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Pena v. Indianapolis Public School Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 12, 2019

Luis Pena, Plaintiff,
v.
Indianapolis Public School Corporation, E.R., a minor, b/n/f Jorge Ramos, and Jorge Ramos, Defendants.

          ORDER

          HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, CHIEF JUDGE

         On December 7, 2018, Plaintiff Luis Pena filed a Complaint against Indianapolis Public School Corporation (“IPS”), E.R. (a minor), and Jorge Ramos (E.R.'s father), relating to allegations E.R. and Mr. Ramos made that resulted in IPS investigating Mr. Pena's conduct and ultimately recommending termination of his employment with IPS. [Filing No. 1.] Presently pending before the Court are Mr. Pena's Applications to Enter a Default Judgment against Jorge Ramos and E.R. [Filing No. 25; Filing No. 29.] As explained below, the Court finds that Mr. Pena has not complied with the two-step process for entering default judgments, and therefore, the Court DENIES Mr. Pena's Applications to Enter Default Judgment against Mr. Ramos and E.R.

         Also pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Mr. Ramos on his own behalf and on behalf of his daughter, E.R. [Filing No. 35.] Mr. Ramos and E.R. seek dismissal of Mr. Pena's claims against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court finds that Mr. Pena's claims against Mr. Ramos and E.R. fall within the Court's supplemental jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Mr. Ramos's and E.R.'s Motion to Dismiss.

         I.

         Applications to Enter Default Judgment

         A. Background

         On February 27, 2019, Mr. Pena filed an Application to Enter Default Judgment Against Defendant E.R., A Minor, b/n/f Jorge Ramos, [Filing No. 18], and an Application to Enter Default Judgment Against Defendant Jorge Ramos, [Filing No. 19]. On April 2, 2019, the Court denied without prejudice these Applications, stating that “[d]efault is a ‘two step process' that is ‘clearly outlined' in Rule 55(a) and 55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, ” and noting that Mr. Pena had not completed the first step by seeking the entry of default against Mr. Ramos and E.R. under Rule 55(a). [Filing No. 22 at 2-3; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a)-(b).] The Court also noted that “Rule 55(b)(2) provides that ‘[a] default judgment may be entered against a minor or incompetent person only if represented by a general guardian, conservator, or other like fiduciary who has appeared.' Accordingly, any subsequent efforts for the Court to enter a default or default judgment against E.R. must take into account the foregoing.” [Filing No. 22 at 2.]

         On April 10, 2019 and May 3, 2019, Mr. Pena filed a second round of Applications to Enter a Default Judgment against Mr. Ramos and E.R, which are ripe for the Court's decision. [Filing No. 25; Filing No. 29].

         B. Legal Standard

         Default is a “two-step process” that is “clearly outlined” in Rule 55(a) and 55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, with subpart (a) outlining the entry of default and subpart (b) outlining the entry of default judgment. VLM Food Trading Int'l, Inc. v. Illinois Trading Co., 811 F.3d 247, 255 (7th Cir. 2016); see also10A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, et al., Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 2682 (2018) (“Prior to obtaining a default judgment under either Rule 55(b)(1) or Rule 55(b)(2), there must be an entry of default as provided by Rule 55(a).”). The distinction between the two is that the first step, the entry of default, “does not of itself determine rights.” Id. at 255 (quoting United States v. Borchardt, 470 F.2d 257, 260 (7th Cir. 1972)). “That role is reserved for a default judgment.” Id. at 255.

         C. Discussion

         In the second round of Applications to Enter Default Judgment, Mr. Pena is again seeking the entry of default judgment, not Clerk's entries of default. [See Filing No. 25; see also Filing No. 29.] In the Application to Enter Default Judgment Against Mr. Ramos, Mr. Pena states that as of April 10, 2019, no attorney had entered an appearance on Mr. Ramos's behalf, nor had a responsive pleading been filed for Mr. Ramos. [Filing No. 25 at 1.] In the Application to Enter Default Judgment Against E.R., Mr. Pena states that the Court denied his first Application because E.R. “was not represented by counsel. [E.R.] is now represented by counsel, (Dkt. 28), and therefore Plaintiff renews his Application for Default.” [Filing No. 29 at 1-2.]

         In his renewed Applications to Enter Default Judgment against Mr. Ramos and E.R., Mr. Pena again misses the mark. Mr. Pena still attempts to complete the “two-step process” of default in a single step via his pending motions. As noted in the Court's previous Order, [Filing No. 22], Mr. Pena must first seek a Clerk's entry of default pursuant to Rule 55(a) before he may file a motion for default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b)(1). Although the Court outlined this two-step process in its previous Order, it appears that Mr. Pena ignored that guidance and incorrectly determined that the Court's denial of his original Applications to Enter Default Judgment were based on E.R.'s status as a minor. The Court denied without prejudice Mr. Pena's previous applications for default judgment because he failed to first seek a Clerk's entry of default. [See Filing No. 22 at 2.] Mr. Pena has made this same error in his second Applications to Enter Default Judgment, [Filing No. 25; Filing No. 29], and accordingly, those applications are similarly DENIED.[1]

         II. ...


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