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Thomas v. Baca

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 1, 2014

S.A. THOMAS, in both his individual and class representative capacities, Plaintiff,
v.
LEROY DAVID BACA, JOHN L. SCOTT, PAUL K. TANAKA, MARVIN O. CAVANAUGH, CECIL W. RHAMBO, TERRI McDONALD, DAVID FENDER, ERIC G. PARRA, KELLY S. FRASER, RAY LEYVA, RALPH G. ORNELAS, JOANNE SHARP, VICTOR M. TRUJILLO, MARVIN L. HINGTON, KAREN S. DALTON, DANIEL J. DYER, MARVIN J. SOUTHARD, ROBIN KAY, RODERICK M. SHANER, STEPHEN MICHAEL SHEA, LESLEY SIMONE BLACHER, MICHAEL DENNIS ANTONOVICH, GLORIA MOLINA, MARK RIDLEYTHOMAS, DONALD KNABE, ZEV YROSLAVSKY, YVONNE B. BURKE, and TWENTY UNKNOWN NAMED DEFENDANTS, Defendants

For S A Thomas, in both his individual and class representative capacities, Plaintiff: Joseph Reichmann, Marion R Yagman, Yagman and Reichmann, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Venice Beach, CA.

For Leroy David Baca, Defendant: Justin W Clark, Lawrence Beach Allen and Choi PC, Glendale, CA.

For John L. Scott, his individual capacity, Marvin O. Cavanaugh his individual capacity, Cecil W. Rhambo his individual capacity, Terri McDonald, Eric G. Parra, Ray Leyva, Ralph G. Ornelas, Joanne Sharp, Roderick M. Shaner his individual capacity, Michael Dennis Antonovich, David L. Fender chief, his official capacity, Marvin J. Southard Los Angeles County director of mental health, his official capacity, Robin Kay chief deputy director of that department, his official capacity, Stephen Michael Shea deputy director of that department, his official capacity, Defendants: Justin W Clark, Lawrence Beach Allen and Choi PC, Glendale, CA; Paul B Beach, Lawrence Beach Allen and Choi PC, Glendale, CA.

ORDER GRANTING EX PARTE APPLICATION TO SET ASIDE THE DEFAULT OF RETIRED SHERIFF LEROY BACA [23]

DOLLY M. GEE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

The Court has reviewed and considered Defendants' ex parte Application to set aside the default of retired Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, and Plaintiff's opposition thereto.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) directs the court clerk, upon proof that a defending party " has failed to plead or otherwise defend, " to enter default against that party. For " good cause, " a court " may set aside an entry of default." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c).

In evaluating whether good cause exists, a court considers three factors: (1) whether the party seeking to set aside the default engaged in culpable conduct that led to the default; (2) whether the party seeking to set aside the default had no meritorious defense; or (3) whether reopening the default judgment would prejudice the other party. United States v. Signed Personal Check No. 730 of Yubran S. Mesle, 615 F.3d 1085, 1091 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Franchise Holding II v. Huntington Rests. Grp., Inc., 375 F.3d 922, 925-26 (9th Cir. 2004)). These factors are to be considered in the disjunctive. Thus, " a finding that any one . . . is true is sufficient reason for the district court to refuse to set aside the default." Id. Default judgment is a " drastic step appropriate only in extreme circumstances; a case should, whenever possible, be decided on the merits." Id. (quoting Falk v. Allen, 739 F.2d 461, 463 (9th Cir. 1984)).

" [A] defendant's conduct is culpable if he has received actual or constructive notice of the filing of the action and intentionally failed to answer." Id. at 1092 (internal quotations omitted). The movant must have acted with bad faith, such as an intention to take advantage of the opposing party, interfere with judicial decisionmaking, or otherwise manipulate the legal process. Id. That a defendant acted carelessly is not sufficient to treat a failure to reply as inexcusable, unless other equitable factors weigh heavily in favor of denying the motion to set aside a default. Id.

In this case, Defendants have provided facts sufficient to demonstrate that Defendant Leroy Baca's failure to timely file a responsive pleading was inadvertent and not due to any culpable conduct. Moreover, no prejudice could possibly result to Plaintiff by setting aside the Clerk's entry of default. Given the lenient standard for setting aside entry of default, the Court is disappointed that, at this early stage in the proceedings, counsel could not informally resolve this simple procedural issue as a matter of professional courtesy, as most counsel do. The Court urges counsel to take this opportunity to reconsider their approach such that these types of conflicts, resulting in the expenditure of unnecessary time and expense, do not recur in the future. While an ex parte application may not have been absolutely necessary to address this issue, common sense dictates that further briefing on a regularly noticed motion schedule would merely add to the unnecessary time and expense already wasted on this issue.

Good cause having been shown, IT IS ORDERED THAT:

1. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 55(c), the default of Defendant Baca entered by the Clerk on November 10, 2014 [Doc. # 16] is hereby set aside; and
2. Defendant Baca shall file a response to the Complaint on or before December 11, 2014.

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