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DirecTV, Inc. v. Carpenter

March 11, 2005

DIRECTV, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL CARPENTER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Edward M. Chen United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT (Docket No. 32)

On December 3, 2004, Plaintiff DirecTV, Inc. ("DirecTV") moved for default judgment against Defendant Michael Carpenter. Because Mr. Carpenter has not consented to a magistrate judge, this matter will be reassigned to a district judge with the following report and recommendation.

I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 24, 2003, DirecTV filed a complaint against Mr. Carpenter for violation of the Federal Communications Act of 1934, see 47 U.S.C. § 605; the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-2521 (commonly referred to as the Wiretapping Act); and California common law. In its complaint, DirecTV alleged as follows: DirecTV is a direct broadcast satellite provider. See Compl. ¶ 1. Based on writs of seizure that were executed on various companies, DirecTV learned that Mr. Carpenter had purchased four "Pirate Access Devices," which are designed for the unauthorized interception of DirecTV's satellite programming. See id. ¶¶ 3, 4, 14 (alleging that Mr. Carpenter purchased an "Unlooper," a "Netsignia 210 Programmer," a "Loader," and a "Wafer Bootloader"). The complaint sought, inter alia, injunctive relief, statutory damages and/or compensatory and punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

DirecTV served the summons and complaint on Mr. Carpenter on March 21, 2004. See Declaration of Kimberly Colombo ¶ 3 & Ex. B. Because Mr. Carpenter failed to respond, the Clerk of this Court, upon DirecTV's request, entered Mr. Carpenter's default on July 23, 2004. See id. ¶ 4 & Ex. C. "The general rule of law is that upon default the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true." Televideo Sys., Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir.1987) (internal quotation marks omitted).

On December 3, 2004, DirecTV filed this motion for default judgment against Mr. Carpenter. Although, in its complaint, DirecTV alleged, inter alia, violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2520, 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(4), and 47 U.S.C. § 605(a), its motion for default judgment sought relief based on §§ 2520 and 605(e)(4) only. The Court shall therefore limit its consideration of the request for default judgment to these two statutes.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, a court may not enter a default judgment against an unrepresented minor, an incompetent person, or a person in military service. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2). Mr. Carpenter is not any of the aforementioned persons, see Colombo Decl. ¶ 8 & Ex. D, so the Court may proceed with its analysis.

The disposition of a motion for default judgment lies within the discretion of the court. See Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980) ("The district court's decision whether to enter a default judgment is a discretionary one.").

Factors which may be considered by courts in exercising discretion as to the entry of a default judgment include: (1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the merits of plaintiff's substantive claim, (3) the sufficiency of the complaint, (4) the sum of money at stake in the action; (5) the possibility of a dispute concerning material facts; (6) whether the default was due to excusable neglect, and (7) the strong policy underlying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure favoring decisions on the merits.

Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1986).

B. 18 U.S.C. § 2520

Section 2520(a), which is part of the Wiretapping Act, provides in ...


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