Mesle v. Signed Personal Check No. 730, No. 09-55353 - U.S. Ninth Circuit
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Mesle v. Signed Personal Check No. 730, No. 09-55353

Mesle v. Signed Personal Check No. 730, No. 09-55353, concerned claimant's appeal from the district court's denial of his motion to set aside an entry of default in a forfeiture proceeding against checks drawn on claimant's accounts and funds in those accounts.  The court reversed on the ground that the district court erred by holding the movant to a standard inappropriate for determining whether an unrepresented lay party's conduct demonstrated culpability; and made merits decisions as to the movant's defenses that were premature at this stage of the proceedings, and, moreover, were incorrect.

As the court wrote:  "Yubran Mesle appeals the district court's denial of his motion to set aside an entry of default in a forfeiture proceeding against checks drawn on Mesle's accounts and funds in those accounts. "[J]udgment by default is a drastic step appropriate only in extreme circumstances; a case should, whenever possible, be decided on the merits." Falk v. Allen, 739 F.2d 461, 463 (9th Cir. 1984). Our rules for determining when a default should be set aside are solicitous towards movants, especially those whose actions leading to the default were taken without the benefit of legal representation. See id.; TCI Group Life Ins. Plan v. Knoebber, 244 F.3d 691, 695-98 (9th Cir. 2001). The district court failed to show such solicitude, holding the movant to a standard inappropriate for determining whether an unrepresented lay party's conduct demonstrated culpability; and made merits decisions as to the movant's defenses that were premature at this stage of the proceedings, and, moreover, were incorrect. We reverse."

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