United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander, United States District Judge.
Marcia Ajayi, the self-represented plaintiff, filed suit
against defendant “ECMC, ” more properly known as
Educational Credit Management Corporation. ECMC is a
not-for-profit loan guaranty agency in the Federal Family
Education Loan Program (“FFELP”), and provides
guarantor services to the U.S. Department of Education. ECF
17 at 1 n.1. Plaintiff seeks to bar ECMC's garnishment of
her wages, caused by her default on a student loan that she
obtained in 2002 from Sallie Mae. ECF 1 (Complaint); ECF 13
at 2. The garnishment went into effect on July 13, 2016. ECF
claims, in various submissions, that Sallie Mae-not ECMC-is
the proper holder of her debt, and therefore ECMC may not
collect it. ECF 13 at 2. Further, plaintiff alleges that ECMC
began garnishing her wages without providing her with proper
notice and in contravention of the regulation prohibiting
garnishment if the debtor has not been employed for at least
twelve months. Id. at 4. And, she asserts that the
garnishment is not lawful because it causes plaintiff and her
family undue hardship, in that she is “the sole
breadwinner” of the family, which includes both a
disabled child and a disabled spouse. ECF 1; ECF 13.
According to plaintiff, defendant has violated 20 U.S.C.
§ 1095a and 34 C.F.R. § 682.410. ECF 1 at 4.
January 6, 2017, the same date that plaintiff filed suit, she
also filed a “Motion of Objection to Garnishment of My
Wages by ECMC, Collection Agency.” ECF 4. Defendant
responded (ECF 15), and plaintiff replied. ECF 16. By Order
of June 15, 2017 (ECF 22), I determined to construe ECF 4 as
a supplement to the Complaint (“Supplement”),
rather than a motion.
was served on February 27, 2017. ECF 9. On March 22, 2017,
ECMC moved to dismiss the suit or, in the alternative, for
summary judgment, on the ground that plaintiff has failed to
exhaust her administrative remedies. ECF 10. The motion is
supported by a memorandum (ECF 10-1) (collectively,
“Motion”) and exhibits. Plaintiff opposes the
Motion. ECF 13 (“Opposition”). Defendant has
replied. ECF 19.
March 24, plaintiff filed a “Motion to Award Relief and
Punitive Damage[s] Against ECMC, Collection Agency”
(ECF 12, “Motion to Award Relief”). Apparently,
the Motion to Award Relief was mailed before plaintiff was
aware of the filing of the Motion. In ECF 12, plaintiff seems
to request an entry of default against defendant, with
additional allegations. Defendant opposes the Motion to Award
Relief. ECF 17. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a “Motion
to Strike Out 'Motion to Dismiss' Filed by ECMC with
the Court.” ECF 14 (“Motion to Strike”).
ECMC opposes the Motion to Strike (ECF 18), and plaintiff
replied. ECF 20.
hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant
the Motion and deny the Motion to Award Relief and the Motion
The Statute and Regulations
student loan borrower fails to repay a debt, and the U.S.
Department of Education assumes the liability for that debt,
20 U.S.C. § 1095a allows the Department of Education or
an authorized “guaranty agency” to garnish the
pay of a borrower if the borrower does not have a repayment
plan, provided that the garnishment complies with a number of
requirements. In particular, (1) the amount deducted per pay
period may not exceed 15 percent of disposable pay; (2) the
borrower must be given notice at least 30 days before the
garnishment begins; (3) the borrower must be allowed to
inspect and copy records related to the debt; (4) the
borrower must be allowed to enter a payment plan; (5) the
borrower is entitled to a hearing concerning the amount,
existence, and terms of the debt; (6) the guaranty agency may
sue an employer for non-compliance; (7) the borrower must
have been employed for 12 months before garnishment may begin
or resume; and (8) an employer may not terminate a borrower
because the borrower's wages are garnished. 20 U.S.C.
indicated, the borrower is entitled to a hearing to challenge
the existence, amount, or terms of the debt. Id.
§ 1095a(a)(5). A borrower must request a hearing in
writing. Id. § 1095a(b); 34 C.F.R. §
682.410(9)(i)(E)(2). If the borrower does so, the guaranty
agency is required to provide a hearing in time to enable a
final decision within 60 days of the borrower's request.
34 C.F.R. § 682.410(9)(i)(F).
hearing official, who presides over the hearing, is appointed
by the guaranty agency from which the borrower seeks relief.
Id. § 682.410(9)(i)(I). The hearing official
may be “any qualified individual, including an
administrative law judge.” Id. However, the
regulation cautions that “[u]nder no circumstance may
the hearing official be under the supervision or control of
the head of the guaranty agency, ” although
“[p]ayment of compensation by the guaranty agency . . .
does not constitute impermissible supervision or control . .
. .” Id.
hearing, the borrower may object to, inter alia, the
garnishment of her wages, if the amount or rate of
garnishment would cause financial hardship to the borrower
and the borrower's dependents. Id. §
the statute nor the regulation expressly provides for appeal
or judicial review as to the hearing official's final
is pro se. Therefore, I must construe her pleadings
liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). As noted, the Complaint alleges that defendant failed
to follow the requirements of 20 U.S.C. § 1095a and 34
C.F.R. § 682.410 by unlawfully garnishing plaintiff s
wages. ECF 1 at 4.
support of her position, plaintiff avers that the garnishment
causes her family substantial hardship. Id. at 5, 6.
Further, plaintiff alleges that ECMC has “no judgement
[sic] from any court authorizing the garnishment.”
Id. at 6. As relief, plaintiff seeks immediate
termination of the garnishment and a refund of wages that
were already garnished. ECF 1 at 8.
Supplement, plaintiff realleges that the garnishment has
caused hardship to her family, and she contends that
defendant has “not followed or obeyed” a number
of provisions of 20 U.S.C. § 1095a. ECF 4 at 1. In her
Opposition, plaintiff alleges that ECMC violated several
provisions of the statute: defendant failed to provide
plaintiff with 30 days' notice in advance of the
garnishment, or notice of plaintiffs rights (ECF 13 at 3), in
violation of 20 U.S.C. § 1095a(a)(2); plaintiffs wages
were garnished without the opportunity for a hearing (ECF 12
at 3-4), in violation of ...