United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
WILLIAM C. BULLOCK, SR., Plaintiff
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, et al., Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge
I. Statement of Facts and of the Case
The plaintiff, William Bullock, has filed a 277 page pro se complaint with this Court seeking damages and other relief from the Internal Revenue Service and from four individual defendants employed by the IRS. (Doc. 1) Bullock’s complaint is a voluminous recital reflecting his own idiosyncratic views regarding federal tax laws and liabilities, and represents the latest chapter in an on-going legal saga brought by Bullock against the IRS.
Thus, the instant case is not the first legal foray by Bullock endeavoring to defeat IRS tax levies. Quite the contrary, in 2009 Bullock filed a civil action against his employer, attempting to sue the employer for compliance with an IRS levy and wage garnishment. That prior lawsuit was dismissed by this Court, and the dismissal of that action was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 2011. Bullock v. Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc., 414 F.App’x 470 (3d Cir. 2011). More recently, Bullock filed a similar action, Bullock v. IRS, No. 1:12-CV-1061, which was summarily dismissed by this Court in July, 2012.
Undeterred by these prior adverse rulings, Bullock filed the instant lawsuit, which now comes before the Court on two motions: a motion for entry of default judgment filed by Bullock (Doc. 14), and a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants. (Doc. 19) With respect to this motion to dismiss, we note that Bullock has not filed a response to the motion. As a pro se litigant the plaintiff was advised by this Court at this outset of this lawsuit of his responsibilities in this litigation. Thus, on November 14, 2012, the district court entered its Standing Practice Order in this case, an order which informed the plaintiff of his responsibility to reply to defense motions, and warned him in clear and precise terms of the consequences which would flow from a failure to comply with briefing schedules on motions, stating:
If the party opposing the motion does not file his or her brief and any evidentiary material within the 14-day time frame, Local Rule 7.6 provides that he or she shall be deemed not to oppose the moving party’s motion. The motion may, therefore, be granted if: (1) the court finds it meritorious; or (2) the opposing party fails to comply with Local Rule 7.6 despite being ordered to do so by the court.
(Doc. 3, p.2)
In the absence of a timely response by Bullock to the motion to dismiss, that motion will be deemed ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that Bullock’s motion for entry of default be denied, since the defendants have responded to this complaint, and the defendants’ motion to dismiss be granted.
A. Bullock’s Motion for Entry of Default Should Be Denied
At the outset, we recommend that the Court deny Bullock’s motion for entry of default. Default judgments are governed by Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 55 a default judgment may only be entered when the party against whom the default judgment is sought was served and “has failed to plead or otherwise respond” Rule 55(a), F.R.Civ.P., and a “default judgment [cannot be] entered when there has been no proper service of the complaint . . . .” Gold Kist, Inc. v. Laurinburg Oil Co., Inc., 756 F.2d 14, 19 (3d Cir. 1985). Furthermore, in ruling upon requests relating to default judgments it is well-settled that these decisions are:
[L]eft primarily to the discretion of the district court. Tozer v. Charles A. Krause Milling Co., 189 F.2d 242, 244 (3d Cir.1951). We recognize, however, that this court does not favor entry of defaults or default judgments. We require doubtful cases to be resolved in favor of the party moving to [deny or] set aside the default judgment “so that cases may be decided on their merits.” Id. at 245. See also Gross v. Stereo Component Systems, Inc., 700 F.2d 120, 122 (3d Cir.1983); Feliciano v. Reliant Tooling Company, Ltd., 691 F.2d 653, 656 (3d Cir.1982); Farnese v. Bagnasco, 687 F.2d 761, 764 (3d Cir.1982). Nevertheless, we do not [deny or] set aside the entry of default and default judgment unless we determine that the district court abused its discretion. We require the district court to consider the following factors in exercising its discretion . . .: (1) whether the plaintiff will be prejudiced; (2) whether the defendant has a meritorious defense; (3) whether the default was the result of the defendant's culpable conduct. Gross v. Stereo Component Systems, Inc., 700 F.2d at 122; Feliciano v. Reliant Tooling Company, Ltd., 691 F.2d at 656; Farnese v. Bagnasco, 687 F.2d at 764.
United States v. $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 194-95 (3d Cir. 1984)
In this case, we find that all of these discretionary factors favor denial of entry of default judgment against these defendants at this time. At the outset, allowing this matter to be resolved on its merits is a cardinal guiding principle in our legal system, and one which causes courts to view default judgments with disfavor. This principle applies with particular force here, since the plaintiff does not appear to be entitled to a judgment on the merits of his claims. Furthermore, the plaintiff is not unfairly prejudiced by denying a default judgment at this stage of the litigation. However, entry of default would be highly prejudicial to those defendant against whom Bullock seeks this default judgment, and those defendants have not engaged in any culpable conduct which makes entry of default appropriate.
Finally, we note that, upon proper service of these pleadings, the defendants have responded by filing a motion to dismiss this action. This motion to dismiss has great merit, and in light of this response, it cannot be said that the defendants have defaulted upon their obligations as litigants. Therefore, entry of a default judgment would be entirely inappropriate.
B. The Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Should Be Granted
Having determined that the entry of a default judgment would be inappropriate given the defendants’ response to this complaint, the filing of a motion to dismiss, we further find that the defendants are entitled to dismissal of this complaint for the reasons set forth below.
1. Under The Rules of This Court This Motion to Dismiss
Should Be Deemed Unopposed ...