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CARWILE v. RAY

November 26, 1979

HARVEY J. CARWILE, Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNOR DIXIE LEE RAY, State of Washington; and SHERIFF WILLIAM J. REILLY, County of Spokane, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAUK

On April 10, 1978, plaintiff, then a prisoner in the Spokane County-City jail, began this action by filing a pro se complaint alleging that he was being deprived of certain Federal constitutional rights by the conditions of his confinement in the jail. Specifically, plaintiff claims that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because due to ill health he was restricted to his cell during the entire time he had been confined; was deprived of medical attention; was deprived of nutritional meals; and suffered inhumane conditions of confinement mainly attributable to the type of bedding in the cell. Plaintiff also alleges an invasion of his privacy by virtue of the opening of almost all of his mail, including mail between himself and the courts. The action is brought against Dixie Lee Ray, Governor of the State of Washington and William J. Reilly, Sheriff for the County of Spokane, Washington.

Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Default Judgment. Defendant Ray has moved for dismissal of the action with respect to her for failure of plaintiff to allege any facts upon which relief may be granted. Defendant Reilly has moved for Summary Judgment. After reviewing the pleadings, affidavits and all other supporting documents herein the Court now renders its Memorandum Decision and Order which shall constitute the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law pursuant to Rules 41(b) and 52(a), Fed.R.Civ.P.

 PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

 Defendant Reilly was served with the Summons and Complaint on the 13th of April, 1978. Defendant Ray was served with the Summons and Complaint in this action on the 17th of April, 1978. Thereupon each had 20 days to file an answer or to otherwise respond to plaintiff's Complaint. Rule 12, Fed.R.Civ.P.

 On May 10, 1978, defendant Reilly filed his Answer in response to plaintiff's Complaint. On May 12, 1978, plaintiff moved for default judgment. On May 30, 1978, defendant Ray's time to respond was extended to May 29, 1978. On July 7, 1978, defendant Ray filed her Motion to Dismiss.

 In plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, plaintiff asks that he be released from incarceration and that he be awarded punitive and consequential damages to be set by the Court. Since plaintiff is no longer incarcerated in the jail or in any sort of custody, his request for release is clearly moot. The only remaining remedy sought by plaintiff and now before this Court is plaintiff's prayer for damages.

 In moving for default judgment, plaintiff has proceeded improperly. Under this Court's Local Rules, a party seeking a Default Judgment must submit an affidavit showing the principal amount due. Rule 21 of the General Rules of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. This, the plaintiff has failed to do. Accordingly, he has not satisfied this Court's requirements for entry of default judgment.

 Even if plaintiff had proceeded properly, the Court would still deny the motion. "The grant or denial of a motion for the entry by the court of a default judgment lies within the sound discretion of the trial court". 6 Moore's Federal Practice, P 55.05(2) (2d ed. 1976 & Supp.1978-79).

 
The court, in exercising its discretion, may properly consider such factors as the following: whether the defendant's failure to plead or otherwise defend is largely technical; whether the plaintiff will be prejudiced, and, if so, the extent thereof; whether the entry of the default judgment would result in injustice. Id.

 With respect to defendant Reilly, the Court finds that the facts necessitate the exercise of discretion by denying plaintiff's motion. Defendant Reilly's answer was filed only a few days late. To enter default judgment against this defendant, we would have to apply Rule 55(b)(2) in a legalistic and highly technical manner with the end result of an extreme miscarriage of justice. See Davis v. Parkhill-Goodloe Co., 302 F.2d 489 (5th Cir. 1962). It follows that we must exercise our discretionary powers to deny plaintiff's application for default judgment as against defendant Reilly.

 With respect to defendant Ray, the Court also finds it necessary to exercise its discretion to deny plaintiff's motion. As will be shown later, plaintiff has utterly failed to allege any facts in the Complaint which would support a claim for relief against defendant Ray. Here again, to grant plaintiff's motion would work an extreme miscarriage of justice. Accordingly, plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment against defendant Ray is also denied.

 DEFENDANT RAY'S MOTION TO DISMISS

 Although plaintiff does not specify the jurisdictional basis for this action, it is clear that plaintiff is necessarily proceeding under 42 ...


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