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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chavez v Sequera, 2011 WL 3666581 (W.D.Tex.) [Mexico] [Default Judgment]

In Chavez v Sequera, 2011 WL 3666581 (W.D.Tex.) Plaintiffs filed their "Original Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and for Return of a Child Victim of International Abduction" in which they contended that on August 13, 2010 a female minor (N.H.S.) was with her parents in Ciudad Juarez when her parents were shot and killed. Juarez police allegedly delivered N.H. S. to Plaintiffs--N.H. S .'s paternal grandparents. The next day, while the minor child was left with her aunts, Defendants--the minor child's maternal grandparents and other relatives-allegedly acted together to physically overpower the aunts, abduct the minor child, and remove her to El Paso, TX. Plaintiffs subsequently initiated custody proceedings in the First Family Court of the Judicial District of Bravos, Chihuahua, Mexico, which they contended was a court of proper venue and represented that the court granted them temporary legal custody of N.H.S. in absentia since Defendants were "avoiding detection" in both Mexico and the United States. On March 4, 2011, Defendants were served with the Petition. Defendants had until March 25, 2011 to file an answer, but failed to do so. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1)(A)(i). On March 31, 2011 the Clerk of the Court filed an "Entry of Default." As a result, Plaintiffs asked that the Court grant default judgment in their favor. The district court noted that a defendant must serve a responsive pleading within 21 days after being served with a summons and complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1). When a defendant fails to otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55. If a plaintiff's claim is not for a "sum certain" or for an amount that can be made certain by computation, application for the entry of a judgment by default must be made to the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(B)(2). It indicated that on April 18, 2011, with all parties present, the Court held a hearing in order to apprise Defendants of the consequences of failing to answer Plaintiffs' Petition. At that time the Court explained its limited role under the Hague Convention and made it clear to Defendants that it was not the Court's duty to make an independent determination about the best interests of the child nor to opine as to the substantive legal proceedings relating to the issue of custody which were before the Mexican legal system. Further, the Court informed Defendants that they had failed to comply with the law by filing an answer timely.

Defendants did not formally appear either through counsel or pro se and did not file responsive pleadings to the Petition or to the Motion for Default Judgment. Based on the pleadings, the Court found that the allegations in Plaintiffs' Petition were facial sufficient to state their claim and merit the relief they were seeking. As a result, the Court granted the Motion for Default Judgment. It directed that that Defendants contact Plaintiffs' counsel, and arrange for the physical return of N.H. S. to Plaintiffs not more than seven (7) days following the service of its Order. It further ordered, among other things, that should Defendants fail to timely return physical custody of N.H. S. to Plaintiffs, upon notification from Plaintiffs of such deficiency, the Court may enlist the services of the United States Marshal to assist Plaintiffs in carrying out the provisions of its Order.

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