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Inc. v. Does

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 27, 2017

ME2 PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff(s),
v.
JOHN AND JANE DOES, Defendant(s).

          ORDER (DOCKET NOS. 11, 12)

          NANCY J. KOPPE United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion (1) to eliminate the deadline to amend the complaint, (2) to alternatively extend the time to amend the complaint, and (3) to extend the time to effectuate service. Docket No. 11. Plaintiff also filed a motion for a hearing. Docket No. 12. For the reasons discussed below, the motion to eliminate the deadline to amend is DENIED, the motion to extend the deadline to amend the complaint is GRANTED in part, and the motion to extend the deadline to effectuate service is GRANTED. The Court finds a hearing unnecessary, see Local Rule 78-1, so the motion for a hearing is DENIED.

         I. ELIMINATING DEADLINE TO AMEND

         The Court set a deadline for Plaintiff to amend the complaint to add the identities of the Doe defendants. See Docket No. 7; see also Docket No.10 (extending deadline). Plaintiff moves to “eliminate the Court's self-imposed deadline.” Docket No. 11 at 4. Plaintiff questions the Court's authority to set a deadline to amend the complaint. See Id. at 4-5. In particular, Plaintiff argues that it is allowed unlimited time to amend the complaint as a matter of course so long as no defendant has filed a responsive pleading. See Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B)). Plaintiff argues by extension that the Court necessarily abuses its discretion by setting a deadline to amend the complaint at a time before any defendant has done so. See Id. Plaintiff is incorrect.

         As this Court has noted previously, where the identity of defendants is unknown prior to the filing of a complaint, the plaintiff should be given an opportunity through discovery to identify the unknown defendants, unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover the identities of the defendants, or that the complaint would be dismissed on other grounds. See, e.g., Wakefield v. Thompson, 177 F.3d 1160, 1163 (9th Cir. 1999). Plaintiff has presented no legal authority that a plaintiff must be given an indefinite period of time to conduct that discovery, however. Instead, the plaintiff must conduct the necessary discovery to identify those defendants and then “proceed with [its] claim.” Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 643 (9th Cir. 1980). To that end, courts routinely reject attempts to proceed on claims against Doe defendants when the plaintiff has not amended the complaint with their true names within a reasonable time. See Petty v. County of Franklin, Ohio, 478 F.3d 341, 345-46 (6th Cir. 2007) (affirming dismissal of claims); see also Garcia v. Clark County, 428 Fed.Appx. 706, 708-09 (9th Cir. 2011) (affirming denial of leave to amend); Chenault v. San Ramon Police Dept., 2016 WL 4702653, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2016) (entering summary judgment); Briggs v. Faulhaber, 2015 WL 9690236, at *8 (D. Id. Dec. 7, 2015), adopted, 2016 WL 126352 (D. Id. Jan. 11, 2016) (dismissing claims); Houser v. Ryan, 2015 WL 1288123, at *4 (D. Ariz. Mar. 19, 2015) (dismissing claims); Hoang Minh Tran v. Gore, 2012 WL 5511765, at *9 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 14, 2012) (dismissing claims); Penigar v. County of San Bernardino, 2012 WL 12878320, at *3 n.3 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 12, 2012) (denying request for leave to amend); Gangstee v. County of Sacramento, 2012 WL 112650, at *1 n.1 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 12, 2012) (dismissing claims); Kalinkin v. Robinson, 2010 WL 5158386, at *4-5 (D. Or. Dec. 14, 2010) (denying request for leave to amend); Walker v. Rodriguez, 2010 WL 424614, at *5 (E.D. Wash. Feb. 1, 2010) (dismissing claims). Not surprisingly given that authority, courts are permitted to set deadlines to ensure a plaintiff is sufficiently moving its case forward with respect to Doe defendants. See, e.g., Rich v. Wexford Health Solutions, 2011 WL 53064, at *3, 4 (D. Ariz. Jan. 7, 2011) (providing 60 days to discover identity of Doe defendants, and instructing the Clerk's Office to dismiss such claims absent the filing of a notice of substitution by that date).

         Plaintiff argues that the Court's authority to manage its docket espoused by these cases does not exist so long as no defendant has filed a responsive pleading. In particular, Plaintiff argues that it is permitted to amend its complaint as a matter of course up to 21 days after the filing of an amended complaint. Docket No. 11 at 4-5. Nothing in the text of Rule 15 leads to the Court to believe that this well-settled authority discussed above does not apply simply because the Doe defendants sued in this case have not yet appeared.[1] Rule 15 provides that a plaintiff may amend as a matter of course before a responsive pleading is filed, but it does not state that the Court must allow an indefinite period to do so. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1).[2] Moreover, Plaintiff's position fails to acknowledge other sources of a federal court's authority:

Federal Courts have broad inherent powers to manage their own affairs to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases. Both Rules 16(f) and 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit a judge to dismiss a case when the plaintiff fails to prosecute. The 1983 amendments to Rule 16 make clear that the rule is broadly remedial and its purpose is to encourage forceful judicial management. Moreover, under Rule 41 the district court has authority to order a party to take actions that aid the speedy resolution of a case, and to dismiss the party if it fails to comply with the court order.

Sherman v. United States, 801 F.2d 1133, 1135 (9th Cir. 1986) (per curiam) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Plaintiff's position is plainly inconsistent with the authority of the Court to dismiss claims for failure to prosecute under Rule 41(b). See Link v. Wabash RR Co., 370 U.S. 626, 629-30 (1962) (“The authority of a federal trial court to dismiss a plaintiff's action with prejudice because of his failure to prosecute cannot seriously be doubted. The power to invoke this sanction is necessary in order to prevent undue delays in the disposition of pending cases and to avoid congestion in the calendars of the District Courts”); see also Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44 (1991) (courts “may act sua sponte to dismiss a suit for failure to prosecute”). Moreover, as Plaintiff implicitly recognizes by also seeking to extend the service deadline in its motion, the failure to amend the complaint to add Doe defendants within 90 days by necessity runs afoul of the requirement to serve the complaint within that time frame pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Petty, 478 F.3d at 345-46; see also Urias v. Quiroz, 895 F.Supp. 262, 264 (S.D. Cal. 1995) (dismissing Doe defendants sua sponte for lack of service).

         Accordingly, the Court rejects Plaintiff's contention that it is entitled to an indefinite period of time to file an amended complaint identifying the Doe defendants and, similarly, that the Court lacks the legal authority to set a deadline to do so.

         B. Extension of Deadline to Amend

         Plaintiff next seeks an extension of the deadline to file the amended complaint. The Court may extend deadlines upon a showing of good cause. Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1). Plaintiff seeks an extension of time to amend the complaint to June 26, 2017. Docket No. 11 at 9. Plaintiff contends that such additional time is needed because Charter Communications has not provided the discovery sought to identify some of the Doe defendants. See Id. at 6. To that end, Plaintiff has attached correspondence with Charter Communications indicating that it expects to respond to Plaintiff's subpoena by May 8, 2017. Docket No. 11-1 at 2. Given the circumstances, the Court finds that there is good cause to extend the deadline for Plaintiff to amend the complaint to May 22, 2017.

         II. DEADLINE TO EFFECTUATE SERVICE

         Where good cause is shown, the time for serving the complaint is extended for an appropriate period. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). As outlined above, Plaintiff has faced delays in discovering the identities of some of the Doe defendants. The motion establishes sufficient cause to extend the time for effectuating service and the Court will extend the deadline to do so to June 26, 2017.

         III. ...


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