United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
AMENDED OPINION AND ORDER
MARK S. DAVIS, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on a Petition for Rehearing/Reopening of Case, ECF No. 32, filed on September 19, 2014 by Roberta L. Garcia-Guajardo ("Garcia-Guajardo") and Steven Guajardo ("Guajardo" and, collectively with Garcia-Guajardo, "Defendants") and a Motion for Execution Sale, ECF No. 37, filed on November 4, 2014 by Christopher Ramsay ("Plaintiff"). The Court will construe Defendants' pro se Petition for Rehearing/Reopening of Case ("Motion for Relief from Judgment") as a motion for relief from judgment under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3), 60(b)(4), and 60(d)(3). After examining the briefs and the record, the Court determines that oral argument on Defendants' Rule 60(b)(3) and Rule 60(d)(3) motions is unnecessary because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented and oral argument would not aid in the decisional process. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); E.D. Va. Loc. R. 7 (J). The need for a hearing on Defendants' Rule 60(b)(4) motion is addressed below. The Court DENIES IN PART and TAKES UNDER ADVISEMENT IN PART Defendants' motion. The Court TAKES UNDER ADVISEMENT Plaintiff's motion.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On April 12, 2011, Plaintiff filed an action in this Court alleging causes of action against Defendants for unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-19 ("FLSA"), wrongful discharge in violation of public policy under Virginia law, and breach of contract under Virginia law. ECF No. 1. Returns of service indicate that Guajardo and Garcia-Guajardo were served with process on May 4, 2011. ECF No. 3. On May 16, 2011, S&L Insurance was served with process through its registered agent. ECF No. 4. On May 26, 2011, the Clerk of the Court entered default against Garcia-Guajardo and Guajardo. ECF No. 8. On May 31, 2011, the Clerk of the Court entered default against S&L Insurance. ECF No. 10. Plaintiff moved for default judgment on August 1, 2011. Mot. for Default J., ECF No. 11.
On March 28, 2012, this Court entered default judgment in favor of Plaintiff: on his FLSA claim against Defendants, on his wrongful discharge claim against S&L Insurance, and on his breach of contract claim against S&L Insurance. Opinion and Order, ECF No. 17. In its March 28, 2012 Opinion and Order, the Court severed the wrongful discharge claim against Garcia-Guajardo and stayed such claim pending resolution of VanBuren v. Grubb, 733 S.E.2d 919 (Va. 2012). Following the Supreme Court of Virginia's decision in VanBuren, on March 27, 2013, the Court entered judgment against Garcia-Guajardo, as well, on Plaintiff's wrongful discharge claim. ECF No. 24.
Plaintiff asserts that he "has pursued collection on the judgment entered against [Defendants], " but that they "have resisted collection." Pl.'s Br. Opp'n Mot. for Relief from J. at 2, ECF No. 33. In support of such contention, Plaintiff has submitted two orders from the Circuit Court of the City of Suffolk that indicate that Garcia-Guajardo twice failed to appear for debtor's interrogatories. See id. ex. 1 & 2, ECF Nos. 33-1, 33-2. In one such order, the Circuit Court of the City of Suffolk found that Garcia-Guajardo had been properly served with both debtor's interrogatories and a motion to show cause as to why she failed to appear for such interrogatories. Order on Motion to Show Cause, Case No. CM13-1020 (Va. Cir. Nov. 20, 2013). In a subsequent order, the Circuit Court found that Garcia-Guajardo's failure to appear for debtor's interrogatories was "willful and without good cause" and that "she intentionally obstructed the proceedings to frustrate their purpose." Order on Motion for Order of Contempt, Case No. CM13-1020 (Va. Cir. Feb. 24, 2014).
On September 19, 2014, Defendants moved the Court "for an injunction for relief of the judgment" and for rehearing, as well as for sanctions against Plaintiff and Plaintiff's counsel. Mot. for Relief from J. at 3-4. From Defendants' motion, it appears that they seek relief from judgment on the basis that Plaintiff committed fraud upon the Court by making misrepresentations to the Court, presumably in his Complaint. See id. at 3. Defendants also seek relief from judgment on the basis that they were not properly served with process. Id. at 3. Applying a liberal construction to Defendants' pleadings, required because of Defendants' pro se status, see, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), to the extent that Defendants seek to set aside this Court's judgment on the basis of fraud, the Court will construe their motion as a motion under Rule 60(b)(3) and Rule 60(d)(3). Given that Defendants argue that the Court's judgment is void due to insufficient service of process, the Court will also construe their motion as a motion under Rule 60(b)(4).
On October 3, 2014, Plaintiff filed his brief in opposition to Defendants' motion. Plaintiff contends that Defendants' motion under Rule 60(b)(3) is untimely because Defendants did not seek relief from judgment within one year of the entry of such judgment. Pl.'s Br. Opp'n Mot. for Relief from J. at 2. In response to Defendants' Rule 60(d)(3) motion, Plaintiff argues that Defendants' allegations do not present a sufficient basis to warrant relief from judgment under Rule 60(d)(3). Finally, in response to Defendants' Rule 60(b)(4) motion, Plaintiff argues that Defendants were, in fact, served with process "at the address listed on their paper." Id. at 3.
