failed to file an opening brief, and did not request an extension of time.

         On October 4, 2017, the Court issued an order to Plaintiff to show cause why the action should not be dismissed for his failure to prosecute and failure to comply with the Court's order. (Doc. 23) In the alternative, Plaintiff was directed “to file an opening brief” within fourteen days of the date of service. (Id. at 2)

         Plaintiff filed a timely response to the Court's order on October 16, 2017. (Doc. 24) In the response, Plaintiff asserted his belief that his “case needs further evaluation since [his] condition is not getting any better and [he is] taking new prescription medication for pain.” (Id. at 1) In addition, Plaintiff reported that he has several upcoming appointments, and was awaiting appointments with specialists. (Id. at 2) However, the Court noted that Plaintiff's response addressed present events, while this action is related to “the unfavorable decision issued on February 20, 2015 by an administrative law judge on February 20, 2015.” (Doc. 25 at 2) Therefore, the Court again provided Plaintiff with the standards for filing an opening brief-previously giving in its Scheduling Order-and directed Plaintiff “to file an opening brief that complies with the briefing requirements … no later than November 3, 2017.” (Id., emphasis omitted) The Court explained that upon the receipt of the opening brief, the order to show cause would be discharged. (Id.) Plaintiff was “reminded that failure to comply with the Court's order will result in the action being dismissed.” (Id., emphasis omitted) To date, Plaintiff has not filed an opening brief in the action.

         II. Failure to Prosecute and Obey the Court's Orders

         The Local Rules, corresponding with Fed.R.Civ.P. 11, provide: “Failure of counsel or of a party to comply with . . . any order of the Court may be grounds for the imposition by the Court of any and all sanctions . . . within the inherent power of the Court.” LR 110. “District courts have inherent power to control their dockets, ” and in exercising that power, a court may impose sanctions including dismissal of an action. Thompson v. Housing Authority of Los Angeles, 782 F.2d 829, 831 (9th Cir. 1986). A court may dismiss an action with prejudice, based on a party's failure to prosecute an action or failure to obey a court order, or failure to comply with local rules. See, e.g. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1260-61 (9th Cir. 1992) (dismissal for failure to comply with an order); Malone v. U.S. Postal Service, 833 F.2d 128, 130 (9th Cir. 1987) (dismissal for failure to comply with a court order); Henderson v. Duncan, 779 F.2d 1421, 1424 (9th Cir. 1986) (dismissal for failure to prosecute and to comply with local rules).

         III. Discussion and Analysis

         To determine whether to dismiss an action for failure to prosecute and failure to obey a Court order, the Court must consider several factors, including: “(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.” Henderson, 779 F.2d at 1423-24; see also Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1260-61; Thomspon, 782 F.2d at 831.

         A. Public interest and the Court's docket

         In the case at hand, the public's interest in expeditiously resolving this litigation and the Court's interest in managing the docket weigh in favor of dismissal. See Yourish v. Cal. Amplifier, 191 F.3d 983, 990 (9th Cir. 1999) (“The public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation always favors dismissal”); Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1261 (recognizing that district courts have inherent interest in managing their dockets without being subject to noncompliant litigants). This Court cannot, and will not hold, this case in abeyance based upon Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Court's orders and failure to take action to prosecute in a timely manner. See Morris v. Morgan Stanley & Co., 942 F.2d 648, 652 (9th Cir. 1991) (explaining a plaintiff has the burden “to move toward… disposition at a reasonable pace, and to refrain from dilatory and evasive tactics”). Accordingly, these factors weigh in favor of dismissal of the action.

         B. ...


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