Crowley v. Bannister

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 10-30-2013
  • Case #: 12-15804
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Alarcón for the Court; Circuit Judge Berzon and District Judge Zouhary
  • Full Text Opinion

When a party is unrepresented by counsel, a court abuses its discretion when it fails to apply Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a) liberally in favor of the pro se party.

John Crowley is a Nevada state prisoner who filed a § 1983 complaint alleging that Dr. Sussman, Dr. Banniser, the prison warden, and three nurses acted with deliberate indifference to Crowley’s medical needs. At the time he filed this suit, Crowley was being held at Nevada’s High Desert State Prison ("NHDSP"). Dr. Bannister is the director of the medical department at NHDSP. The prison warden, nurses and Dr. Bannister filed a motion to dismiss. The district court notified Crowley, who was acting pro se, that he “must set out specific facts in the form of admissible evidence…, that contradict the facts shown in defendant’s declarations and documents and show that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial.” Instead of filing any evidence in support of his position, Crowley requested that the court allow him “to amend any issue” that the court “deemed unclear or in dispute.” The court ignored Crowley’s request, and granted summary judgment in favor of the nurses, Dr. Bannister and the prison warden. Crowley then appealed, claiming that the district court erred in granting summary judgment against him. The Ninth Circuit held “that the district court abused its discretion in denying Crowley leave to amend his second amended complaint.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a) “provides that a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within certain time limits, or in all other instances, with the court’s leave.” This rule should be applied liberally, especially with pro se litigants, because they are likely “unskilled in the law” and are “more prone to make errors in pleading than the person who benefits from the representation of counsel.” Lopez v. Smith. VACATED in part; AFFIRMED in part; REMANDED.

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