Adams v. Yolen
Despite the effect on a plaintiff's due-process rights, a court may not grant a motion to open, if the plaintiff fails to prosecute her case for a significant duration. In September 2008, the pro se plaintiff, Alfreda Adams, sued the defendants. Some of the defendants requested a stay. In December 2008, the District Court dismissed Adams' complaint, "without prejudice to reopening following the conclusion of the bankruptcy proceedings." About seven months afterward, in July 2009, the bankruptcy proceedings concluded. In December 2011, the District Court appointed pro bono counsel. In January 2012, Adams moved to reopen. Adams argued that the District Court should be lenient, because she filed the initial complaint as a pro se litigant, and she was unaware she possessed the right to move to open, after the bankruptcy proceedings concluded. The District Court denied the motion to open, and Adams appealed. "[E]ven a pro se litigant," wrote the District Court, "should have realized that a lapse of two years and five months (a total of 29 months) between the event that triggered the right to reopen and the actual motion to reopen is a `significant delay.' " Adams appealed to the 2nd Circuit. The 2nd Circuit reviewed for abuse of discretion and considered whether the plaintiff failed to prosecute for a significant duration. "Despite Adams' protestations that a pro se litigant should be excused from suffering consequences of the delay," wrote the 2nd Circuit, "the district court's December 11, 2008, order dismissing the case should have been clear, even to a pro se litigant," that the litigant could move to open after the conclusion of bankruptcy proceedings. "Any deleterious impact on Adams' `right to due process and a fair chance to be heard,' " added the 2nd Circuit, "is a result of her own dilatory actions in failing to move to reopen her case in almost two-and-a-half-years after the conclusion of . . . bankruptcy proceedings." A presumption exists that granting a motion to open a case after 29 months passed will result in prejudice to the defendants. The District Court did not abuse its discretion, and the 2nd Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court, Bryant, J.