RODRIGUEZ v. WHITE et al
ORDER DENYING 73 Motion for Reconsideration. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE MARC THOMAS TREADWELL on 5/22/2017. (tlh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
HJALMAR RODRIGUEZ, Jr.,
JAMES WHITE, et al.,
No. 5:15-cv-290 (MTT)
Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 73) of the Magistrate
Judge’s order denying his Third Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 72). Pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), the Court may reconsider any pretrial order of a magistrate judge
“where it has been shown that the magistrate judge’s order is clearly erroneous or
contrary to law.” Because Plaintiff has failed to show that the order was clearly
erroneous or contrary to law, the Motion is DENIED.
On November 7, 2016, requests for waiver of service were mailed to the
Defendants. On January 6, 2017, within sixty days of the date the Court mailed the
requests for waiver of service, Defendants filed a waiver of reply pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(g) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) in lieu of an answer.1 Docs. 46;
47; 57. When a waiver of reply is filed under the PLRA, “Notwithstanding any other law
or rule of procedure, such waiver shall not constitute an admission of the allegations
contained in the complaint[, and] [n]o relief shall be granted to the plaintiff unless a reply
has been filed[, but]” . . . “the court may require any defendant to reply . . . if it finds that
the plaintiff has a reasonable opportunity to prevail on the merits. . . .” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1007e(g). On January 13, 2017, the Magistrate Judge ordered the Defendants to file
an answer or dispositive motion within twenty-one days—February 3, 2017. Doc. 60.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(d)(3), a defendant who “timely returns a waiver need not
serve” a responsive pleading “until 60 days after the request was sent.” See also Doc. 72 at 1 n.1.
Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss eighteen days late—February 21, 2017. Doc.
64. Plaintiff filed a motion for default, which the Magistrate Judge denied. Docs. 67; 73.
The Court agrees that a default judgment is not appropriate for two reasons.
First, Defendants’ waiver of reply was filed within sixty days of the date the Court mailed
the requests for waiver of service. Docs. 46; 47; 57. Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 55(a), entry of default is appropriate only where a defendant “has failed to
plead or otherwise defend.” By timely filing a waiver of service, the Defendants
“otherwise defended” the action and are not in default. As such, Plaintiff is not entitled
to a default judgment.
Second, Plaintiff is not entitled to default judgment as a matter of right. Even if
the Defendants’ late reply constituted a default, the Court has discretion to not enter a
default judgment. Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1174 (11th Cir. 1985). Defaults are
disfavored, and there is a “strong preference for deciding cases on the merits.” Perez v.
Wells Fargo N.A., 774 F.3d 1329, 1332 (11th Cir. 2014). Counsel for Defendant
explained he missed the Court’s deadline because he was not added as counsel of
record in the Court’s electronic filing system when he filed Defendants’ Waiver of Reply.
Doc. 65 at 3. Counsel did not receive notice of the Magistrate Judge’s order and had no
knowledge of the deadline for reply until he was served with Plaintiff’s motion for default
judgment. Moreover, Plaintiff has shown no prejudice by the delay and may now pursue
his claims against Defendants. Indeed, Plaintiff has since filed a motion to amend in
which he moves to dismiss his claims against Defendants James Roe, Andrew Leyden,
Michael Mahone, Michael Wilson, and Tyler Adams. Doc. 70. Accordingly, the
Magistrate Judge did not err in denying Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment, and
Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration (Doc. 73) is DENIED.
SO ORDERED, this 22nd day of May, 2017.
S/ Marc T. Treadwell
MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?