Sua Sponte Dismissal – Rule 60(b) – Due Process

Penrose v. Garcia, et al., [Ms. SC-2022-0871, June 16, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Mitchell, J.; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Bryan, and Mendheim, JJ., concur) affirms the Montgomery Circuit Court’s denial of John and Amy Penrose’s Rule 60(b) motion seeking to reinstate their lawsuit which the trial court dismissed sua sponte “after they failed to provide timely and complete responses to discovery requests or to appear at two hearings held to consider motions to compel.” Ms. *17.

“A trial court’s denial of a Rule 60(b) postjudgment motion alleging that the underlying judgment was entered in violation of the movant’s due-process rights is reviewed de novo.” Ms. *11. However, “‘the scope of appellate review is limited to the correctness of the denial of the Rule 60(b) motion, and not the correctness of the underlying judgment.’” Ibid., quoting Ex parte Keith, 771 So. 2d 1018, 1021 (Ala. 1998).

The Court affirms the denial of the Rule 60(b) motion and holds “... all things considered, it is clear that this case is distinguishable from the cases on which the Penroses have relied, in which a dismissal was entered on the basis of a single missed hearing.” Ms. *15. The Court further holds “a trial court has the inherent authority to act sua sponte to dismiss an action for failure to prosecute or for failure to comply with court rules and orders,” Ms. *16, and also instructs “any due-process concerns that might attend a dismissal entered sua sponte are mitigated when the party whose action is dismissed later presents argument to the trial court in a postjudgment motion challenging the dismissal.” Ms. *17.

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