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Holland v. James

August 21, 2008

ANTHONY HOLLAND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORRECTION OFFICER JAMES, CORRECTION CAPTAIN BROWN, CORRECTION CAPTAIN GREEN, AND DEPUTY WARDEN TAYLOR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimba M. Wood, U.S.D.J.

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Anthony Holland ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In January 2006, the Court entered default against three defendants: Correction Captain Brown ("Brown"), Correction Captain Green ("Green"), and Deputy Warden Taylor ("Taylor") (collectively, the "Moving Defendants").*fn1 The Moving Defendants now move to vacate this entry of default.*fn2 For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS the motion to vacate the entry of default.

I. Procedural History

On June 6, 2005, Plaintiff filed his complaint. Plaintiff named the following individuals as defendants: Brown, Green, Taylor, and Correction Officer James ("James") (collectively, "Defendants").*fn3 (See Compl. ¶ I(B); D.E. 2.)

The docket sheet for this action indicates that on June 30, 2005, the United States Marshals (1) executed service of the summons and complaint on the Moving Defendants,*fn4 and (2) were not able to execute such service on Defendant James. The Moving Defendants thus were required to answer the complaint no later than July 20, 2005.

LEXIS 59573, at *9-10 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 14, 2007) (applying Rule 55(c) standards to a motion to vacate "although no formal entry of default ha[d] been made").

The docket sheet for this action indicates that on July 10, 2007, the United States Marshals (1) executed service of the summons and complaint on Defendant Brown (for the second time) and Defendant James (for the first time) (see D.E. 18, 20),*fn5 and (2) were not able to execute such service on Defendant Taylor (see D.E. 19). The docket sheet further indicates that on July 17, 2007, the United States Marshals executed service of the summons and complaint on Defendant Green (for the second time).*fn6 (See D.E. 17.) Defendants Brown and James thus were required to answer the complaint no later than July 30, 2007, and Defendant Green was required to do the same no later than August 6, 2007.*fn7

On September 14, 2007, the Office of the Corporation Counsel ("Corporation Counsel") informed Magistrate Judge Fox that "[d]espite the procedural posture of this case," it "was unaware of the pendency of this action" until Defendant James requested representation through the Legal Division of the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC Legal") after he received the summons and complaint. (See Sept. 17, 2007 Order; D.E. 21.) On September 17, 2007, Magistrate Judge Fox granted Corporation Counsel's requests for extensions of time to (1) "investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged default" of the Moving Defendants; and (2) "answer or otherwise respond to the complaint" on behalf of Defendant James. (See id. 1-2.)

On October 22, 2007, the Court granted Corporation Counsel's later requests to (1) move to vacate the entry of default on behalf of the Moving Defendants; and (2) hold in abeyance Defendant James's response to the complaint pending a decision on the Moving Defendants' motion to vacate. (See Oct. 22, 2007 Order; D.E. 22.) The Court now turns to the Moving Defendants' motion to vacate.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Vacate the Entry of Default Standard

"After default or a default judgment has been entered, Rule 55(c) grants a litigant the right to petition to set either aside. A party may move pursuant to Rule 55(c) to set aside the entry of default for 'good cause.'"*fn8 Enron Oil Corp. v. Diakuhara, 10 F.3d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). Courts evaluate three factors in analyzing "good cause" under Rule 55(c): "(1) whether the default was willful; (2) whether setting aside the default would prejudice the adversary; and (3) whether a meritorious defense is presented." Id. at 96 (citations omitted).*fn9

The Second Circuit "has expressed on numerous occasions its preference that litigation disputes be resolved on the merits, not by default." Cody v. Mello, 59 F.3d 13, 15 (2d Cir. 1995) (collecting cases). "[B]ecause defaults are generally disfavored and are reserved for rare occasions, when doubt exists as to whether a default should be granted or ...


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