United States District Court, D. New Jersey
March 11, 2015
RABBI DR. ABRAHAM UNGER, Ph.D., Plaintiff
JUDGE MAUREEN P. SOGLUIZZO, P.J.F.P, DANIEL PACILIO, ESQ., CHIEF JUSTICE STUART RABNER, MERYL G. NADLER, ESQ., and JUDGE GLENN A. GRANT, J.A.D, Defendants. Pro Se,
MICHAEL A. HAMMER, Magistrate Judge.
This matter having come before the Court on Defendant Judge Maureen P. Sogluizzo's, P.J.F.P, ("Defendant") motion to set aside the entry of default;
and the Honorable Esther Salas, United States District Judge. having referred the matter to the Undersigned;
and Plaintiff Rabbi Dr. Abraham Unger, Ph.D ("Plaintiff") opposing Defendant's motion, see Pl.'s Opp'n Br., D.E. 16;
and the Court having considered the parties' submissions, the record, and the applicable law;
and the Court deciding Defendant's motion [D.E. 7] without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78 and Local Civil Rule 78.1;
and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(c) providing, in pertinent part, that the court "may set aside an entry of default for good cause, and it may set aside a default judgment under Rule 60(b);"
and a decision to set aside an entry of default being primarily left to a court's own sound discretion, see United States v. $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1984) (citing Tozer v. Charles A. Krause Milling Co., 189 F.2d 242, 244 (3d Cir. 1951));
and courts disfavoring default because "the interests of justice are best served by obtaining a decision on the merits." Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. Pennave Assocs., Inc., 192 F.R.D. 171, 173 (E.D. Pa. 2000); see also $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d at 194-95 ("We require doubtful cases to be resolved in favor of the party moving to set aside the default judgment so that cases may be decided on their merits.'");
and the Third Circuit indicating that the standard for setting aside a default is less stringent than setting aside a default judgment, Feliciano v. Reliant Tooling Co., 691 F.2d 653, 656-57 (3d Cir. 1982) (stating that "[t]here is a distinction between a default standing alone and a default judgment, " and "[l]ess substantial grounds may be adequate for setting aside a default than would be required for opening a judgment"); accord Mettle v. First Union Nat'l Bank, 279 F.Supp.2d 598, 601 (D.N.J. 2003);
and the Third Circuit requiring that courts consider four factors when deciding to vacate the entry of default: (1) whether lifting the default would prejudice the plaintiff; (2) whether the defendant has a prima facie meritorious defense; (3) whether the defaulting defendant's conduct is excusable or culpable; and (4) the effectiveness of alternative sanctions. Emcasco Ins. Co. v. Sambrick, 834 F.2d 71, 73 (3d Cir. 1987);
and, even though courts weigh all four factors, the threshold question is generally whether the defendant asserts a meritorious defense; see 55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d at 195;
and the Court finding that Defendant has asserted a meritorious defense;
and the Court also finding that setting aside Defendant's default will not prejudice Plaintiff;
and the Court further finding that Defendants are not culpable for their failure to respond;
and the Court finding that it need not impose alternative sanctions;
and therefore the Court concluding that good cause exists to vacate the entry of default;
IT IS on this 9th day of March, 2015,
ORDERED that the Defendant's motion to vacate the entry of default [D.E. 7] is GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for default judgment [D.E. 9] is DENIED as moot.