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Dorcely v. Wyandanch Union Free School Dist.

February 7, 2007

JACQUES DORCELY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WYANDANCH UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is the motion by Plaintiff Jacques Dorcely ("Plaintiff") for the entry of a default judgment against defendant Larry J. McCord ("McCord") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 55. For the reasons stated below, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initiated this employment discrimination and civil rights action on March 20, 2006. She alleges that McCord was an employee of defendant Wyandanch Union Free School District (the "School District" or the "District") and its in-house counsel at all times relevant to her claims. (Compl. ¶ 14.) The Complaint was served on McCord on June 20, 2006.

On June 19, 2006, the District filed an Answer on behalf of all defendants except McCord. By letter dated August 4, 2006, counsel for the School District advised McCord that he was not authorized to represent McCord in this action based on the insurance carrier's determination that McCord was not an employee of the School District as of the date of Plaintiff's claims. (Affidavit of Larry J. McCord, dated Aug. 28, 2006 ("McCord Aff."), Ex. E at 1.) He explained that the carrier's determination was based on its finding that McCord was on leave from his employee status with the District from July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005. (Id.) Counsel further warned:

I would strongly urge you to contact plaintiff's counsel if you have not already done so to obtain whatever extension of time you need to enter an appearance until you resolve your legal defense so as to avoid being in default. (Id. at 2.) Despite counsel's admonition, McCord did not file an Answer.

On August 15, 2006, Plaintiff moved for the entry of a default judgment against McCord. The next day, the Clerk of the Court noted McCord's default.

Although no default judgment had yet been entered by this Court, on August 29, 2006, McCord filed an Order to Show Cause seeking to vacate default judgment. By Order dated August 30, 2006, the Court denied McCord's Order to Show Cause for failure to comply with the Court's Local Rules and ruled that it would construe McCord's application as an opposition to Plaintiff's motion for a default judgment. Plaintiff submitted reply papers on September 11, 2006.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

"The dispositions of motions for entries of defaults and default judgments and relief from the same under Rule 55(c) are left to the sound discretion of a district court," Enron Oil Corp. v. Diakuhara, 10 F.3d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1993), and "district courts regularly exercise their discretion to deny technically valid motions for default." Sony Corp. v. Elm State Elecs., Inc., 800 F.2d 317, 319 (2d Cir. 1986). In exercising this discretion, district courts consider three factors: "(1) whether the default was willful; (2) whether setting aside the default would prejudice the adversary; and (3) whether a meritorious defense is presented." Diakuhara, 10 F.3d at 96. In addition, courts may consider other equitable factors, including whether "the entry of default would bring about a harsh or unfair result." Id. "Although the factors examined in deciding whether to set aside a default or a default judgment are the same, courts apply the factors more rigorously in the case of a default judgment, because the concepts of finality and litigation repose are more deeply implicated in the latter action." Id. (citation omitted). Finally, the Court is mindful that "defaults are generally disfavored and are reserved for rare occasions [and] when doubt exists as to whether a default should be granted or vacated, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the defaulting party." Id.

II. Application to the Present Case

Applying these standards, the Court concludes that a default judgment should not be entered against McCord and that the Clerk's notation of default should be vacated. The Court ...


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