United States District Court, D. Maine
PAMELA J. TREADWELL, Plaintiff,
VESCOM CORPORATION, et al. Defendants.
ORDER ON RESPONSE TO ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE
A. WOODCOCK, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
responding to an Order to Show Cause, Defendants urge the
Court not to default them, arguing that their failure to
timely respond was caused by inadvertence and by practical
hurdles, and pleading that their response was only a few days
late. As the law strongly favors trial on the merits, the
Court declines to order the extreme sanction of default.
However, though not so egregious as to justify a default, the
Defendants' conduct of this entire litigation requires
the imposition of sanctions.
case began in the usual course. On January 4, 2017, Pamela J.
Treadwell filed suit in state of Maine Superior Court for
Kennebec County, alleging that Vescom Corporation, American
Guard Services, World Wide Sourcing Group, and Ousama Karawia
violated the Maine Human Rights Act, 5 M.R.S. §§
4551, et seq., the Maine Whistleblowers'
Protection Act, 26 M.R.S. §§ 831, et seq.,
and the Maine Equal Pay Act, 26 M.R.S. § 628 to her
detriment during her period of employment with them.
State Ct. Record, Attach. 1, Compl.,
Attach. 3, State Ct. Docket (ECF No. 2). On January
31, 2017, through their then attorney, Melissa A. Hewey, the
Defendants removed Ms. Treadwell's lawsuit to this Court.
Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1). Attorney Hewey and
Attorney Timothy E. Steigelman filed an Answer for the
corporate defendants and, moved to dismiss the Complaint for
Mr. Karawia on February 23, 2017. Answer by Vescom
Corporation, Am. Guard Servs., & Worldwide Sourcing
Grp. (ECF No. 16); Mot. to Dismiss Def. Ousama
Karawia (ECF No. 17).
Magistrate Judge duly issued a scheduling order on February
24, 2017, Scheduling Order (ECF No. 18), and Ms.
Treadwell filed a motion to amend her Complaint on February
28, 2018. Pl.'s Mot. to Amend the Compl. (ECF
No. 20). The Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint
was granted on March 23, 2017. Order Granting Mot. to
Amend Compl. (ECF No. 22). Mr. Karawia moved to dismiss
his motion to dismiss on April 7, 2017, which the Court
granted on the same day. Oral Mot. to Dismiss without
Prejudice Mot. to Dismiss (ECF No. 28); Oral Order
Granting without Obj. Mot. to Dismiss without Prejudice Mot.
to Dismiss (ECF No. 29). Attorneys Hewey and Steigelman
answered the Amended Complaint on behalf of all the
Defendants on April 14, 2017. Ans. to Am. Compl.
(Revised) (ECF No. 32). It seemed then that the case was
ready to proceed.
June 2, 2017, Attorneys Hewey and Steigelman moved to
withdraw their representation of the Defendants and for an
order staying discovery and giving the Defendants sixty days
to identify new counsel. Mot. to Withdraw and Stay
Disc. (ECF No. 38). On June 5, 2017, Ms. Treadwell
opposed the motion insofar as it requested sixty days to
secure new counsel; Ms. Treadwell argued that two weeks would
be more appropriate.. Pl.'s Opp'n to the Mot. to
Withdraw and Stay Disc. (ECF No. 39). On June 6, 2017,
the Magistrate Judge granted the motion to withdraw, altered
the deadlines, and stayed the matter until June 23, 2017 to
allow the Defendants to obtain new counsel. Order
(ECF No. 40).
29, 2017, Ms. Treadwell moved for default judgment against
all Defendants because they had failed to timely obtain new
counsel. Pl.'s Mot. for Default J. (ECF
No. 41). On June 30, 2017, Attorneys Ilse Teeters-Trumpy and
Gregg R. Frame entered their appearances on behalf of the
Defendants. Notices of Appearance (ECF Nos.
