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United States v. Epps

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 22, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES EPPS a/k/a JAMES E. EPPS Jr., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, District Judge.

Before the court is prose Defendant James Epps's letter requesting that the default judgment entered against him on December 19, 1997, be vacated. (Mot. to Vacate Default J. ("Mot. to Vacate") (Dkt. 7).) The court construes this letter as a motion to set aside a default judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 55(c) and 60(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 21, 1997, Plaintiff the United States of America filed an action against Defendant for a judgment in the amount of $1, 814.57 for unpaid student loans and interest accrued through July 8, 1997. (Compl. (Dkt. 1) at 1.) The case was originally assigned to Judge David G. Trager. According to the Affidavit of Service, Defendant was served with the Summons and Complaint on August 27, 1997, thirty-seven days after the Complaint was filed. (Aff. of Service (Dkt. 2) at 1.) Service was made by a non-party professional process server who was over eighteen and delivered of a copy of the Summons and Complaint to "Jane Doe, " a co-tenant at 80 Dwight Street, Apartment 7G, Brooklyn, NY, which at the time was Defendant's "usual place of abode." (Id.) Doe appeared to be forty-nine years of age and of suitable discretion but refused to give her name. (Id.) The process server confirmed through conversation with Doe that Defendant was not in the military. (Id.) The Summons and Complaint were also mailed to Defendant at the same address via first class mail. (Id.) Plaintiff filed proof of service on September 11, 1997.

Defendant did not answer the Complaint or otherwise appear in the action. On December 18, 1997, Plaintiff moved for default judgment. (Mot. for Default J. (Dkt. 4).) The Clerk of Court entered a certificate of default on the same day. (Dkt. 5.) Finding that "the summons and complaint in this action ha[d] been duly served on the... defendant... and said defendant ha[d] failed to plead or otherwise defend in this action, " on December 19, 1997, Judge Trager ordered default judgment against Defendant in the amount of $1, 945.09. (Default J. (Dkt. 5).) This sum represented the principal on the Joan of $1, 016.34, plus interest of $827.12, and a 10% statutory surcharge of $101.63. Id.)

On July 2, 2014, more than sixteen years after the entry of judgment, Defendant filed his Motion to Vacate. Defendant claims that he "never received any documents about the case and do[es] not know anything about it." (Mot. to Vacate at 1.) The case was reassigned to this court.

II. DISCUSSION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(c) allows the court to set aside a default judgment in accordance with Rule 60(b), which provides that "[o]n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party... from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial...;
(3) fraud[, ]..., misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party;
(4) the judgment is void;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or ...

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