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United States v. Mitchell

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 28, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WILLIE MITCHELL

          Present: The Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS) - PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT (Dkt. 11, filed September 20, 2016)

         I. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND

         On January 12, 2007, in consideration of a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”), defendant Willie Mitchell executed a Promissory Note in the amount of $95, 000. Dkt. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶ 2. On or about September 2009, Mitchell defaulted on the payment of his obligation on the Note, with $90, 277.44 still owing. Id. ¶ 4.

         On May 15, 2015, the United States brought this action against Mitchell to recover Mitchell's obligation on the Promissory Note, along with costs and fees. See id.

         On October 6, 2015, the government served Mitchell with the summons and complaint. Dkt. 5.

         On August 25, 2016, pursuant to the government's request, the Clerk of Court entered a default against Mitchell. Dkt. 10.

         On September 20, 2016, the government filed the instant motion for default judgment. Dkt. 11 (“Motion”). The government seeks to recover: (a) the unpaid principal, in the amount of $90, 277.44; (b) the fees charged by Debt Management Services (“DMS”) of the Bureau of the Fiscal Service for the Treasury Department in the amount of $27, 068.23; (c) the fees charged by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in the amount of $3, 627.70; (d) attorneys' fees in the amount of $5, 209.90; and (e) costs in the amount of 480.50. Id. at 4-5; dkt. 11-2, Declaration of Regina Crisafulli (“Crisafulli Decl.”) ¶ 14.

         On May 8, 2017, the Court held oral argument. Mitchell did not appear.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, when a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and the plaintiff does not seek a sum certain, the plaintiff must apply to the court for a default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55.

         As a general rule, cases should be decided on the merits as opposed to by default, and, therefore, “any doubts as to the propriety of a default are usually resolved against the party seeking a default judgment.” Judge William W. Schwarzer et al., California Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial ¶ 6:11 (The Rutter Group 2015) (citing Pena v. Seguros La Comercial, S.A., 770 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir. 1985)). Granting or denying a motion for default judgment is a matter within the court's discretion. Elektra Entm't Grp. Inc. v. Crawford, 226 F.R.D. 388, 392 (C.D. Cal. 2005); see also Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. v. Elias, 2004 WL 141959, *3 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 20, 2004).

         The Ninth Circuit has directed that courts consider the following factors in deciding whether to enter default judgment: (1) the possibility of prejudice to plaintiff; (2) the merits of plaintiff's substantive claims; (3) the sufficiency of the complaint; (4) the sum of money at stake in the action; (5) the possibility of a dispute concerning the material facts; (6) whether defendant's default was the product of excusable neglect; and (7) the strong policy favoring decisions on the merits. See Eitel, 782 F.2d at 1471-72; see also Elektra, 226 F.R.D. at 392.

         III. ...


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