Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, Trustee v. Bertrand
The plain and unambiguous language of Connecticut General Statutes §52-119 and Practice Book §10-18 empowers the court with the discretionary authority to impose a default as a penalty whenever a defendant fails to comply with the rules regarding pleadings, including the timely advancement of such pleadings. The defendant, David Bertrand, appealed from the judgment of strict foreclosure rendered for the plaintiff, Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, as trustee, claiming, first, that the court improperly defaulted the defendant for failure to plead. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Given the trial court's duty to ensure the orderly and fair administration of justice for all parties and the clear record of dilatory behavior and frivolous pleading by the defendant, based on the record, the court did not abuse its discretion by rendering the default. The court held a hearing on a motion for judgment of strict foreclosure. At the time, Practice Book §17-32 precluded the clerk of the court from acting on the plaintiff's fifth motion for default for failure to plead, filed five days earlier. The rule did not limit the court's authority to default the defendant especially given the court's finding that the defendant's delay in filing his answer was outrageous and unfounded. Nothing in the plain language of Practice Book §17-32 exposes any intent to limit the court's authority to render a default pursuant to C.G.S. §52-119 and Practice Book §10-18, or to impose upon a Superior Court judge the procedural restrictions in Practice Book §17-32, expressly directed toward defaults entered by the clerk. The court had ample authority to render the default. The action did not work any surprise or injustice on the defendant. The filing of the motion did not, as contended, provide the defendant with an additional seven days to plead; it merely stayed for seven days the clerk's authority to act on the motion. Additionally, Practice Book §17-32(b) imposed no duty on the court to accept the defendant's answer offered for filing at the hearing. To the extent that Practice Book §17-32(b) may imply that some time must be permitted after default to permit an opportunity to plead, Practice Book §17-33 expressly exempts the judicial authority from complying with Practice Book §17-32(b) in foreclosure proceedings and permits a simultaneous default and judgment.