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United States v. Cloude

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

January 9, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLOTTE A. CLOUDE Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION ORDER

          JANE J. BOYLF, UMTED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the United States of America's Motion for Default Judgment. Doc. 8. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff United States of America (the Government) originally filed this lawsuit against Defendant Charlotte A. Cloude on March 24, 2017. Doc. 1, Compl. The Government alleges that Defendant has defaulted on student-loan payments and is therefore indebted to the United States for the principal and interest on those loans. See generally Id. Defendant was served with the summons and complaint on May 11, 2017. Doc. 5, Aff. of Service. Despite having been served, Defendant neither submitted an answer nor otherwise made an appearance in this case. Accordingly, the Government requested an entry of default as to Defendant on June 5, 2017, Doc. 6, which the Clerk of Court entered the same day. Doc. 7. That same day, the Government filed the present Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant to recover the amount due on Defendant's loans, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest. Doc. 8. To date, Defendant has not made an appearance in this case.

         II.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the Court to enter a default judgment against a defendant who has failed to plead or otherwise defend upon motion of the plaintiff. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a)-(b). That said, “[d]efault judgments are a drastic remedy, not favored by the Federal Rules and resorted to by courts only in extreme situations.” Sun Bank of Ocala v. Pelican Homestead & Sav. Ass'n, 874 F.2d 274, 276 (5th Cir. 1989). A party is not entitled to a default judgment merely because the defendant is technically in default. Ganther v. Ingle, 75 F.3d 207, 212 (5th Cir. 1996). “Rather, a default judgment is generally committed to the discretion of the district court.” United States v. 1998 Freightliner Vin #: 1FUYCZYB3WP886986, 548 F.Supp.2d 381, 384 (W.D. Tex. 2008).

         In determining whether a default judgment should be entered against a defendant, courts have developed a three-part analysis. Id. First, courts consider whether the entry of default judgment is procedurally warranted. See Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886, 893 (5th Cir. 1998).

         The factors relevant to this inquiry include:

[1] whether material issues of fact exist; [2] whether there has been substantial prejudice; [3] whether the grounds for default are clearly established; [4] whether the default was caused by a good faith mistake or excusable neglect; [5] the harshness of a default judgment; and [6] whether the court would think itself obliged to set aside the default on the defendant's motion.

Id.

         Second, courts assess the substantive merits of the plaintiff's claims and determine whether there is a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment. See Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v. Hous. Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975) (noting that “default is not treated as an absolute confession by the defendant of his liability and of the plaintiff's right to recover”). In doing so, courts are to assume that due to its default, the defendant admits all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint. Id. But the “defendant is not held to admit facts that are not-well pleaded or to admit conclusions of law.” Id.

         Third, courts determine what form of relief, if any, the plaintiff should receive. See 1998 Freightliner Vin #: 1FUYCZYB3WP886986, 548 F.Supp.2d at 384. Normally, damages are not to be awarded without a hearing or a demonstration by detailed affidavits establishing the necessary facts. See United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir. 1979). But if the amount of damages can be determined with mathematical calculation by ...


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