District Court Is Not Obliged to Inform Pro Se Litigants of Evidentiary or Procedural Rules and Properly Requires Adherence to Them

From Keeler vb. Aramark, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 7216 (10th Cir. April 7, 2011):

We ... consider two procedural arguments Mr. Keeler makes — that the district court should have advised him of the requirement to authenticate his exhibits when it asked his preference on converting Wesley's motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment, and that the court erred in ruling on the summary judgment motions before he had the opportunity to file a reply in support of his own motion. He contends that, in his reply, he planned to authenticate the documents he had submitted to the court in his previous summary-judgment filings and submit additional evidence.

Both arguments lack merit. First, although courts afford a pro se litigant's filings some leniency, they have no obligation to advise such a litigant of the authentication requirement, for even pro se litigants are expected to "follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants." Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007) (quotation omitted). Second, on July 23, 2010, Wesley filed its response to Mr. Keeler's summary judgment motion and served it to Mr. Keeler by first-class mail. Under the applicable local rule, Mr. Keeler's reply was due fourteen days later, on August 6, 2010. See D. Kan. Rule 6.1(d)(2) (2010) ("Replies must be filed and served within 14 days of the service of the response."); see id. 6.1(d) ("These time periods include the additional 3-day period allowed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d) and, therefore, apply regardless of the method of service."). Mr. Keeler did not file a reply by that date or request an extension of time. Therefore, the district court's August 12 decision was not issued prior to the expiration of his time to file a reply. Mr. Keeler states that he thought he had until August 16 to file a reply but admits he was operating under a prior version of the local rule, which set a twenty-three day period for filing a reply. He claims he did not know the rule had been changed and argues that, because the rule book does not contain a warning that the rules can be amended annually, his failure to file a timely reply should be excused, and this court should consider exhibits he would have filed with his reply. We reject this contention for the same reason we concluded the district court had no obligation to inform him of the authentication requirement — even pro se litigants are expected to know and follow basic procedural rules. *** Accordingly, we see no merit to his claims of procedural error.

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