Wilson v. Rumsey et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER - Judge Fannin has now appeared in the case and is prepared to file a responsive pleading. Entering a default just to require a motion to set aside the default would be a waste of resources. In the particular circumstance s presented by this case, the court finds that good cause exists to deny the motion for entry of a default and to permit Judge Fannin to file an untimely responsive pleading. Accordingly, the court DENIES Mr. Wilson's motion for entry of default and ORDERS Judge Fannin to file a responsive pleading on or before October 27, 2020. Signed by Judge Annemarie Carney Axon on 10/14/2020. (KEK)
2020 Oct-14 AM 09:54
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
LESTER CHARLES WILSON,
JUDGE RYAN RUMSEY, et al.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the court is Plaintiff Lester Charles Wilson’s motion for entry of
default. (Doc. 15). The court has already denied the motion with respect to
Defendants Judge Ryan Rumsey, Steve Giddens, Laurie Andrikeski, Chris Vinson,
and Jimmy Kilgore. (Doc. 25). But, because it was unclear whether service on
Defendant Judge Jeb Fannin was proper, the court ordered Judge Fannin to show
cause why it should not enter a default against him. (Id.).
Judge Fannin responds that the court should not enter default because he was
not properly served with the complaint. (Doc. 27 at 1–27). In support of that
contention, he points out that the summons has the wrong address for him, and the
return of service does not adequately describe how service was perfected. (Id. at 2).
Judge Fannin acknowledges that Mr. Wilson filed a document on Judge Fannin’s
judicial letterhead with a typed statement “I, Judge Jeb Fannin, received the copy of
the lawsuit filed by Lester Wilson this the 29th day of June 2020 at 11:41 a.m.” (Id.
at 3; see Doc. 13 at 3). Judge Fannin states in his unsworn response that neither he
nor his assistant remember this acknowledgement or having been served, but he
“cannot represent with 100% certainty that the filed acknowledgement form is not
authentic.” (Doc. 27 at 3). He does not submit any evidence that service was
improper, although he states in a footnote that “[t]his response will be supplemented
with a sworn affidavit or declaration by Judge Fannin if this court should deem it
necessary or appropriate.” (Doc. 27 at 2 n.1).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 provides methods for service. One method
is to “deliver[ ] a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the individual
personally.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e)(2)(A). “[P]roof of service must be made to the
court. Except for service by a United States marshal or deputy marshal, proof must
be by the server’s affidavit.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(l)(1). But “[f]ailure to prove service
does not affect the validity of service. The court may permit proof of service to be
amended.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(l)(3).
Here, Mr. Wilson’s process server submitted an affidavit sworn under penalty
of perjury, and attached a document purporting to be from Judge Fannin in which he
acknowledges being personally served with the complaint.
(Doc. 13 at 2–3).
Judge Fannin has not contested the authenticity of the document, although his
unsworn response to the court’s show cause order indicates that he does not
remember writing the statement. Accordingly, Mr. Wilson has proved personal
service on Judge Fannin on June 29, 2020.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(l)(3).
Judge Fannin’s responsive pleading was therefore due on July 20, 2020, see
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A)(i), but he did not timely file it.
Judge Fannin argues that even assuming proper service, the court should not
enter a default because his failure to file a responsive pleading amounts to excusable
neglect, and the court should permit him to file an untimely response to the
complaint. (Doc. 27 at 5–6). If the court entered default and Judge Fannin moved
to set aside the default for good cause, the court would grant that motion. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(c) (“The court may set aside an entry of default for good cause.”);
Compania Interamericana Exp.-Imp., S.A. v. Compania Dominicana de Aviacion,
88 F.3d 948, 951 (11th Cir. 1996) (“Courts have considered whether the default was
culpable or willful, whether setting it aside would prejudice the adversary, and
whether the defaulting party presents a meritorious defense” as well as “whether the
defaulting party acted promptly to correct the default”).
Judge Fannin has now appeared in the case and is prepared to file a responsive
pleading. Entering a default just to require a motion to set aside the default would
be a waste of resources. In the particular circumstances presented by this case, the
court finds that good cause exists to deny the motion for entry of a default and to
permit Judge Fannin to file an untimely responsive pleading. Accordingly, the court
DENIES Mr. Wilson’s motion for entry of default and ORDERS Judge Fannin to
file a responsive pleading on or before October 27, 2020.
DONE and ORDERED this October 14, 2020.
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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