United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
ON PENDING MOTIONS
before the Court in this pro se civil rights action
are the following motions: (i) Plaintiffs motion for default
judgment, [Doc. 33]; (ii) Defendants' motion to set aside
default, [Doc. 34]; (iii) Plaintiffs motion to appoint pro
bono counsel, [Doc. 40]; and (iv) Plaintiffs motion to
compel, [Doc. 45]. This Ruling resolves each of the pending
Default Judgment Motions [Docs. 33, 34]
filed his initial complaint on June 26, 2015. Doc. 1. On July
24, 2015, the Court ruled that the complaint failed to comply
with Rule 8(a) and Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, and ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint
if he aimed to proceed with the action. Plaintiff filed that
Amended Complaint on August 3, 2015. On August 6, 2015, the
Court entered an order ruling that Defendants must respond to
the Amended Complaint within sixty days following the
transmission of waiver of service forms. Doc. 8. Those forms
were sent on August 28, 2015, which meant Defendants were to
respond to the Amended Complaint by October 27, 2015. They
did not do so. In light of that, Plaintiff moved for entry of
default pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), [Docs. 30, 31], which
was properly granted by the Clerk of Court on December 21,
2015, [Doc. 32]. On December 23, 2015, Plaintiff moved for a
default judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2), [Doc.
33], and Defendants moved to set aside the entry of default
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c), [Doc. 34]. Defendants
thereafter filed their answer to the Amended Complaint on
December 31, 2015. Doc. 36.
district court may relieve a party from the entry of default
for "good cause." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c). In
determining good cause, a court should review the following
criteria: '"(1) whether the default was willful; (2)
whether setting aside the default would prejudice the
adversary; and (3) whether a meritorious defense is
presented.'" Keebler v. Rath, 405
F.App'x 517, 519 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Enron Oil
Corp. v. Diakuhara, 10 F.3d 90, 96 (2d Cir. 1993)).
However, "[d]efault judgments are generally disfavored
and are reserved for rare occasions. As such, the criteria
for vacating a default. . ., including the meritorious
defense factor, should be construed generously."
State St. Bank and Trust Co. v. Inversiones Errazuriz
Limitada, 374 F.3d158, 168 (2d Cir. 2004) (internal
citations and quotations omitted); see also Jones v.
Waldron, 2016 WL 3039696, at *1 (D. Conn. May 27, 2016)
("default judgment [is] a remedy for extreme situations
Court holds that this is not such an extreme situation in
which default judgment should enter. First, there
are no credible allegations that Defendants willfully ignored
their deadline to respond to the Complaint. I accept the
statement of Defendants' counsel that the default was
caused by his "inadvertence, " a trait that should
not be encouraged, but the Court is not persuaded that
Defendants purposefully defaulted. Further, despite
Defendants' initial inaction, they filed a motion to set
aside entry of default just two days after default entered
and have since then actively made docket filings.
Second, Plaintiff has not offered any prejudice
caused by the default. The only apparent prejudice would be
the delay in the adjudication of Plaintiff s suit, however,
'"[d]elay alone is not a sufficient basis for
establishing prejudice.'" Swarna v.
Al-Awadi, 622 F.3d 123, 143 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting
Davz's v. Musler, 713 F.2d 907, 916 (2d Cir.
1983)). Third, Defendants raise amyriad of defenses,
including both factual and legal, that this Court believes
would be best adjudicated in the ordinary course. Plaintiffs
motion for default judgment is DENIED, and Defendants'
motion to set aside entry of default is GRANTED.
B. Plaintiffs Motion to Appoint Pro Bono
Counsel [Doc. 40]
Plaintiff acknowledges, "[t]he Second Circuit has
repeatedly cautioned the district courts against the routine
appointment of counsel." Doc. 40-1, at 2. Nevertheless,
the Second Circuit has determined that "district courts
exercise substantial discretion in deciding whether to
appoint counsel, subject to the principles we have set forth
in Hodge v. Police Officers[, 802 F.2d 58, 61-62 (2d
Cir. 1986)]." Ferrelli v. River Manor Health Care
Center, 323 F.3d 196, 203-04 (2d Cir. 2003). The
Hodge test requires that the movant meet the
"threshold requirement" that "the
indigent's position seems likely to be of
substance." Id. In another case filed by the
Plaintiff with this Court, this Court stated as follows as to
how, and when, that showing of substance can be met:
The Court is unable to conclude whether, at this relatively
early stage, Plaintiffs position "seems likely to be of
substance." ... As this case has not progressed beyond
the pleading stage, the Court cannot gauge the merits of
Plaintiffs claims on the present record. Accordingly,
Plaintiffs motion to appoint counsel will be denied without
prejudice to his right to re-file that motion at a later
stage of litigation.
Alston v. Bellerose, No 3:12-cv-00147 (CSH), Doc.
82, at 27. That same analysis applies here, and forecloses
Plaintiffs motion at present. At this early stage of the
litigation, the Court is simply not in a position to know if
the threshold question going to the merits of Plaintiff s
complaint, required by Hodge, is satisfied.
Plaintiffs motion to appoint counsel is DENIED WITHOUT
Plaintiffs Motion to Compel [Doc. 45]
April 19, 2016, Plaintiff moved to compel Defendants to
comply with his October 25, 2015 and November 9, 2015
requests for discovery. As Plaintiff acknowledges, this Court
granted Defendants an extension until April 18, 2016 to
respond to those discovery requests. Doc. 44. Defendants'
opposition to the motion to compel states that Defendants
did, in fact, respond to "all [of] plaintiffs discovery
requests" on April 18, 2016. Doc. 46, at 1. Plaintiff
did not file a reply ...