Legal Memorandum: Conditions for Entry of Default Judgment

Issue: What is a party’s obligation to ensure that their answer or responsive pleading has been received by the administrative office or clerk responsible for receiving the pleading in New Jersey?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Entry of default judgment; Considerations evaluated
Jurisdiction: New Jersey
Cited Cases: 732 F.2d 1178; 747 F.2d 863
Cited Statutes: N.J. R. Ct. 4:43-1, -2, -3, R. 4:49, R. 4:50-1
Date: 12/01/2011

There are different procedures used in state and federal courts.  In New Jersey courts, if a defendant doesn’t answer a complaint, it has not entered an appearance and the matter does not continue to litigation.  The plaintiff typically moves for entry of default judgment, which is served upon the defendant, and the court will grant the default judgment if the defendant fails to respond.  See N.J. R. Ct. 4:43-1, -2, -3.

If default judgment is entered, a defendant may file a motion to set aside the default judgment.  In state court, the judge may relieve the defendant of the default judgment and accept the untimely answer upon a showing of:

(a)        mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;

(b)        newly discovered evidence which would probably alter the judgment or order and which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under R. 4:49;

(c)        fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party;

(d)       the judgment or order is void;

(e)        the judgment or order has been satisfied, released or discharged, or a prior judgment or […]

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