Identiseal Corp. of Wisconsin v. Positive Identification Systems, Inc. – Case Brief
Identiseal Corp. of Wisconsin v. Positive Identification Systems, Inc., 560 F.2d 298 (7th Cir. 1977).
Facts: Identiseal (P) sued Positive Identification Systems (D) and sought relief for common law misrepresentation and relief under Wisconsin franchising statutes. Identiseal alleged that Positive had misrepresented to Identiseal that it had been successful in promoting its products when in fact Positive had not been successful, and that such misrepresentation induced Identiseal to invest $15,000 in Positive’s products.
The district court dismissed the case for want of prosecution on the grounds that pretrial work necessary to try the case efficiently had not been performed. The court informed P that it would vacate the order if P conducted certain discovery by a certain date. P objected and the case was dismissed.
Issue: Do judges have the authority to compel parties to conduct discovery?
Holding and Rule: No. Judges do not have the authority to compel parties to conduct discovery.
Under pretrial authority, courts have the discretion to direct attorneys to obtain omissions of facts and documents which will avoid unnecessary proof. Under FRCP 16, courts have wide discretion and power to advance the cause and simplify procedure before it is presented to the jury.
There are limitations on the district court’s power at the pretrial conference. Rule 16 is non-coercive – a dismissal based on a party’s refusal to follow the trial judge’s wishes expressed at the pretrial conference can only be upheld if that refusal could be characterized as a “failure to prosecute.”
Here, P was ready to go to trial and simply disagreed with the Judge regarding the desirability of eliminating the need to develop all of the facts at trial. There is no evidence that P’s attorney rejected the court’s preferred method without serious consideration. Parties, not courts, should determine litigation strategy.
Disposition: Reversed and Remanded.