On October 27, 2014, Defendants filed a reply to Plaintiff's opposition. Ans. to Pl.'s Filing, ECF No. 36. In response to Plaintiff's argument that their motion is untimely, Defendants cite provisions of the Code of Virginia governing the tolling of the statute of limitations and contend that such provisions apply because Garcia-Guajardo was incapacitated. Id. at 2. Defendants also argue that they never received process from the process server who attempted to serve process on Garcia-Guajardo at her home. Id. at 3. Finally, Defendants request that the Court "give [Plaintiff] jail time along with his attorney" and seek compensation. Id. at 3-4.
On November 4, 2014 Plaintiff moved for appointment of a special master and for sale at public auction of "the real property at 4301 Newport Ave, a/k/a Maryland Ave, Norfolk, Virginia" ("the property"). Mot. for Execution sale, ECF No. 37. Plaintiff asserts that Rule 69 authorizes this Court to appoint a special master to conduct a judicial sale of the property because such Rule "directs that State procedure must be followed on execution procedures" and Virginia law authorizes sale of a debtor's real property through a creditor's bill in equity and court appointment of a commissioner in chancery to sell the debtor's property. See id. at 2. In his motion, Plaintiff alleges that the property is subject to: a March 28, 2005 deed of trust to secure a $220, 000 promissory note, a $382, 183.59 federal tax lien recorded on March 3, 2009, and a $13, 533.81 federal tax lien recorded on February 3, 2010. Id. Other than such liens and encumbrances, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants own the property. Id. at 3. Plaintiff requests that the Court: "order David Weeks, Trustee, and New York Mortgage Company, LLC, Noteholder, to appear and respond to this Motion within twenty-one days of service of same or waive their right to participate herein;" "order the United States to appear and respond to this Motion within sixty days of service of the same upon it or waive its right to participate herein;" and appoint a special master to determine "[t]he identities of the owners of the property, " "[t]he liens against the property and the order of their priority, including tax liens, " "[t]he fee simple and annual rental value of the property, " and "[w]hether all parties in interest are properly before the Court." Id. at 3. Finally, Plaintiff requests that the Court order the property sold to satisfy Plaintiff's judgment, if the rents from such property cannot satisfy such judgment within five years, or if such rents are sufficient to satisfy Plaintiff's judgment within five years, order that those rents be applied to the satisfaction of Plaintiff's judgment. See id. at 4. The deadline for Defendants to respond to Plaintiff's motion for execution has passed and Defendants have not responded thereto. Accordingly, the motions currently before the Court are now ripe for disposition.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A. Rule 60(b)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) permits a party to seek relief "from a final judgment, order, or proceeding." Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). A court's analysis of a Rule 60(b) motion proceeds in two stages. First, a court considers whether the movant has met three threshold conditions: "a moving party must show that his motion is timely, that he has a meritorious defense to the action, and that the opposing party would not be unfairly prejudiced by having the judgment set aside.'" Nat'l Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. Gray, 1 F.3d 262, 264 (4th Cir. 1993) (quoting Park Corp. v. Lexington Ins. Co., 812 F.2d 894, 896 (4th Cir. 1987)); see also Aikens v. Ingram, 652 F.3d 496, 501 (4th Cir. 2011) (citing Nat'l Credit Union, 1 F.3d at 264). Once a movant has demonstrated the three threshold requirements, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) lists the grounds under which a court may grant relief from a final judgment. Nat'l Credit Union, 1 F.3d at 266. These grounds are:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). The party seeking relief under Rule 60(b) "must clearly establish the grounds therefor to the satisfaction of the district court... and such grounds must be clearly substantiated by adequate proof." In re Burnley, 988 F.2d 1, 3 (4th Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted). Relief under Rule 60(b) is an "extraordinary remedy" that is to be used only in "exceptional circumstances." Compton v. Alton S.S. Co., 608 F.2d 96, 102 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Ebersole v. Kline-Perry, 292 F.R.D. 316, 320 (E.D. Va. 2013) (quoting Compton, 608 F.2d at 102). To determine whether such exceptional relief is appropriate, the court "must engage in the delicate balancing of the sanctity of final judgments, expressed in the doctrine of res judicata, and the incessant command of the court's conscience that justice be done in light of [a]ll the facts." Compton, 608 F.2d at 102 (alteration in original) (quoting Bankers Mortg. Co. v. United States, 423 F.2d 73, 77 (5th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 399 U.S. 927 (1970)).
The Fourth Circuit has held that a motion under Rule 60(b) is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial judge and will not be disturbed on appeal save for a showing of abuse. See Aikens, 652 F.3d at 501. "However, where default judgments are at issue, over the years [the Fourth Circuit] has taken an increasingly liberal view of Rule 60(b)...." Augusta Fiberglass Coatings, Inc. v. Fodor Contracting Corp., 843 F.3d 808, 811 (4th Cir. 1988); see also Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, 11 Federal Practice & Procedure § 2857 (3d ed. 2012) (noting that "[t]he cases calling for great liberality in granting Rule 60(b) motions, for the most part, have involved default judgments. There is much more reason for liberality in reopening a judgment when the merits of the case never have been considered than there is when the judgment comes after a full trial on the merits."). This is so because "default judgments pit the court's strong preference for deciding cases on the merits against countervailing interests in finality and in preserving the court's ability to control its docket." Heyman v. M.L. Mktg. Co., 116 F.3d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1997) (citing Augusta, 843 F.3d at 811). Nonetheless, in ...