United States of America v. Gomez
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: The Court GRANTS the Government's 8 Motion for Default Judgment. The Government is entitled to the following relief: $4687.22 in unpaid indebtedness as of 10/4/2017; Interest accruing on the principal at $0.49 per day as of 10/4/2017, until the date of judgment; Post-judgment interest at a rate of 2.10%; and Costs of court. (Ordered by Judge Jane J. Boyle on 4/23/2018) (sss)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
ZELMA GOMEZ, a/k/a ZELMA J.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:18-CV-0131-B
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
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.
Plaintiff United States (the Government) filed suit against Defendant Zelma Gomez on
January 18, 2018. Doc. 1, Compl. The Government alleges that Defendant failed to make payments
on loans she obtained from the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) and is now
indebted to the Government $4687.22 plus interest. Id. ¶¶ 5, 7. Defendant was served with the
summons and complaint on February 3, 2018. 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 filed a request to enter default as to Defendant on February
27, 2018, Doc. 6, which the Clerk of Court entered, Doc. 7. The same day, the Government filed
the present Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant to recover the amount due under the
loans as well as interest and other costs. Doc. 8, Mot. for Default J. To date, Defendant has not made
an appearance in this case.
Rule 55(b) 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. That being 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.
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:
 whether material issues of fact are at issue;  whether there has been substantial
prejudice;  whether the grounds for default are clearly established; [4 ]whether the
default was caused by a good faith mistake or excusable neglect;  the harshness of
a default judgment; and  whether the court would think itself obliged to set aside
the default on the defendant’s motion.
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. However, a “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.” 1998
Freightliner, 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 reference to the pleadings and supporting documents, a hearing is
unnecessary. James v. Frame, 6 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 1993).
Applying the three-part analysis detailed above, the Court concludes that the Government
is entitled to a default judgment.
Default Judgment is Procedurally Warranted
After reviewing the Government’s Motion in light of the six Lindsey factors, the Court
determines that default judgment is procedurally warranted. First, Defendant has not filed any
responsive pleadings. Consequently, no material facts are disputed. Lindsey, 161 F.3d at 893;
Nishimatsu Constr., 515 F.2d at 1206 (noting that “[t]he defendant, by his default, admits the
plaintiff’s well-pleaded allegations of fact”). Second, Defendant’s “failure to respond threatens to
bring the adversary process to a halt, effectively prejudicing Plaintiff’s interests.” Ins. Co. of the W.
v. H & G Contractors, Inc., No. C-10-390, 2011 WL 4738197, at *3 (S.D. Tex, Oct. 5, 2011). Third,
the grounds for default are clearly established, as Defendant has not responded to the summons and
complaint, the entry of default, or the Motion over the past three months. Fourth, there is no
evidence indicating Defendant’s silence is the result of a “good faith mistake or excusable neglect.”
Lindsey, 161 F.3d at 893. Fifth, the Government seeks only the relief the law provides, mitigating the
harshness of a default judgment against Defendant. Finally, the Court is not aware of any facts that
would give rise to “good cause” to set aside the default if challenged by Defendant. See id. Therefore,
the Court concludes that default judgment is procedurally warranted.
Default Judgment is Substantively Warranted
In light of the entry of default, Defendant is deemed to have admitted the allegations set forth
in the Government’s Complaint. Nonetheless, the Court must review the pleadings to determine
whether they provide a sufficient basis for the Government’s claim for relief. Nishimatsu Constr., 515
F.2d at 1206. In conducting this analysis, the Fifth Circuit has looked to the Rule 8 case law for
Rule 8(a)(2) requires a pleading to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of this requirement is “to
‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests.’” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). The factual allegations in the complaint need only
“be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption
that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id.
(footnote and citations omitted). “[D]etailed factual allegations” are not required,
but the pleading must present “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Wooten v. McDonald Transit Assocs., Inc., 788 F.3d 490, 498 (5th Cir. 2015).
To recover on its claim for unpaid debts, the Government must show that (1) it is the holder
of Defendant’s promissory notes; (2) Defendant executed the notes; and (3) the notes are in default.
United States v. Chapa, No. C-07-005, 2007 WL 4198387, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Nov. 23, 2007).
The Government is substantively entitled to relief. It seeks to recover payments due under
loans obtained by Defendant from the Department. Doc. 1, Compl., ¶ 5. In 1996, Defendant
obtained loans for $2625 and $4000 under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Doc.
1, Compl.,¶¶ 5–6; id. Ex. A. The Department is the owner and holder of each note. Doc. 1, Compl.,¶
5. According to a Certificate of Indebtedness issued in 2017, Defendant defaulted on her loans in
2012. Doc. 1, Compl., Ex. B. As of October 4, 2017, Defendant owed a total of $4687.22 plus
interest on her loans. Id.
After review, the Court concludes that these allegations are sufficient to provide Defendant
with fair notice of the Government’s claims. The Court further determines that Defendant is not an
infant, incompetent, or entitled to relief under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 App. U.S.C.
§ 501 et seq. Accordingly, the Government is entitled to recover for any unpaid principal and interest
on Defendant’s obligation.
The Government’s Claim is for a Sum Certain
Finally, the Government’s claim is for a sum certain. The Government’s records show that
as of October 4, 2017, Defendant was indebted to the Government for a total of $4687.22 plus
interest accruing on the principal at a daily rate of $0.49 per day until June 30, 2018 and thereafter
at a rate determined by the Department pursuant to the Higher Education Act of 1965. Doc. 1,
Compl., Ex. B.
Based on the foregoing, the Court GRANTS the Government’s Motion for Default
Judgment. Doc. 8. It is therefore ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that the Government
is entitled to the following relief:
$4687.22 in unpaid indebtedness as of October 4, 2017;
Interest accruing on the principal at $0.49 per day as of October 4, 2017, until the
date of judgment;
Post-judgment interest at a rate of 2.10%;1 and
Costs of court.2
Dated: April 23, 2018.
JANE J. BOYLE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Post-judgment interest is calculated using the weekly average 1-year constant maturity (nominal)
Treasury yield, as published by the Federal Reserve System for the calendar week preceding. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1961. The 1-year rate for the week ending April 13, 2018(and thus effective April 16, 2018, through April
22, 2018) is 2.10%.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(1).
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