Priquette v. Manhattan School District et al
ORDER denying 19 Motion for Entry of Default. Signed by Judge Dana L. Christensen on 11/15/2012. (dle)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
MANHATTAN SCHOOL DISTRICT,
SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 3,
GALLATIN COUNTY and JAMES
NOTARO, individually and as
SUPERINTENDENT OF MANHATTAN )
SCHOOL DISTRICT, and JOHN DOES
1 through 5,
Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs filed an Amended Request for Entry of
Default on November 2, 2012. No default was entered before Plaintiff/CounterDefendant Adam Priquette filed a response to the motion.
As a preliminary matter, it does not appear that counsel for the
Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs attempted to confer with counsel for Priquette
before filing their motion. This is concerning considering that such conferral is
required under Local Rule 7.1(c)(1) when a party has already appeared in the
action. Though Priquette failed to timely respond to the counterclaims here, he
has obviously appeared in the case as he is the Plaintiff, he has engaged in
extensive briefing, and the parties prepared a joint discovery plan and participated
in the preliminary pretrial conference together.1 Nonetheless, the Court will
consider the motion on its merits.
Where a motion for entry of default is opposed, the Court applies the same
standard it would in determining whether an entry of default should be set aside
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(c). “The court may set aside an entry of
default for good cause.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c). To determine “good cause,” courts
must consider three factors: “(1) whether [the party seeking to set aside the
default] engaged in culpable conduct that led to the default; (2) whether [it] had
[no] meritorious defense; or (3) whether reopening the default judgment would
prejudice” the other party. Am. Assn. of Naturopathic Phys. v. Hayhurst, 227 F.3d
1104, 1108 (9th Cir. 2000). The factors are disjunctive, and the Court “is free to
The Court notes however that Local Rule 1.4(c) does not require a party to
conventionally serve another party that has registered to use the Court’s electronic case filing
deny the motion” if any of the factors is true. Id. However, the Court is not
required to deny the motion if one of the factors is true; the decision remains in the
Court’s discretion. Brandt v. Am. Bankers Ins. Co. of Fla., 653 F.3d 1108,
1111–12 (9th Cir. 2011). The Court is guided by the admonishment that default
judgments are “appropriate only in extreme circumstances; a case should,
whenever possible, be decided on the merits.” United States v. Signed Personal
Check No. 730 of Yubran S. Mesle, 615 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Falk v.
Allen, 739 F.2d 461, 463 (9th Cir. 1984)).
The factors do not support an entry of default in this case. First, Priquette’s
conduct was not culpable under the standard set by the Ninth Circuit. He explains
that a “mirror” suit is pending before the state District Court in Gallatin County
and that his responsive pleading was inadvertently filed in that case instead of this
one. This is a “credible, good faith explanation negating any intention to take
advantage of the opposing party, interfere with judicial decisionmaking, or
otherwise manipulate the legal process.” TCI Group Life Ins. Plan v. Knowebber,
244 F.3d 691, 697 (9th Cir. 2001). There is no evidence of bad faith. Id.
Second, Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs will not be prejudiced if their motion
for entry of default is denied. Merely being required to litigate a case on its merits
does not constitute prejudice and, at most, there will merely be some delay that
falls within the parameters of the Court’s Scheduling Order. Id. at 701.
Finally, although Priquette has failed to allege “specific facts that would
constitute a defense,” id. at 700, the Court finds that this failure is outweighed by
his successful showing on the other factors and his allegation that he has indeed
prepared a responsive pleading, but it was simply filed in the wrong case. There is
no evidence that proceeding on the merits of the counterclaims will be a waste of
the Court’s or parties’ time.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Defendants’/Counter-Plaintiffs’
Amended Request for Entry of Default (doc. 19) is DENIED.
Dated this 15th day of November 2012.