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Burgs v. Sissel

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
Oct 9, 1984
745 F.2d 526 (8th Cir. 1984)

Summary

holding that pro se parties are "not excused from failing to comply with substantive and procedural law"

Summary of this case from Wagner v. City of St. Louis Dep't of Pub. Safety

Opinion

No. 84-1273.

Submitted August 15, 1984.

Decided October 9, 1984.

Nathan L. Burgs, Fort Madison, Iowa, pro se.

Thomas J. Miller, Atty. Gen. of Iowa, Gordon E. Allen, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., and Sarah J. Coats, Asst. Atty. Gen., Des Moines, Iowa, for appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

Before ARNOLD, JOHN R. GIBSON and BOWMAN, Circuit Judges.


Nathan Lee Burgs appeals from the district court's order dismissing his claim for injunctive relief and damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Burgs, an inmate at the Iowa Men's Penitentiary, alleged that defendants, John Sissel and William Sperfslage, harassed him for seeking redress of grievances in court and for providing legal assistance to fellow inmates at the Reformatory. Burgs further complained of disciplinary action taken by the defendants in which he was removed from his position as legal assistant and law library clerk. Burgs filed his claims on January 27, 1981 and thereafter sought numerous delays. Because his pleadings were, to a large extent, incomprehensible and confusing, the district court on May 3, 1983, issued an order requiring Burgs to file a pretrial statement by May 13, 1983, clarifying the legal issues involved. The court also requested a written statement of the facts, a list of all exhibits Burgs intended to introduce, and the names and addresses of all witnesses he intended to call. The district court clearly stated that failure to comply with the order could result in dismissal of the action.

The court issued another order on May 11, 1983, staying the actions until August 1, 1983, and ordering plaintiff to advise the court in writing whether he intended to pursue the actions. On August 17, 1983, plaintiff requested appointment of counsel. The court denied the motion and further noted that plaintiff had failed to comply with the May 11, 1983, order. Burgs was given an additional two weeks to advise the court whether he intended to pursue the actions. Burgs filed a document on October 6, 1983, indicating his intention to proceed with the action. In attempting to comply with the court's order requiring a pretrial statement, he listed members of the Iowa Board of Paroles as witnesses and challenged, among other things, the constitutionality of the rules and procedures of that Board. These charges were totally unrelated to his original complaint.

Finally, on January 5, 1984, the district court entered an order, indicating that if plaintiff did not amend his pretrial narrative statement within ten days, the actions would be dismissed. No action was taken within the time limit, and on January 31, 1984, the actions were dismissed.

Although pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, pro se litigants are not excused from failing to comply with substantive and procedural law. Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806, 834-35 n. 46, 95 S.Ct. 2525, 2540-41 n. 46, 45 L.Ed.2d 562 (1975). A pro se litigant should receive meaningful notice of what is expected of him, but the court is not permitted to act as counsel for either party. Schooley v. Kennedy, 712 F.2d 372, 373 (8th Cir. 1983). A district court has power to dismiss an action for refusal of the plaintiff to comply with any order of court, Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b), and such action may be taken on the court's own motion. M.S. v. Wermers, 557 F.2d 170, 175 (8th Cir. 1977). Welsh v. Automatic Poultry Feeder Co., 439 F.2d 95, 96 (8th Cir. 1971). Although a dismissal with prejudice is a drastic remedy, a pattern of intentional delay by the plaintiff is sufficient to warrant such action by the trial court. Garrison v. International Paper Co., 714 F.2d 757, 760 (8th Cir. 1983). The standard of review from a dismissal order is whether the district court has abused its discretion. Moore v. St. Louis Music Supply Co., 539 F.2d 1191, 1193 (8th Cir. 1976).

In this case, Burgs showed a lack of diligence in pursuing his suits and an apparent unwillingness to comply with the orders of the court. He was given three opportunities to comply with the district court's pretrial order and was forewarned each time that failure to do so could result in dismissal. The district court finally dismissed the actions when Burgs did not respond in time to its order of January 5, 1984. We find the district court did not abuse its discretion, and accordingly affirm the judgment of the district court pursuant to 8th Cir. R. 12(a).


Summaries of

Burgs v. Sissel

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
Oct 9, 1984
745 F.2d 526 (8th Cir. 1984)

holding that pro se parties are "not excused from failing to comply with substantive and procedural law"

Summary of this case from Wagner v. City of St. Louis Dep't of Pub. Safety

holding pleadings filed by pro se litigants are to be liberally construed

Summary of this case from Silva v. United States

holding that pro se litigants are not excused from complying with substantive and procedural law

Summary of this case from Britten v. Benson

holding that pro se litigants are not excused from complying with substantive and procedural law

Summary of this case from HEIMERMANN v. RAMP

finding court properly dismissed the plaintiff's claims after he disobeyed three court orders requiring him to amend his pretrial statement

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affirming dismissal for violation of local rules

Summary of this case from Lake v. Honeywell Int'l

reviewing sua sponte dismissal for lack of prosecution for abuse of discretion

Summary of this case from Foster v. Dep't of Army

providing that pro se litigants are not excused from complying with court orders, substantive law, and procedural law

Summary of this case from Fuller v. Lion Oil Trading & Transp., LLC

dismissing pro se plaintiff's case pursuant to Rule 41(b) after he failed to comply with the court's pretrial orders to clarify his claims

Summary of this case from Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. JBS USA, LLC

dismissing pro se plaintiff's case pursuant to Rule 41(b) after he failed to comply with the court's pretrial orders to clarify his claims

Summary of this case from Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. JBS USA, LLC

dismissing pro se plaintiff's case pursuant to Rule 41(b) after he failed to comply with the court's pretrial orders to clarify his claims

Summary of this case from Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. JBS USA, LLC

noting pro se litigants are not excused from having to comply with substantive and procedural law and that a court is not permitted to act as counsel for either party

Summary of this case from Ford v. Dir., Va. Dep't of Corr.

In Burgs, the Eighth Circuit affirmed a Rule 41 dismissal based on the plaintiff's "lack of diligence in pursuing his suit" and failure to comply with court orders.

Summary of this case from Lake v. Honeywell Int'l

acting sua sponte, a district court may dismiss an action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b) when plaintiff refuses to comply with an order of the court

Summary of this case from Dillion v. Brenner

stating that pro se litigants are not excused from compliance with substantive and procedural law

Summary of this case from Conway v. Nat'l Collegiate Trust (In re Conway)
Case details for

Burgs v. Sissel

Case Details

Full title:NATHAN LEE BURGS, APPELLANT, v. JOHN SISSEL; MR. WINDERS; MR. KLIESS; MR…

Court:United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

Date published: Oct 9, 1984

Citations

745 F.2d 526 (8th Cir. 1984)

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