State v. PhilogeneAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court denying Jerry Philogene’s motion to set aside a default and for relief from a judgment, holding that Philogene demonstrated excusable neglect.
The default judgment in this case extinguished Philogene’s property rights to $16,545 in cash seized as part of a civil asset forfeiture proceeding, initiated following a motor vehicle stop and the filing of criminal charges connected with Philogene’s operation of the vehicle. After entry of the default judgment, Philogene filed a motion to set aside the default and for relief from the judgment. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Philogene’s assumption that his criminal attorney was representing him in the civil forfeiture matter did not constitute excusable neglect and that Philogene’s claim that he possessed the $16,545 in order to purchase a car for his sister did not constitute a meritorious defense. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) Philogene showed a reasonable excuse for his inattention to the forfeiture proceedings; and (2) Philogene demonstrated a meritorious defense to the underlying charges.