Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wells v. Gourmet Services Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

January 5, 2018

LAWRENCE WELLS, Plaintiff,
v.
GOURMET SERVICES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          W. KEITH WATKINS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is Defendants' motion for sanctions. (Doc. # 188.) Also before the court is Plaintiff Lawrence Wells's Response (Doc. # 193) to the December 28, 2017 Order (Doc. # 189) to show cause.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “‘Courts of justice are universally acknowledged to be vested, by their very creation, with power to impose silence, respect, and decorum, in their presence, and submission to their lawful mandates.'” Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43 (1991) (quoting Anderson v. Dunn, 6 Wheat. 204, 227 (1821)). “A district court has inherent authority to manage its own docket ‘so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases.'” Equity Lifestyle Props., Inc. v. Fla. Mowing & Landscape Serv., Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1240 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Chambers, 501 U.S. at 43).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), a district court has discretion to dismiss an action “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with [the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] or a court order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). “The court's power to dismiss [under Rule 41(b)] is an inherent aspect of its authority to enforce its orders and insure prompt disposition of lawsuits.” Goforth v. Owens, 766 F.2d 1533, 1535 (11th Cir. 1985) (citing Link v. Wabash Railroad Co., 370 U.S. 626, 630-31 (1962); Jones v. Graham, 709 F.2d 1457, 1458 (11th Cir. 1983)). “‘The power to invoke this sanction [by dismissal under Rule 41(b)] is necessary in order to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and to avoid congestion in the calendars of the District Court.'” Equity Lifestyle, 556 F.3d at 1240 (quoting Durham v. Fla. E. Coast Ry. Co., 385 F.2d 366, 367 (5th Cir. 1967)[1]).

         Whether to dismiss a complaint under Rule 41(b) and the court's inherent powers “is a matter committed to the district court's discretion.” Id. at 1240 n.14 (citing Gratton v. Great Am. Commc'ns, 178 F.3d 1373, 1374 (11th Cir. 1999)). “Dismissal of a case with prejudice is considered a sanction of last resort, applicable only in extreme circumstances.” Goforth, 766 F.2d at 1535. In considering whether to dismiss a case under Rule 41(b), “a district court must consider the possibility of alternative, lesser sanctions.” Zocaras v. Castro, 465 F.3d 479, 484 (11th Cir. 2006). Nevertheless, dismissal can be appropriate where there is a “‘clear record of delay or willful contempt and a finding that lesser sanctions would not suffice” to serve the interests of justice and to secure future compliance with court orders. Goforth, 766 F.2d at 1535 (quoting Jones, 709 F.2d at 1458); see also Zocaras, 465 F.3d at 483 (noting that dismissal under Rule 41(b) requires “a clear record of delay or willful conduct and that lesser sanctions are inadequate to correct such conduct”).

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This case has been pending since Mr. Wells filed his 816-page pro se complaint on July 19, 2013. (Doc. # 1.) Other than to set out the details most immediately relevant to Mr. Wells's current failure to comply with court orders, the court will not clutter this Memorandum Opinion with a recitation of the lengthy procedural history of the case. The court notes, however, that the primary reason this case has been pending for an unusually long period of time is because this court has “bent over backwards” to give Mr. Wells, who was proceeding pro se for the majority of the active life of this case and who became unable to travel to the United States after he obtained counsel, a chance to present and litigate his remaining claim. Equity Lifestyle, 556 F.3d at 1241.

         On October 2, 2013, the United States Magistrate Judge entered an order setting the case for a scheduling and status conference on October 17, 2013. (Doc. # 16.) The order required Mr. Wells, who was proceeding pro se at the time, to appear in person at the conference. The order advised that failure to appear could result in a recommendation that the case be dismissed. (Doc. # 16.)

         On October 8, 2013, Mr. Wells telephoned the office of the United States Magistrate Judge to explain that he was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and to request that the October 17, 2013 status and scheduling conference be held by telephone or via Skype. (Doc. # 18.) The Magistrate Judge, through his staff, instructed Mr. Wells to file a written motion containing this request. (See Doc. # 18.) Mr. Wells asked if he could file the motion by email, and he was specifically instructed that the court does not accept filings or communications via email. (Doc. # 18.) Mr. Wells stated that he would submit a motion to the Clerk's office by express mail. (Doc. # 18.) Nevertheless, Mr. Wells then immediately began to attempt to communicate with the court by email and to submit motions by email to a court email account which he had been told was not for that purpose. (Doc. # 18.) Mr. Wells also attempted to effect service on the other parties by sending copies of the emails to their personal email accounts. (Doc. # 18.)

         Thereafter, on October 15, 2013, the United States Magistrate Judge entered an order resetting the status and scheduling conference for December 10, 2013, and further admonishing Mr. Wells as follows:

Mr. Wells is again INSTRUCTED not to attempt to communicate with the court or to submit motions or other documents to the court via email. Papers are to be filed by physical delivery to the Clerk's office. Fed.R.Civ.P. 5(d)(2)(A). This court does not accept ex parte email communications from any party. The court will not respond to unauthorized email communications; such communications are subject to deletion. Continued failure to comply with these instructions may result in sanctions.
Mr. Wells is further INSTRUCTED that service must be effected in accordance with Rule 5(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that the plaintiff mail to the lawyer for the defendants or, if no attorney has appeared on behalf of the defendants, the defendants themselves, a true copy of anything which the plaintiff sends to or files with the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 5(b). Failure to do so may result in dismissal of this case or other penalties. Anything filed should contain a certificate of service which specifically states that the pleading or other document has been sent to the lawyer for the defendants.
. . . .
Mr. Wells is further specifically advised that this case will move forward even if he must proceed pro se, and even if he has left the country. The court may dismiss an action “[i]f the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with [the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] or a court order.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b); Equity Lifestyle Props., Inc. v. Fla. Mowing & Landscape Serv., Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1240 (11th Cir. 2009).

(Doc. # 18 (emphasis in original).)

         On January 7, 2015, Attorney James E. Long entered a notice of appearance on behalf of Mr. Wells. (Doc. # 73.) The case then proceeded at a reasonable pace until the July 27, 2015 trial was continued only three days before it was scheduled to start. (Doc. # 128.) Thereafter, rescheduling the trial was delayed because the government of Dubai, to which Mr. Wells had relocated while the case was pending, would not allow him to leave that country. (Doc. # 139; Doc. # 173; Doc. # 180.) In July 2017, without having been advised that Mr. Wells would be able to leave Dubai, the court set the case for a pretrial conference on January 11, 2018, and for trial on February 26, 2018. (Doc. # 179.) Mr. Wells did not object to the trial setting.

         On November 15, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to strike a request[2] Mr. Wells[3] had attempted to submit to the court via email to the United States Magistrate Judge's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.