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Malone v. United States Postal Service

Citation. 833 F.2d 128 (9th Cir. 1987)
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Citation. 833 F.2d 128 (9th Cir. 1987)

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff sued Defendant for violation of her civil rights. After a mistrial, the Defendant moved to dismiss the case because Plaintiff failed to comply with a pretrial order.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

In determining whether to dismiss a case for failure to comply with a court order, a court must consider (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.


Ann Malone (Plaintiff) sued the United States Postal Service (Defendant) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A mistrial was declared after Plaintiff’s attorney failed to properly conduct the trial. The court then issued a pretrial order with specific requirements for the new trial, including naming all witnesses and all direct questions and anticipated answers. Plaintiff’s attorney refused to comply, arguing that Plaintiff lacked the financial means to comply with the requirements. Defendant moved to dismiss the case.


Did the district court abuse its discretion in granting the motion to dismiss with prejudice?


No, the district court properly dismissed the case for failure to comply with a pretrial court order. The lower court’s decision is affirmed.


Justice Tang

Justice Tang argued that the district court did not properly consider alternative, less drastic measures than dismissal. He noted that the district court could have individually sanctioned the attorney, or provided another opportunity for compliance before the trial, which was still 45 days away.


The Court determined that the district court properly granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice as a sanction for refusing to comply with a court order under Rule 16(f) and Rule 41(b). Assessing the record in light of the five relevant factors for dismissal, the Court concluded that Plaintiff’s noncompliance impeded an expedient resolution, delayed the court’s docket, prejudiced the Defendant who had complied with the court order, and the district court properly considered alternatives by providing warnings with the initial mistrial and pretrial order requirements. Furthermore, the Court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the order was invalid and noncompliance was solely the fault of her attorney.

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