United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
WILLIAM C. BULLOCK, SR., Plaintiff
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, et al., Defendants
Carlson, Chief Magistrate Judge
Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of Chief Magistrate Judge Carlson, recommending that Plaintiff William C. Bullock’s motion for default judgment be denied and Defendants United States of America, Henry Slaughter, DeAnn Bender, Mary Hannah, and B. Clark’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint be granted. (Doc. No. 22.) Upon review of the complaint, the Report and Recommendation, and Plaintiff’s objections thereto, the Court will adopt the Report and Recommendation, deny Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment, and grant Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint.
Plaintiff commenced the above-captioned action against the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and IRS agents Henry Slaughter, DeAnn Bender, Mary Hannah, and B. Clark by filing a complaint on November 14, 2012. (Doc. No. 1.) In his complaint, Plaintiff raises seven causes of action, including that the IRS has “relentlessly and intentionally pursued in the matter of unlawful collection of Mr. Bullock and his wife in the matter of an individual income tax outside of the authority of law.” (Id. at 5.) On July 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed a “Motion requesting that an injunction of farther [sic] collection procedures be placed against the Internal Revenue Service.” (Doc. No. 7.)
On July 17, 2013, Chief Magistrate Judge Carlson issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that Plaintiff’s motion for injunctive relief be denied on the basis of the Anti-Injunction Act, which provides that “no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment of collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person, whether or not such a person is the person against whom such tax was assessed.” (Doc. No. 8 at 6.) See also 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a). Magistrate Judge Carlson further recommended that Plaintiff be directed to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for failure to make proper service. (Doc. No. 8 at 9-11.)
On August 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 10) and a motion to remove Magistrate Judge Carlson from this action (Doc. No. 11). The Court adopted the Report and Recommendation, finding that Plaintiff’s objections lacked merit, and that there were no grounds for removing Magistrate Judge Carlson from the action. (Doc. No. 12.) The Court also directed Plaintiff to comply with Rule 4(i) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by properly serving the United States Attorney General and United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Id. at 6.) On August 27, 2013, Plaintiff complied with the Court’s order and offered proof of service. (Doc. No. 13.)
On November 20, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment. (Doc. No. 14.) On November 26, 2013, Magistrate Judge Carlson ordered Defendant United States to respond to Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment. (Doc. No. 16.) On December 9, 2013, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 19.) Magistrate Judge Carlson issued a Report and Recommendation on January 3, 2014, recommending that the Court grant Defendants’ motion to dismiss, and deny Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment. (Doc. No. 22.) On January 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. No. 24.) The Court will address Magistrate Judge Carlson’s Report and Recommendation and Plaintiff’s objections thereto in turn.
A. Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment
Magistrate Judge Carlson first recommends that the Court deny Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment under Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, because “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.’” (Doc. No. 22 at 3); Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Entry of default judgment is “left primarily to the discretion of the district court.” Tozer v. Charles A. Krause Milling Co., 189 F.2d 242, 244 (3d Cir. 1951). In exercising its discretion, the Court considers: “(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.” United States v. $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 195 (3d Cir. 1984) (internal citations omitted).
Magistrate Judge Carlson recommends that the Court find that the discretionary factors favor denying default judgment in this matter because: (1) Plaintiff is not unfairly prejudiced by denial at this stage in the proceedings while Defendants would be highly prejudiced by entry of default judgment; (2) Plaintiff’s claims do not appear to be meritorious; and (3) Defendants did not engage in any culpable conduct warranting entry of default judgment against them. (Doc. No. 22 at 4-5.)
Plaintiff generally objects to much of the language in Magistrate Judge Carlson’s Report and Recommendation, and claims that Judge Carlson is prejudiced both against pro se litigants in general, and Plaintiff in particular. (Doc. No. 24 at 3.) Plaintiff argues that because Defendants did not respond to his motion for default judgment until ordered to do so by the Court, Defendants engaged in culpable conduct, and therefore Plaintiff is entitled to default judgment in his favor. (Id. at 5, 7.) Further, he suggests that contrary to Magistrate Judge Carlson’s recommendation, his claim is meritorious, and “the real reason behind the effort to have this case dismissed without dealing with the merits or facts of the case is to avoid the case entirely.” (Id. at 6.)
The Court finds Plaintiff’s arguments regarding his motion for default judgment unpersuasive. Nothing in Magistrate Judge Carlson’s Report and Recommendation indicates that he is biased against pro se litigants, or against Plaintiff in particular. Further, Plaintiff’s objections regarding his motion for default judgment fail to acknowledge that the Court is entitled to discretion, based on the aforementioned factors, in determining whether to grant default judgment. See $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d at 195. Merely accusing Magistrate Judge Carlson of attempting to avoid Plaintiff’s case does not establish that the discretionary factors favor granting Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment. See Id . Additionally, that Defendants did not respond to Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment until the Court ordered them to do so does not rise to the level of “culpable conduct” warranting default judgment unless the action was “taken willfully or in bad faith.” See Gross v. Stereo ComponentSys., Inc., 700 F.2d 120, 123-24 (3d Cir. 1983). Although Plaintiff accuses Defendants of “completely and intentionally avoid[ing] and evad[ing] all responsibility to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and fairness, ” he does not offer any facts to support his allegation that Defendants proceeded in bad faith. (Doc. No. 24 at 7.) Indeed, as Magistrate Judge Carlson notes in his Report and Recommendation, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s action in response to Plaintiff’s motion for default judgment, ...