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Vacating a default judgment in United States District Court under Rule 60(b)(1)

Vacating a default judgment in United States District Court under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 60(b)(1) (“Rule 60”) on the grounds of mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect is the topic of this blog post.

Rule 60 states in pertinent part that “(b) Grounds for Relief from a Final Judgment, Order, or Proceeding. On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.”  And Rule 60 also states that “(c) Timing and Effect of the Motion. (1) Timing. A motion under Rule 60(b) must be made within a reasonable time—and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) no more than a year after the entry of the judgment or order or the date of the proceeding.” (Emphasis added.)

As emphasized above, Rule 60 does in fact state that the motion must be made within a reasonable time, no more than a year after the entry of the judgment or order or the date of the proceeding.

Anyone who finds out that a default judgment has been entered against them needs to act quickly if they want to increase the chances of having their motion granted as the law is settled in the Ninth Circuit and elsewhere that a district court has great discretion in deciding whether to grant a motion under Rule 60. It is subject to review only for abuse of discretion.  They should also be sure to emphasize their defenses against the judgment as showing a meritorious defense is necessary   While not specifically required by Rule 60, filing a proposed answer with the motion stating in detail all meritorious defenses is a very good idea.

A district court’s denial of a motion to set aside either default under Rule 55(c) or default judgment under Rule 60(b)(1), is reviewed for abuse of discretion. United States v. Signed Personal Check No. 730 of Yubran S. Mesle, 615 F.3d 1085, 1091 (9th Cir. 2010) (“Mesle”); TCI Group Life Ins. Plan v. Knoebber, 244 F.3d 691, 695 (9th Cir. 2001) (“TCI”).

Where a defendant seeks relief under Rule 60(b)(1) based upon “excusable neglect,” the court applies the same three factors governing the inquiry into “good cause” under Rule 55(c). Mesle, 615 F.3d supra, at 1091.

Those factors are: (1) whether the plaintiff will be prejudiced, (2) whether the defendant has a meritorious defense, and (3) whether culpable conduct of the defendant led to the default. Falk v. Allen, 739 F.2d 461, 463 (9th Cir. 1984).

Again the motion can be denied if it is shown that the moving defendant was culpable, and that conduct led to the default.  Although the law is settled that Rule 60 is to be liberally construed so that cases can be tried on the merits.

In discussing Rule 60 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal has stated that “Rule 60(b) is ‘remedial in nature and . . . must be liberally applied.’ ” TCI Group Life Ins. v. Knoebber, 244 F.3d 691, 696 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal citations and quotations omitted.)

And Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1,  states that, “The Federal Rules should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”

To determine whether a party’s failure to meet a deadline constitutes “excusable neglect,” courts must apply a four factor equitable test, examining: (1) the danger of prejudice to the opposing party; (2) the length of the delay and its potential impact on the proceedings; (3) the reason for the delay; and (4) whether the movant acted in good faith. Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P’ship, 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993); Briones v. Riviera Hotel & Casino, 116 F.3d 379, 381 (9th Cir. 1997) (adopting this test for consideration of Rule 60(b) motions).

The United States Supreme Court has stated that the determination of what conduct constitutes “excusable neglect” under Rule 60(b)(1) and similar rules “is at bottom an equitable one, taking account of all relevant circumstances surrounding the party’s omission.” Pioneer Inv. Svcs. Co. v. Brunswick Assoc. Ltd., 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993).

While a Rule 60 motion has a longer deadline than a California motion to vacate a default judgment under Section 473, it does differ in that showing a meritorious defense is required.

Attorneys or parties in civil litigation in United States District Court in any State under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who wish to view a portion of a sample motion to vacate a default judgment under Rule 60(b)(1) sold by the author can see below.

 

Attorneys or parties that would like more information on a Federal litigation document package containing 42 sample documents including a sample motion to vacate a default judgment under Rule 60(b)(1) can use the link shown below.

Federal litigation document package

Attorneys or parties in California that would like more information on a super litigation documents package containing a sample motion to vacate a default judgment under Rule 60(b)(1) as well as over 200 other sample legal documents for California and Federal litigation can use the link shown below.

Super litigation documents package

The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995.

Follow the author on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LegalDocsPro

If you enjoy this blog post, tell others about it. They can subscribe to the author’s weekly California and Federal legal newsletter by visiting the following link: http://www.legaldocspro.net/newsletter.htm

To view all of the sample legal documents for use in California and Federal Courts sold by the author of this blog post visit http://www.scribd.com/legaldocspro/documents

Copyright 2013 Stan Burman. All rights reserved.

<strong>DISCLAIMER:</strong>

Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.

These materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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