United States District Court, D. Maine
DECISION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE
C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge
action, Plaintiff, an inmate at the Maine State Prison,
alleges that Defendants unlawfully interfered with his right
to vote in November 2016. More particularly, Plaintiff
asserts Defendants prevented him from voting at least in part
because he was incarcerated at the time.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to
Dismiss Without Prejudice. (ECF No. 17.) In the motion,
Plaintiff asserts that he does not have the resources to
prosecute the matter. Defendants oppose the motion, and ask
the Court to make a determination on the merits. (ECF No.
18.) The Court grants the motion, and dismisses the matter
filed his complaint on January 5, 2017. After Defendants
filed their response to the complaint (ECF No. 13), the Court
issued a scheduling order, which designated August 23, 2017,
as the deadline for completion of discovery. (ECF No. 14.)
to Defendants, both parties engaged in discovery following
the Court's issuance of the scheduling order. Plaintiff
filed the motion to dismiss on June 30, 2017.
Defendants answered Plaintiff's complaint, Plaintiff
cannot voluntarily dismiss his action without a court order.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2). In Colon-Cabrera v. Esso Standard
Oil Co. (P.R.), 723 F.3d 82 (1st Cir. 2013), the First
Circuit discussed the factors relevant to a court's
determination whether to grant a plaintiff's request to
dismiss an action without prejudice.
the Court observed that under Rule 41(a)(2), “dismissal
without prejudice is the norm, ‘unless the court finds
that the defendant will suffer legal prejudice.'”
Id. at 88 (quoting P.R. Maritime Shipping Auth.
v. Leith, 668 F.2d 46, 50 (1st Cir. 1981)). In addition,
the Court noted: “The mere prospect of a subsequent
lawsuit does not constitute such prejudice.”
Id. (citing Doe v. Urohealth Sys.,
Inc., 216 F.3d 157, 160 (1st Cir. 2000)).
Court then wrote:
Voluntary dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2) is conditioned on
court permission to protect the nonmovant from unfair
treatment. Such unfairness can take numerous forms, including
the defendant's effort and expense of preparation for
trial, excessive delay and lack of diligence on the part of
the plaintiff in prosecuting the action, insufficient
explanation of the need to take a dismissal, and the fact
that a motion for summary judgment has been filed by the
defendant. For example, it is appropriate to consider whether
a party proposes to dismiss the case at a late stage of
pretrial proceedings, or seeks to avoid an imminent adverse
ruling. A plaintiff should not be permitted to force a
defendant to incur substantial costs in litigating an action,
and then simply dismiss his own case and compel the defendant
to litigate a wholly new proceeding.
Id. (citations and internal quotations omitted).
Defendants primarily cite the time and effort expended in
discovery, and the prospect of future litigation as the
prejudice they would suffer in the event the Court dismissed
Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice. Defendants also
represent that they were “gathering the facts in
preparation for a summary judgment filing” when
Plaintiff filed his motion to dismiss. (Defendants'
Opposition at 8, ECF No. 18.) Defendants contend they would
be able to establish that Plaintiff was unable to register to
vote because he erred in the street address he provided
Defendants, and not due to an unlawful reason. In support of
their argument, Defendants assert they can present evidence
that they approved the voter registration of a
similarly-situated individual who provided a valid street
address. (Id. at 6, 9.)
First Circuit's analysis reveals that the stage of the
proceedings at which a plaintiff seeks to dismiss a claim is
significant to a court's assessment of whether to grant a
plaintiff's motion to dismiss without prejudice. As a
general rule, the closer the matter is to trial and the
greater a defendant's commitment of time and resources to
the defense of the claim, the more likely the dismissal
should be with prejudice. Although Plaintiff filed his motion
after Defendants responded to his discovery initiatives,
Plaintiff filed the motion approximately two months before
the close of discovery and more than four months before the
expected trial date. Furthermore, Plaintiff filed the motion
before Defendants incurred the cost of filing a summary
judgment motion. Finally, a review of the docket ...