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Ilaw v. Department of Justice

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 10, 2015

MIGUEL ILAW, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Miguel Ilaw, proceeding pro se, filed suit against the United States Department of Justice, District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh, and Littler Mendelson, P.C., bringing several claims against Defendants for their actions related to an employment discrimination case brought by Plaintiff in a Ninth Circuit district court. On June 3, 2015, Plaintiff moved the Court to enter default against Defendant Littler Mendelson, which the Clerk of Court entered on June 4, 2015. Presently before the Court is Defendant Littler Mendelson's ("Littler") Motion to Vacate Clerk's Entry of Default. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Application for Second Entry of Default Against Defendant Littler Mendelson, Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment Against Littler Mendelson, and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleading Against Defendant Littler Mendelson. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record for purposes of these motions, the Court shall GRANT Defendant's Motion to Vacate, DENY Plaintiff's Application for Second Entry of Default, DENY as MOOT Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, and GRANT Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleading for the reasons stated herein.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed suit against the three Defendants in this case on April 21, 2015.[2] On April 24, 2015, Kenneth O'Brien, a Shareholder and Associate General Counsel for Defendant Littler, received from Plaintiff a Notice of Lawsuit and Request to Waive Service of Summons, which had been sent via first-class mail to Littler's Chief Operating Officer, Robert Domingues. Defs.' Ex. 1, Declaration of Kenneth R. O'Brien ("O'Brien Decl."), ¶ 5. Mr. O'Brien sent a letter to Plaintiff the same day indicating that Littler would not waive service of process by summons. Id., Ex. 1(C).

On April 30, 2015, Plaintiff attempted to serve all Defendants by sending the Complaint and Summons via Federal Express. See Return of Service Affidavit, ECF No. [9]. The Federal Express package sent to Defendant Littler was addressed to Mr. Domingues and was signed for by Geo Niespolo, a mailroom clerk who, Defendant contends, is not authorized to accept service of process. O'Brien Decl. ¶ 9. Mr. O'Brien claims that he did not receive any documents purporting to constitute service on or about April 30, 2015. Id. ¶ 6.

On May 26, 2015, Plaintiff emailed Mr. O'Brien stating that he "was not served with any answer to [his] federal action against [Defendant's] business law firm, served on April 30, 2015." Id. ¶ 7, Ex. 1(D). Mr. O'Brien responded to Plaintiff the same day, stating that Plaintiff had "not made proper service" and inviting Plaintiff to call Mr. O'Brien to "speak about service issues." Id. On June 1, 2015, an individual hand-delivered a copy of the Summons and Complaint and other court filings to a legal assistant in Mr. O'Brien's office. Id. ¶ 8. Included in the documents received on June 1, 2015, was a document titled "Proof of Service" stating that service was made on Defendant Littler via Federal Express on April 30, 2015, and signed for by Mr. Niespolo. Id. ¶ 9. Mr. O'Brien claims this was the first time he became aware of any attempt to service process in this action. Id. The same day, Mr. O'Brien informed Plaintiff that Littler had received the Complaint and Summons and would "file a timely response as required by law, " which Defendant calculated to be due by June 22, 2015. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff has not filed Proof of Service with the Court as to the June 1, 2015, service.

On May 28, 2015, Plaintiff alleges to have again served Defendant Littler by delivering the Complaint and Summons to Angelina Chong, the mailroom coordinator whom, the process server claims, "gained authorization to accept the documents on [Mr. Domingues'] behalf." Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 101. Mr. O'Brien apparently received the May 28, 2015, service documents on June 2, 2015, via inter-office mail and assumed that "the duplicate documents and disk he received on June 2 were from another improper service attempt." Def.'s Reply, at 5.

On June 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed an Application for Entry of Default Against Defendant Littler Mendelson on the basis that Defendant had failed to file a timely response to Plaintiff's Complaint and Summons served on Defendant on April 30, 2015. See Pl.'s Application for Entry of Default Against Defendant Littler Mendelson, ECF No. [10]. The Clerk of Court entered default against Defendant Littler on June 4, 2015. See Clerk's Entry of Default, ECF No. [11]. On June 10, 2015, Defendant Littler moved to vacate the Clerk's entry of default and on June 22, 2015, Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff subsequently filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Vacate and Defendant filed a Reply. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to Vacate Clerk's Entry of Default is now ripe for the Court's review.

In addition, Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, an Application for Second Entry of Default Against Defendant Littler Mendelson based on Plaintiff's May 28, 2015, service of process, a Motion for Defaulat Judgment, and a Motion for Leave to File Supplemental Pleading. As all of these filings revolve around the same set of procedural facts and legal questions, the Court will address all of the parties' above-listed filings in this Memorandum Opinion.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"Default judgments are generally disfavored by courts, because entering and enforcing judgments as a penalty for delays in filing is often contrary to the fair administration of justice." Int'l Painters & Allied Trades Union & Indus. Pension Fund v. H.W. Ellis Painting Co., Inc., 288 F.Supp.2d 22, 25 (D.D.C. 2003). Pursuant to 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). "Though the decision [to set aside an entry of default] lies within the discretion of the trial court, exercise of that discretion entails consideration of whether (1) the default was willful, (2) a set-aside would prejudice plaintiff, and (3) the alleged defense was meritorious." Keegel v. Key West & Caribbean Trading Co., Inc., 627 F.2d 372, 373 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (citations omitted). "On a motion for relief from the entry of a default or a default judgment, all doubts are resolved in favor of the party seeking relief." Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant moves the Court to vacate the Clerk's entry of default on the basis that Plaintiff did not properly serve Defendant on April 30, 2015, and that Defendant filed a timely responsive pleading to the only service Plaintiff clearly and properly effectuated on Defendant. The Court agrees that the Clerk's entry of default against Defendant Littler must be vacated.

First, Plaintiff's April 30, 2015, attempt to serve Defendant Littler was defective. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil ...


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