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Federal National Mortgage Association v. Willis

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 13, 2017

CLARENCE MOSES WILLIS, et al., Defendants.


         Presently before the court is pro se defendant Clarence Moses Willis's (“Willis”) motion to set aside clerk's entry of default. (ECF No. 220). Plaintiff Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) filed a response (ECF No. 223), to which Willis replied (ECF No. 230).

         Also before the court is Willis's motion for recusal of district judge. (ECF No. 228).

         I. Facts

         This case arises from allegations of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, slander of title, unjust enrichment, fraudulent conveyance, violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1723(a), trespass, and quiet title to real property against defendants Willis, Ernest C. Aldridge (“Aldridge”), Geri L. McKinnon, [1] and Creative Solutions 4 U, LLC (collectively, as “defendants”).

         Fannie Mae alleges that over the course of several months, defendants have engaged in a conspiracy to defraud Fannie Mae of its interest in eight (8) subject properties.[2] Fannie Mae further alleges that defendants, without any legal right or authorization by Fannie Mae, prepared, executed, and recorded deeds purporting to transfer title from Fannie Mae to defendants.

         On February 25, 2016, Fannie Mae filed an amended complaint, alleging nineteen (19) causes of action against the various defendants. (ECF No. 41).

         On July 21, 2016, Fannie Mae served written discovery requests including interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission on Willis. On August 22, 2016, Willis filed a motion for protective order (ECF No. 86) in regard to Fannie Mae's written discovery. On September 14, 2016, the court denied Willis's motion and instructed him to respond to Fannie Mae's written discovery requests by September 27, 2016. Willis, however, did not respond to plaintiff's written discovery. After Willis informed Fannie Mae that he was not available to attend his deposition scheduled for September 16, 2016, Fannie Mae rescheduled and re-noticed his deposition to December 21, 2016. On multiple occasions, Fannie Mae communicated with Willis in regard to his deposition in an attempt to coordinate. Willis did not attend the deposition despite having received notice.

         Thereafter, Fannie Mae requested that the court impose sanctions against Willis, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, for failing to provide discovery and for failing to comply with the court's orders. (ECF No. 160). In response, Willis argued that he was not required to “offer information” to Fannie Mae because Fannie Mae did not comply with Rule 26. (ECF No. 168 at 2).

         In a report and recommendation (“R&R”), Magistrate Judge Foley recommended that Fannie Mae's motion for sanctions against Willis (ECF No. 160) be granted, that Willis's answer (ECF No. 39) be stricken, and that default be entered against Willis. (ECF No. 190). Willis filed an objection to the R&R, requesting that the court disregard the magistrate judge's recommendation because Mr. Anthony R. Sassis's affidavit was false. (ECF No. 195 at 3).

         On April 27, 2017, the court entered an order (ECF No. 202) adopting the R&R (ECF No. 190) in its entirety and finding default to be an appropriate sanction pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2)(A) for Willis's failure to obey an order to provide or permit discovery. Thereafter, the clerk entered default against Willis. (ECF No. 210).

         In the instant motions, Willis moves to set aside the clerk's entry of default (ECF No. 220) and requests that the Honorable James C. Mahan recuse himself pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455 (ECF No. 228).

         II. Legal Standards & Discussion

         As an initial matter, the court acknowledges that Willis's documents were filed pro se and are therefore held to less stringent standards. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). While Willis is pro se, he is nonetheless bound by the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. See King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987) (“Pro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.”); see also Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995) (“Although we construe pleadings liberally in their favor, pro se litigants are bound by the rules of procedure.”); Jacobsen v. Filler, 790 F.2d 1362, 1364 (9th Cir. 1986) (“[P]ro se litigants in the ordinary civil case should not be treated more favorably than parties with attorneys of record.”).

         A. Motion to Set Aside Clerk's Entry of ...

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