United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
Under 42 U.S.C. §1983
the U.S. Magistrate Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Charles H. Weigle United States Magistrate Judge
Laranzo Eugene Holland commenced this Section 1983 action
based on allegations that several corrections officers at
Baldwin State Prison, where Plaintiff previously was
incarcerated, labeled Plaintiff a snitch and incited other
prisoners to attack Plaintiff. See (Doc. 79, p. 2).
Before the Court at present are Plaintiff Laranzo Eugene
Holland's Motion for Default Judgment, (Doc. 62), and
Defendant Alonda Moore's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings. (Doc. 73). As discussed below, it is
RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Motion for
Default Judgment be DENIED. It is further
RECOMMENDED that Defendant's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings be GRANTED based
on Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative
Alonda Moore was personally served with process in this
action by the U.S. Marshals Service on November 28, 2016.
(Doc. 41). Initial efforts at service were unsuccessful, as
Moore no longer worked at Baldwin State Prison. (Doc. 12).
Plaintiff later determined that Moore was employed at
Riverbend State Prison (Doc. 19), and a second request for
waiver of service was mailed on September 2, 2016. (Doc. 24).
When Defendant Moore failed to waive service within the
required time period, the Court ordered personal service by
the Marshals Service. (Doc. 34). Defendant Moore failed to
file a timely answer, and the Clerk of Court subsequently
made an entry of default as to Defendant Moore on April 11,
2017, nearly four months after her answer was due.
April 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment
against Defendant Moore. (Doc. 62). On May 9, 2017, Defendant
Moore filed a one-page, pro se letter, dated
December 12, 2016, the substance of which denies many of
Plaintiff's factual allegations. (Doc. 65). The letter
was docketed as Defendant Moore's Answer.
15, 2016, Defendant Moore, through counsel, filed a Response
in opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment
and a Motion for Entry of Default. (Doc. 66). In an affidavit
attached to her Response, Defendant Moore describes the
circumstances leading to her default. (Doc. 66-1). Defendant
affirms that she drafted her letter-Answer in December 2016,
after receiving personal service at her residence. (Doc.
66-1, p. 2, ¶ 6). Defendant Moore then attempted,
unsuccessfully, to file that letter-Answer at a State
courthouse in Milledgeville, Georgia. (Doc. 66-1, p. 2,
¶ 6). Defendant states that she was unable to locate the
appropriate federal courthouse. (Doc. 66-1, p. 2, ¶ 6).
Defendant also states she was not aware of the consequences
of default. (Doc. 66-1, p. 2, ¶ 9). Defendant further
notes that her employment at Baldwin State Prison ended on
May 16, 2015. (Doc. 66-1, p. 1, ¶ 4). Defendant affirms
that she was unaware of the process for requesting state
legal representation based on events occurring during her
prior term of employment with the Georgia Department of
Corrections. (Doc. 66-1, p. 2, ¶ 9).
first spoke with her current legal counsel on May 10, 2017.
(Doc. 66-1, p. 2, ¶ 9). Since that time, Defendant has
attempted to litigate the merits of this case, including by
asserting meritorious defenses in her pending Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings.
Circuit case law establishes a “strong policy of
determining cases on their merits, ” In re
Worldwide Web Sys., Inc., 328 F.3d 1291, 1295 (11th Cir.
2003), and as a result, defaults are viewed with disfavor.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(c) provides that the Court
may set aside any entry of default for “good cause,
” which generally requires the consideration of factors
such as: “whether the default was culpable or willful,
whether setting [the default] aside would prejudice the
adversary, and whether the defaulting party presents a
meritorious defense.” Compania Interamericana
Export-Import, S.A. v. Compania Dominicana de Aviacion,
88 F.3d 948, 951-52 (11th Cir. 1996).
record in this action does not show that Defendant Moore
acted culpably or willfully in incurring a default. Defendant
Moore attempted to draft and to file a pro se Answer
during the ordinary response period, but was failed to file
that Answer in the proper forum. Defendant Moore's
affirmation that she was not knowledgeable of the
availability and procedure for obtaining post-employment
legal representation is credible. Finally, Defendant Moore
was able to obtain representation and to file an Answer
within six months of service, and within one month of this
Court's entry of default against her. While the record
shows that Defendant Moore was perhaps negligent in failing
to take adequate steps to avoid default, Defendant Moore did
not act willfully or culpably.
record also fails to show that Plaintiff will suffer
prejudice if the Court sets aside the default. Due to delays
associated with service difficulties, this Court was not able
resolve two motions to dismiss filed by Defendant Moore's
former co-defendants until August 29, 2017. (Doc. 80).
Additionally, discovery was stayed in this action pending the
resolution of those prior motions to dismiss, and discovery
is currently stayed pending the resolution of Defendant
Moore's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Doc. 76).
Given that this action is still in a relatively early stage,
and that discovery is and has been stayed, Plaintiff will not
be prejudiced by a resolut ion of this act ion on its merits.
a further factor in favor of setting aside the default in
this action is Defendant Moore's Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings, which raises a number of meritorious defenses.
(Doc. 73). More specifically, Defendant Moore's Motion
for Judgment on the Pleadings raises that same defenses that
Defendant Moore's former co-defendants raised in their
pre-Answer Motions to Dismiss-Motions which the Court
granted. (Doc. 80).
summary, because the record fails to show that Defendant
Moore acted culpably or willfully in incurring a default,
because it does not appear that Plaintiff will be prejudiced
by setting aside the default, and because the Eleventh
Circuit's strong policy of merit-based resolution weighs
in favor of a consideration of Defendant Moore's Motion
for Judgment on the Pleadings, it is
RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Motion ...