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Dupree v. Hardy

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 13, 2017

Cedric Dupree, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Marcus Hardy, et al., Defendants-Appellees. B. Michael Schneider, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Will County, Illinois, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Submitted March 27, 2017 [*]

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. Nos. l:13-cv-06528 & 08 C 3054 - John Robert Blakey & Thomas M. Durkin, Judges.

          Before Posner, Sykes, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          HAMILTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         We have consolidated for decision two cases in which the district judges and volunteer lawyers generously gave uncooperative plaintiffs every opportunity to pursue their claims. In both cases the plaintiffs responded with further failures to cooperate with orderly litigation. After showing more patience than necessary, the district judges dismissed both cases for failure to prosecute. We affirm both eminently reasonable decisions.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         We begin by describing Cedric Dupree's lawsuit. Dupree sued Illinois prison staff under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly prolonging his incarceration. Proceedings were protracted, primarily because Dupree, who had been in and out of jail, dropped out of contact with the district court and the lawyer the court had recruited on his behalf. Early in the proceedings, in October 2014, Judge Leinenweber granted Dupree's request for a lawyer and recruited Robert Sweeney to represent him.

         The case was reassigned to Judge Blakey and in February 2015, the parties filed a joint status report. Sweeney reported that he had been attempting to contact Dupree to prepare an amended complaint, "but to date there has been no contact." According to the report, Dupree was seeking damages for "a series of deprivations of his rights, most notably, being held beyond the time he should have been released." Judge Blakey referred the case to Magistrate Judge Valdez to conduct a settlement conference.

         A series of status hearings followed. At a hearing in April 2015, attorney Sweeney could not attend, but "Defense counsel.. . reported on Sweeney's behalf that he had been unable to make any contact with [Dupree], who was no longer incarcerated." Magistrate Judge Valdez ordered Dupree to appear personally at a status hearing the following month. He failed to appear. Judge Valdez continued the hearing to July and ordered Dupree to appear at the next hearing with the warning that if he did not, "this matter may be dismissed for want of prosecution." Sweeney was present for the July hearing but Dupree again failed to appear. (Sweeney informed the judge that he had personally mailed the order to Dupree's last known address and left him multiple voicemails but still had not received any response.)

         Judge Valdez issued a report recommending that the case be dismissed for want of prosecution. She explained that Dupree had failed to communicate with his lawyer "in any way" and that his "repeated failure to obey court orders to appear demonstrate to this court's satisfaction that he lacks any intent to prosecute this case." She warned Dupree that he had 14 days to file objections to her report and recommendation. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). No objection followed, and Judge Blakey dismissed the case. Adopting the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, Judge Blakey agreed that Dupree "persistently failed to appear in court, even when specifically ordered to do so."

         Five months later, Dupree moved to reinstate the case, asserting that he had been released only recently after a yearlong incarceration. He stated that he had been rearrested in November 2014, about a month after his counsel had been recruited; that counsel falsely told the court that he had not been incarcerated; and that he had written to the court's clerk to inform the court that he was incarcerated. The district court scheduled a hearing and directed Dupree to "be prepared . . . to advise the Court of any information concerning [his] November 2014 incarceration."

         Dupree then missed that hearing too. Judge Blakey waited until the end of his motion call and called the case again. Dupree still had not appeared. Not receiving any word from Dupree, the judge denied the motion. Dupree arrived fifteen minutes after the court had concluded its motion call. He promptly filed a motion to reconsider, saying that he had been late because of traffic. The judge reiterated that Dupree had been late and declined to reconsider his earlier ruling.

         We now turn to Schneider's suit, which also asserts a claim that the defendants violated his constitutional rights by detaining him for too long. Schneider's case has also been protracted. We have considered Schneider's case twice before, ruling both times that some of the claims could proceed. See Schneider v. County of Will, 366 F.App'x 683, 684 (7th Cir. 2010); Schneider v. County of Will, 528 F.App'x 590, 591 (7th Cir. 2013).

         Over the course of the case, Schneider has tried repeatedly to disqualify the defendants' counsel. Nine times he asked the district court to disqualify the defendants' attorneys or to treat the county as if it had not appeared. He argued that the Will County State's Attorney did not comply with Illinois law when he appointed two private attorneys to defend the county in this suit. The district court denied each request. Schneider also filed an interlocutory ...


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