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Tower Ventures, Inc. v. City of Westfield - 296 F.3d 43 (1st Cir. 2002)


A court may, in appropriate circumstances, dismiss a case with prejudice for violation of a judicial order without consideration of lesser sanctions. Although dismissal ordinarily should be employed only when a plaintiff's misconduct is extreme, disobedience of court orders, in and of itself, constitutes extreme misconduct.


Tower Ventures, Inc. (“Ventures”) submitted a plan for a wireless communication tower, and the planning board voted to deny the permit. Ventures brought suit in the federal district court, alleging the decision was arbitrary and effectively prevented it from providing cellular coverage in a significant area in violation of the Massachusetts Zoning Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, § 17, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C.S. § 332(c). Ventures failed to comply with the district court's scheduling orders, including one deadline that the applicant itself requested an extension to. The district court, citing the serial violations ordered Ventures to show cause why the action should not be dismissed with prejudice, and then did dismiss the case for failure to comply with court orders and want of prosecution.  


Was the district court’s judgment an abuse of discretion?




Ventures argued on appeal that dismissal was too harsh a sanction because its infractions were neither willful nor egregious, and did not prejudice the zoning board. The court pointed out that Ventures overlooked the problems that its noncompliance had caused the district court, which had substantial authority to enforce case management orders. The sanction of dismissal was within the district court's discretion.

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