Standards Governing Abuse of Discretion Review and Rule 41(b) Dismissal for Disobeying a Court Order — Ninth Circuit Formulation

VF Elec., Inc. v. GTE Corp., 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 1437 (9th Cir. Jan. 17, 2013) (unpublished):

VF Electric, Inc. appeals from the district court's Order and Opinion dismissing its third amended complaint and action with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). We review a district court's "dismissal for failure to comply with a court order under [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 41(b) . . . for abuse of discretion." Johns v. Cnty. of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1997). We will only reverse a district court's decision as an abuse of discretion where we "determine de novo [that] the trial court identified the [in]correct legal rule to apply," or "determine [that] the trial court's application of the correct legal standard was (1) 'illogical,' (2) 'implausible,' or (3) without 'support in inferences that may be drawn from the facts in the record.'" United States v. Hinkson, 585 F.3d 1247, 1261-62 (9th Cir. 2009) (en banc).

We review the district court's findings of fact, made in connection with a determination that a party failed to comply with an order, for clear error. See United States v. Nat'l Med. Enters., Inc., 792 F.2d 906, 911 (9th Cir. 1986). "A district judge's determination that an order was not complied with is entitled to considerable weight because the district judge is best equipped to assess the circumstances of the noncompliance." Id. (citing Van Bronkhorst v. Safeco Corp., 529 F.2d 943, 947 (9th Cir. 1976)). ***

"District courts have inherent power to control their dockets. In the exercise of that power they may impose sanctions including, where appropriate, default or dismissal." Thompson v. Hous. Auth. of L.A., 782 F.2d 829, 831 (9th Cir. 1986) (per curiam). "Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), the district court may dismiss an action for failure to comply with any order of the court." Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1260 (9th Cir. 1992). Dismissal is a harsh penalty, however, so a district court must only employ this measure in "extreme circumstances." Henderson v. Duncan, 779 F.2d 1421, 1423 (9th Cir. 1986). As such, this court has only allowed for the imposition of a dismissal for failure to comply with pretrial orders:

after requiring the district court to weigh several factors: (1) the public's interest in expeditious resolution of litigation; (2) the court's need to manage its docket; (3) the risk of prejudice to the defendants; (4) the public policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits and (5) the availability of less drastic sanctions.

Thompson, 782 F.2d at 831; see also Yourish v. Cal. Amplifier, 191 F.3d 983, 990 (9th Cir. 1999); Ferdik, 963 F.2d at 1260-61.

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