E.D.N.C.: Collins v. First Financial Services- Sanctions for Failure to Comply with Discovery Orders


Ms. Collins, representing herself pro se, in an action alleging multiple claims arising from a mortgage lending scheme by the defendants failed to comply with multiple orders regarding discovery. Upon the motions of the defendants, the district court (lamenting that no attorneys from the Pro Bono Panel had stepped up to assist Ms. Collins) applied the four-part test from Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ., 269 F.3d 305, 348 (4th Cir. 2001) to determine what sanctions to impose:

1) whether the non-complying party acted in bad faith;
(2) the amount of prejudice that noncompliance caused the adversary;
(3) the need for deterrence of the particular sort of non-compliance; and
(4) whether less drastic sanctions would have been effective.

Finding that Ms. Collins repeated failures constitute bad faith that prejudice, while not absolutely, but nonetheless significantly the defendants’ ability to evaluate and prepare their case, the district court awarded reasonable attorney’s fees (to be determined separately) and stayed the prosecution of the case by Ms. Collins until such fees were paid, at which time a new time line for compliance with discovery would again be set. Failure to pay those fees would result in dismissal of the action.


Ms. Collins as a pro se plaintiff seems to have escaped this with far fewer consequences than an attorney would have in the same situation.

For a copy of the opinion, please see:

Collins v. First Financial Services- Sanctions for Failure to Comply with Discovery Orders


1. Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Washington University, 1993. 2. Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University, 1996. Admissions to Practice of Law: North Carolina Bar, 1996. Federal District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of North Carolina. Specialty Certification: North Carolina State Bar: Certified as a Specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy. Areas of Practice: Practice limited to consumer and business debtor bankruptcy law, 1998 to present. Memberships: National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers (NCATL). North Carolina Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section. Lectures prepared and presented: North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers seminar on bankruptcy; Topic: Counseling the Consumer Debtor Prior to Court - C.Y.A. Forms to Help 'Gird They Loins'; 2001. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Preparing Chapter 13 Plans; 2002. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Efficient Office Practices; 2003. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Debates; 2004. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Chapter 7 & 13 Hot Issues; 2004. Positions held: NACBA National Convention; Convention Chair; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator: Topic: Basic Bankruptcy Issues; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Chapter 13-Disposable Income and Other Issues; 2007. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Representing Members of the Military and Their Families; 2007. NACBA, Member of National Board of Directors, 2006 to present. NCATL, Chair of the Bankruptcy Section, 2003 to 2007. NACBA, Chair of the North Carolina Section, 2003 to 2007. NC Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section, Bankruptcy Council Member, 2004 to present.

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