44-45). On July 6, 2017, Ms. Treadwell moved to amend the
scheduling order, Pl.'s Mot. for Revised
Deadlines (ECF No. 46), and on July 11, 2017, the
Magistrate Judge granted the motion and mooted the motion for
default judgment. Am. Scheduling Order (ECF No. 51).
case again seemed to progress with new defense counsel. The
parties contested a motion for attachment and trustee process
in the fall of 2017. Mot. for Attach. & Trustee
Process (ECF No. 61); Corporate Defs. Vescom Corp.,
American Guard Services, and Worldwide Sourcing Group's
Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Attach. (ECF No. 62);
Min. Entry (ECF No. 67). Later, the parties agreed
to attempt to settle the case with a mediation before
Magistrate Judge Rich scheduled for January 10, 2018;
however, contrary to prior orders of the Magistrate Judge,
the evening before the scheduled mediation, defense counsel
informed Plaintiff's counsel that their clients did not
plan to appear at the scheduled mediation, and on January 12,
2018, Ms. Treadwell moved the Court to hold the Defendants in
contempt of court. Pl.'s Mot. for Contempt (ECF
No. 87). On January 26, 2018, defense counsel moved to
withdraw and requested that their clients be granted a stay
of forty-five days to obtain new counsel. Mot. to
Withdraw and Stay Proceedings (ECF No. 89). On January
28, 2018, Ms. Treadwell objected to the Defendants'
motion. Pl.'s Opp'n to the Mot. of Defs.'
Second Law Firm to Withdraw and Stay Disc. (ECF No. 90).
On February 2, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in
part the motion to stay, giving Defendants until February 26,
2018 to obtain new counsel and stating that the stay would be
automatically lifted if no new counsel entered an appearance
on behalf of the Defendants. Order on Mot. to Withdraw
and Mot. to Stay (ECF No. 93).
Defendants did not obtain new counsel by February 26, 2018,
and therefore Attorneys Teeters-Trumpy and Frame were deemed
to have withdrawn as attorneys for the Defendants, leaving
them unrepresented. See Order (ECF No. 99). This
posed two problems. First, it was unclear whether the
Defendants had in fact received notice of the date by which
they were required to obtain new counsel. The Court addressed
that possibility in an order dated March 2, 2018.
Order (ECF No. 99). Second, unlike Mr. Karawia, who
is entitled to represent himself, a corporation is not
allowed to represent itself in federal litigation, and
therefore the unrepresented corporations risked being
defaulted. To respond, the Court's March 2, 2018 order
warned the corporate Defendants that they could face
sanctions if they failed to obtain an attorney to represent
March 14, 2018, counsel had not yet entered an appearance on
behalf of the Defendants, and the Court issued an Order to
Show Cause. Order to Show Cause (ECF No. 101)
(Show Cause Order). This order required the
Defendants to show cause within twenty-one days of the date
of the order as to why a default judgment should not enter
against them. Id. at 2-3. A representative of the
Defendants signed a certified mail return receipt on March
19, 2018. Certified Mail (ECF No. 102). The
twenty-one day period expired on April 5, 2018.
April 12, 2018, while the Court was preparing a default
judgment, new attorneys for the Defendants entered their
appearances. Notice of Appearance (ECF No. 103). On
the same day, through new counsel, the Defendants responded
to the Order to Show Cause. Defs.' Resp. to Order to
Show Cause (ECF No. 104) (Defs.' Show Cause
Resp.). On April 17, 2018, Ms. Treadwell filed her reply
to the Defendants' response. Pl.'s Reply to
Defs.' Resp. to Order to Show Cause (ECF No. 105)
(Pl.'s Show Cause Reply). As Ms. Treadwell
raised new issues in her reply, the Court allowed the
Defendants to respond. Procedural Order (ECF No.
106). On April 24, 2018, the Defendants filed their reply.
Defs.' Reply to Pl.'s Reply to Defs.' Resp.
to Order to Show Cause (ECF No. 107) (Defs.'
Show Cause Sur-reply).
this winding history, what to do about the Defendants'
inaction is before the Court.
THE PARTIES' POSITIONS