United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Athens Division
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
pending before the Court is Plaintiff Brian Keith
Thornton's motion for relief from the judgment (ECF No.
27). As discussed below, the motion is denied.
Brian Keith Thornton brought this employment discrimination
action against his former employer, Defendant Unified
Government of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia
(“ACC”), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ACC contends
that it reached a settlement with Thornton's attorney,
and it filed a counterclaim to enforce that settlement.
Thornton did not answer or otherwise respond to the
counterclaim, and the Clerk entered a default as to Thornton
on November 17, 2017. ACC's motion for default judgment
followed on December 8, 2017. Thornton did not respond, and
the Court granted the motion for default judgment on January
25, 2018. Order Granting Mot. for Default J., ECF No. 15.
Court concluded that by his default, Thornton admitted the
well-pleaded allegations of fact in ACC's counterclaim.
Those allegations of fact established that there was a
binding settlement agreement between Thornton and ACC.
See generally Id. The Court ordered ACC to provide
Thornton a release, directed Thornton to sign that release,
and ordered ACC to give the settlement funds to Thornton once
it received the signed release. Thornton did not file a
motion in this Court in response to the order granting
ACC's motion for default judgment. Thornton did not
sign the release, and ACC moved to enforce the settlement.
Thornton did not respond to the motion to enforce the
settlement. The Court granted the motion and ordered the
Clerk to enter final judgment in favor of ACC and against
Thornton on Thornton's claims and on ACC's
counterclaim. See generally Order Granting Mot. to
Enforce Settlement, ECF No. 25. The Clerk entered judgment on
May 18, 2018. J., ECF No. 26.
filed a motion for reconsideration of the judgment. The Court
“may set aside a final default judgment under [Federal]
Rule [of Civil Procedure] 60(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(c).
Under Rule 60(b), the Court may relieve a party from a final
judgment for “(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or
excusable neglect; [or] (2) newly discovered evidence that,
with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in
time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b).”
makes two main arguments in support of his present motion.
First, he argues that he did not respond to ACC's motion
for a default judgment because the Court did not explicitly
instruct him to do so and because he was preoccupied by some
family troubles while the motion was pending. The Court
construes this argument as seeking to set aside the judgment
due to excusable neglect. “To establish excusable
neglect, the defaulting party must show that: ‘(1) it
had a meritorious defense that might have affected the
outcome; (2) granting the motion would not result in
prejudice to the non-defaulting party; and (3) a good reason
existed for failing to reply to the complaint.'”
Tara Prods., Inc. v. Hollywood Gadgets, Inc., 449
Fed.Appx. 908, 911 (11th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (quoting
In re Worldwide Web Systems, Inc., 328 F.3d 1291,
1295 (11th Cir. 2003)). If the defaulting party offers
“no good reason for failing to respond to the complaint
. . ., excusable neglect cannot be established.”
offered no reason at all for his failure to answer ACC's
counterclaim. For that reason alone, Thornton did not
demonstrate excusable neglect sufficient to support his
motion to set aside the default judgment. Thornton also
offered no good reason for failing to respond to ACC's
motion for default judgment. Thornton does not argue that he
was not served with ACC's motions. He appears to argue,
however, that he did not realize that he should respond to
ACC's motions because the Court did not instruct him to
respond. The Court's local rules permit response briefs
and set a deadline for such briefs. See M.D. Ga. R.
7.2. Pro se litigants like Thornton must “conform to
procedural rules, including deadlines.” Bonilla v.
U.S. Dep't of Justice, 535 Fed.Appx. 891, 893 (11th
Cir. 2013) (per curiam). If Thornton wished to oppose
ACC's motions, he should have filed response briefs as
permitted by the local rules.
Thornton's argument that he could not respond to
ACC's motions due to some family issues, the Court notes
that less than a week after ACC filed its motion for default
judgment, Thornton applied (albeit unsuccessfully) for a
Clerk's entry of default as to all Defendants. The Court
is thus not convinced that Thornton was unable to litigate
this case while ACC's motion for default judgment was
pending. For all of these reasons, the Court finds that
Thornton failed to establish excusable neglect.
second argument in support of his present motion is that he
has documentary evidence showing that he rejected ACC's
settlement offer. Thornton does not assert that this evidence
is newly discovered. And, although Thornton contends that he
briefly misplaced this evidence at some point in the past, he
does not argue that this evidence (or at least an affidavit
regarding the facts within his personal knowledge) was
unavailable during the pendency of the motion for default
judgment or the motion to enforce the settlement. The
previously unsubmitted evidence is therefore not a valid
basis for Thornton's motion.
discussed above, Thornton did not present a valid basis for
setting aside the default judgment against him. His motion
for relief from the judgment (ECF No. 27) is denied.