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L-3 Space and Navigation v. Abnous

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY


March 24, 2004

RE: L-3 SPACE AND NAVIGATION
v.
RAFIK ABNOUS, ET AL.,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini Judge

LETTER OPINION

Dear Litigants:

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Pro Se's objections to Magistrate Judge Ronald J. Hedges's report and recommendation, which recommended granting Plaintiff's motion for default judgment. For the following reasons, the Court shall grant Defendants Pro Se's objectionsand deny Plaintiff's motion for default judgment.

Background

Plaintiff filed a multi-count complaint against Defendants Pro Se on January 1, 2005. On February 23, 2005, Defendants Pro Se filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. This Court granted in part, and denied in part, the motion in a letter opinion dated June 24, 2005. Defendants Pro Se never responded to the remaining counts of the complaint. Instead, on July 7, 2005, theyfiled a motion to transfer the case to the Central District of California. On that day, Defendants Pro Se also sent a letter to Judge Hedges requesting that he postpone the issuance of a scheduling order until a ruling was made on the motion to transfer.

On September 7, 2005, Judge Hedges denied the motion to transfer. Then, on October 3, 2005, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment based on Defendants Pro Se's failure to answer the complaint within 10 days. On January 6, 2006, Judge Hedges issued a report and recommendation, which advised this Court to grant default judgment.

Discussion

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(4)(A) requires a defendant to answer a complaint within 10 days of a court's denial of a motion to dismiss. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(4)(A). Since Defendants Pro Se never answered the remaining counts of the complaint within 10 days, they were in default. The record shows, however, that Defendants Pro Se have been in constant contact with the court and have, generally, filed their papers on time. Furthermore, since Defendants Pro Se are proceeding "pro se," the Court must give them the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, we will not saddle Defendants Pro Se with a default judgment, which could potentially amount to $670,000.00, for failing to respond within 10 days of our letter opinion. Accordingly, Judge Hedges's report and recommendation shall be rejected and Plaintiff's motion for default judgment denied. Defendants Pro Se shall have 10 days from the date of the accompanying order to respond to the remaining counts in the complaint.

On a side note, it has been brought to our attention by Judge Hedges, in his report and recommendation, that Defendant may be enlisting the aid of a California attorney to assist in preparing their submissions. The Court is troubled by this conduct. Should Defendants continue to proceed in such a fashion, they will no longer be entitled to pro se status. Furthermore, the Court may impose sanctions against Defendants for misrepresenting their status to the Court.

Conclusion

Defendants Pro Se's objections to Judge Hedges's report and recommendation are granted, and Plaintiff's motion for default judgment is denied. An appropriate order accompanies this letter opinion.

William J. Martini, U.S.D.J.

20040324

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