United States District Court, D. Connecticut
DAVID A. ABRAMS, No. 241224, a/k/a ABRAHAMS, Plaintiff,
CORRECTIONS OFFICER WATERS AND CAPT. NUNEZ, sued in their individual capacities; CORRECTIONS OFFICER PHILLIPS; DISCIPLINARY REPORT INVESTIGATOR KELLY; CAPT. JOHN WATSON; WARDEN SCOTT ERFE; MAINTENANCE SUPERVISOR JOHN DOE; and MAILROOM HANDLER CORRECTIONS OFFICER RAMIREZ, sued in their individual and official capacity, Defendants.
ORDER RE DEFAULTED STATUS OF DEFENDANTS
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
se plaintiff, David A. Abrams, an inmate currently
incarcerated at Garner Correctional Institution at Newtown,
Connecticut, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against various prison officials employed
at Cheshire Correctional Institution ("Cheshire
C.I."), where he was previously housed. Upon entry of
the Court's Initial Review Order ("IRO"), three
federal Eighth Amendment claims remain pending in this case:
(1) excessive force against Corrections Officer Phillips, (2)
"failure to protect from harm" against Captain
Nunez, and (3) unlawful subjection to hazardous conditions of
confinement against Captain Watson. Abrams v.
Waters, No. 3:17-CV-1659 (CSH), 2018 WL 691717, at *17
(D. Conn. Feb. 2, 2018). The Court also permitted the state
law claims of assault, battery, and intentional infliction of
emotional distress to proceed against Phillips in his
individual capacity for damages. Id., at *14-15.
Plaintiff moved for leave to amend his Complaint. That motion
was granted because a plaintiff may file an amended complaint
once as a matter of course within 21 days after service of
the complaint, Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). However, in performing its
mandatory sua sponte review of the amended claims
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court determined that
"the claims Plaintiff ha[d] attempted to reinstate and
the newly added claim for First Amendment retaliation against
Erfe and Watson fail[ed] to state claims upon which relief
may be granted." Abrams v. Waters, No.
3:17-CV-1659 (CSH), 2018 WL 2926294, at *2 (D. Conn. June 8,
2018) (citing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1),
1915(e)(2)). Therefore, Abrams's amended complaint was
"allowed to proceed only with respect to claims upon
which relief may be granted," id., at *2,
namely, those previously designated as viable by the Court in
its original IRO, id., at *9.
the Court's acceptance of the Amended Complaint, the
remaining defendants in the action, Phillips, Nunez, and
Watson (herein collectively "Defendants") were
required to answer or respond to that pleading by July 6,
2018. Id., at *9. When the Defendants failed to file
such a responsive pleading by that deadline, Plaintiff filed
a Motion for Default Entry pursuant to Rule 55(a), Fed. R.
Civ. P., and three weeks later a Motion for Default Judgment.
Doc. 26, 27. The Court denied these motions without prejudice
because it determined that the Amended Complaint was not
actually filed on the case docket by the Clerk's Office
until August 20, 2018, "so that the defendants in the
action had no opportunity to respond to it by the Court's
previously imposed deadline of July 6, 2018." Doc. 29.
Accordingly, the Court "re-set [the] deadline for
defendants to respond to the Amended Complaint [to] September
17, 2018." Id.
failed to appear or answer by the Court's re-set deadline
so that Plaintiff moved again for entry of default under Rule
55(a). Doc. 33. The Clerk entered an "Order"
granting the motion and set the deadline for Plaintiff to
move for default judgment to December 5, 2018. Doc. 35. In
response to that default Order, Defendants filed an
"Answer" to the Amended Complaint. Doc. 36.
However, Defendants failed to file a motion to open the
default prior to filing that Answer. For the reasons
described herein, the filing of an Answer is insufficient for
the Court to open the default.
Standards for Entry and Opening of Default under Rule 55,
Fed. R. Civ. P.
Entry of Default
Rule of Civil Procedure 55 is the basic procedure to be
followed when there is a default in the course of
litigation." Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram
Co., 373 F.3d 241, 246 (2d Cir. 2004). Under Rule 55,
there is a "two-step process" for the entry of
judgment against a party who fails to appear or otherwise
defend. First, the Plaintiff seeks and obtains entry of a
default, and second, Plaintiff obtains entry of a default
judgment. New York v. Green, 420 F.3d 99, 104 (2d
Rule 55(a), the entry of default "formalizes a judicial
recognition that a defendant has, through its failure to
defend the action, admitted liability to the plaintiff."
City of New York v. Mickalis Pawn Shop, LLC, 645
F.3d 114, 128 (2d Cir. 2011). As a first step to default,
Rule 55(a) provides:
When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief
is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that
failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must
enter the party's default.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a).
Rule 55(a) makes entry of default a ministerial step to be
performed by the clerk of court, Pinaud v. Cnty. of
Suffolk, 52 F.3d 1139, 1152 n.11 (2d Cir.1995), a
district judge has the inherent power to enter default as
well, Beller & Keller v. Tyler, 120 F.3d 21, 22
n. 1 (2d Cir.1997). The entry of a default, while
establishing liability, "is ...