Skip to main content


Reset A A Font size: Print

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

VICKI SMITHERS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. JENNIFER SPECTH, at the United States Postal Service, MOLLY KNIGHT, at the United States Postal Service, and PATRICK R. DONAHOE, Postmaster General, Defendants-Appellees.


Decided: January 27, 2017

PRESENT: JOSÉ A. CABRANES, ROSEMARY S. POOLER, GERARD E. LYNCH, Circuit Judges. FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: Vicki Smithers, pro se, Rochester, NY. FOR DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES: Michael S. Cerrone, Assistant United States Attorney, for William J. Hochul, Jr., United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, Buffalo, NY.

UPON DUE CONSIDERATION WHEREOF, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the February 3, 2016 judgment of the District Court is MODIFIED to provide that the complaint is dismissed without prejudice and AFFIRMED as modified.

Plaintiff-Appellant Vicki Smithers, proceeding pro se, appeals from the District Court's judgment dismissing her claims of employment discrimination against two United States Postal Service employees and the Postmaster General. The District Court dismissed Smithers's claims on the ground of invalid service, holding that Smithers had failed to serve the United States in a proper and timely fashion, as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(i). We assume the parties' familiarity with the underlying facts, the procedural history of the case, and the issues on appeal.

On appeal, Smithers argues only the merits of her discrimination claims and does not address her failure to effect proper service. For that reason, we hold that she has waived any challenge to the District Court's determination that she failed to properly and timely serve process. See JP Morgan Chase Bank v. Altos Hornos de Mexico, S.A. de C.V., 412 F.3d 418, 428 (2d Cir. 2005) (“[A]rguments not made in an appellant's opening brief are waived ․”); LoSacco v. City of Middletown, 71 F.3d 88, 92-93 (2d Cir. 1995) (explaining that a pro se appellant abandons an issue not raised in her appellate brief). Even if we excused Smithers's failure to argue the service-of-process issue on appeal, which we have discretion to do “if manifest injustice would otherwise result,” JP Morgan Chase Bank, 412 F.3d at 428, the District Court's decision was correct.

We review a dismissal for improper service under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) for abuse of discretion. See Dickerson v. Napolitano, 604 F.3d 732, 740 (2d Cir. 2010). In the context of a dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(5), a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing adequate service. See id. at 752. The District Court was correct to dismiss Smithers's claim on the ground of improper service because Smithers made no reasonable effort to effect proper service. See id. at 753.

Nevertheless, the District Court failed to specify that its dismissal of Smithers's claims was without prejudice, as required under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m). Remand is not necessary, however, because we have authority to modify the judgment to specify that dismissal was without prejudice. See U.S. ex rel. Pilon v. Martin Marietta Corp., 60 F.3d 995, 1000 (2d Cir. 1995).


Accordingly, the District Court's February 3, 2016 judgment is MODIFIED to provide that Smithers's complaint is dismissed without prejudice, and is AFFIRMED as modified.


Catherine O'Hagan Wolfe, Clerk

Copied to clipboard