United States District Court, D. Maryland
Monica Stitt, Appellant, Pro se, Gaithersburg, MD.
For U.S. Department of Education, Appellee: Jakarra Jenise Jones, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the United States Attorney, Baltimore, MD.
For Merrill Cohen, Chapter 7, Trustee: Merrill Cohen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Cohen Baldinger and Greenfeld LLC, Bethesda, MD.
PETER J. MESSITTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This case is on appeal from an order of the United States Bankruptcy Court for this District. See In re Monica Stitt, 12-27357PM (Bankr. D. Md. Sept. 21, 2012); Stitt v. U.S. Dep't of Education, 13-0178PM (Bankr. D. Md. Mar. 27, 2013). Plaintiff Monica Stitt, pro se, sought to discharge her student loans aggregating $37,431.38, and also sought $75,000 in damages against the U.S. Department of Education. The Bankruptcy Court found that her debts to the Department of Education were excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8)
because she had not proved undue hardship by a preponderance of the evidence. Specifically, the Bankruptcy Court held that Stitt failed to show that she had made good faith efforts to repay the loans. The Bankruptcy Court entered judgment in favor of the Department of Education. For the reasons that follow, the decision of the Bankruptcy Court is AFFIRMED.
Monica Stitt is a forty-five year-old woman with no financial dependents. She was adjudicated as disabled by the U.S. Social Security Administration in 2001. ECF No. 19-1, at 185. The Department of Education (" DOE" ) holds four student loans disbursed to Stitt between 1989 and 1990, amounting to a total disbursement of $13,250.00. ECF No. 19-1. at 115. They were all defaulted in 1991 or 1992. ECF No. 19-1, at 120. As of January 15, 2014, the balance owed to DOE was $37,431.38, of which $15,843.99 was unpaid principal and $21,587.39 was unpaid accrued interest. ECF No. 19-1, at 82. In 1997, Stitt made nine voluntary payments on her loans, each in the amount of $10.00, ECF No. 19-1, at 102. Since then she has not made a single voluntary payment. She has not consolidated her loans. ECF No. 19-1, at 114.
Stitt has held a variety of jobs since 1986, including cashier and data entry work, usually on a part-time basis. ECF No. 19-1, at 145. Although she attended Howard University from 1989 to 1990, she did not obtain a degree, ECF No. 19-1, at 155. In 2008, Stitt earned $11,000.00 in a Workforce Recruitment Program for individuals with disabilities, sponsored by the Department of Labor. ECF No. 19-1, at 145. Of that stipend, $774.47 was withheld and went to repayment of her student loans. ECF No. 19-1, at 103. Stitt earned a Paralegal Certificate from Montgomery College in 2008. ECF No. 19-1, at 155. She has not been employed since 2008. ECF No. 19-1, at 145. During the pendency of the adversary proceeding, Stitt enrolled in Stevenson University. However, she could not obtain the needed financial aid because of her past loan default history and had to withdraw her from Stevenson without ever attending classes. ECF No. 19-1, at 157.
The Bankruptcy Court found that Stitt owns personal property valued at $210.00. Her monthly income consists of Social Security Disability Payments, a Montgomery County rent supplement, Medicaid, and Public Assistance Programs-Food Supplement. The Bankruptcy Judge also found that although the total value of those public grants exceeds the poverty level, Stitt could not maintain a minimal standard of living for herself based on her current receipts and expenses, even if she were to pay only the daily interest on her student loans of $3.38. See ECF No. 190-1, at 231-34.
On September 21, 2012, Stitt Filed a Voluntary Petition under Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, and on March 27, 2013, she filed an Adversary Proceeding for a determination of dischargeability of her student loan debt on the basis of undue hardship, pursuant to 11 ...