United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
I. SCHENKIER United States Magistrate Judge
24, 2015, plaintiff, the United States of America (the
"United States" or the "government"),
filed a two-count complaint against defendant, Robert Romero,
alleging that Mr. Romero owes principal and interest on two
promissory notes he had executed pursuant to the Higher
Education Act ("HEA"), as amended, 20 U.S.C. 1071,
et seq, (doc. # 1: Compl.). Plaintiff has filed a
motion for summary judgment on its claims (doc. # 23:
PL's Mot. for Summ. J.). Mr. Romero filed a cross motion
for summary judgment alleging that plaintiffs claims are
barred by various affirmative defenses (doc. # 36: Def.'s
Mot. for Summ. J). For the reasons that follow, the Court
grants plaintiffs motion and denies Mr. Romero's motion.
legal standards governing motions for summary judgment are
well-established. Summary judgment is appropriate where the
moving party establishes that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and he or she is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine issue exists
when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Lnc, 417 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In
deciding a motion for summary judgment, we "construe all
facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party." Majors v.
Gen 7 Elec. Co., 714 F.3d 527, 532 (7th Cir.
factual dispute is 'genuine' for summary judgment
purposes only when there is 'sufficient evidence favoring
the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party.'" Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833,
837 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at
249). "When opposing a properly supported motion for
summary judgment, the non-moving party must 'cit[e] to
particular parts of materials in the record' or
'show[ ] that the materials cited do not establish the
absence ... of a genuine dispute.'" Melton v.
Tippecanoe Cnty., 838 F.3d 814, 818 (7th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The non-movant "must go
beyond the pleadings (e.g., produce affidavits,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on
file), to demonstrate that there is evidence upon which a
jury could properly proceed to find a verdict in her
favor." Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166,
1168-69 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal citations and quotations
omitted). "Metaphysical doubt as to the material facts
is not enough to overcome summary judgment, and a party may
not rest upon the mere allegations of his pleading."
Flint v. City of Belvidere, 791 F.3d 764, 769 (7th
Cir. 2015) (internal citations omitted). "[S]urviving
summary judgment requires evidence, not assumptions;"
"mere speculation or conjecture" is insufficient to
create a factual dispute to defeat summary judgment.
Thornton v. Ml Aerospace LP, 796 F.3d 757, 768-69
(7th Cir. 2015) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
support of its motion for summary judgment, plaintiff
submitted a statement of facts and attached copies of two
promissory notes. The government states that the copies show
that Mr. Romero signed the first promissory note on September
5, 1998 ("Note 1") and the second promissory note
on August 13, 1999 ("Note 2") (doc. # 27:
Pl.'s Stmt, of Facts ("PSOF"), Ex. D: Note 1;
PSOF, Ex. F: Note 2). In addition, plaintiff submitted
certificates of indebtedness for each note, which provide a
summary of the history of these two student loans.
certificate of indebtedness for Note 1, Philippe Guillon, a
loan analyst for the U.S. Department of Education (the
"Department"), certified the following under the
penalty of perjury: (a) on September 5, 1998, Mr. Romero
executed Note 1 to secure a loan of Si8, 500.00 from National
City Bank; (b) the loan was disbursed in separate
increments of $10, 000.00 and $8, 500.00 between September
and December 18, 1998; (c) the loan obligation was guaranteed
by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
("Pennsylvania HEAA"), and then reinsured by the
Department; (d) the holder (National City Bank) demanded
payment, but Mr. Romero paid nothing and defaulted on the
obligation on March 30, 2002; (e) due to this default, the
guarantor (Pennsylvania HEAA) paid the total amount owed to
the holder -- $21, 643.66 (which included accrued interest);
(f) the Department reimbursed Pennsylvania HEAA; (g) the
guarantor attempted, but was unable, to collect this debt
from Mr. Romero; (h) on November 25, 2009, the guarantor
assigned its right and title to the loan to the Department;
(i) no payments were received from Mr. Romero;
(j)as of June 22, 2015, Mr, Romero owed the
Department $31, 187.17, comprised of the $21, 643.66 the
Department had paid the guarantor plus $9, 543.51 in
interest; and (k) interest continued to accrue on the $31,
187.17 thereafter, at an annual rate of 2.33% and daily rate
of $1.38 through June 30, 2015 (PSOF, Ex. C: Cert, of Indebt.
for Note 1).
certificate of indebtedness for Note 2, Mr. Guillon certified
the following under the penalty of perjury: (a) on August 13,
1999, Mr. Romero executed Note 2 to secure a loan of $10,
000.00 from National City Bank; (b) the loan was disbursed in
separate payments of $8, 500.00 and $1, 500.00 on September
1, 1999; (c) the loan obligation was guaranteed by
Pennsylvania HEAA, and then reinsured by the Department; (d)
the holder (National City Bank) demanded payment, but Mr.
Romero paid nothing and defaulted on the obligation on March
30, 2002; (e) due to this default, the guarantor
(Pennsylvania HEAA) paid the total amount owed to the holder
- $10, 814.84 (which included accrued interest); (f) the
Department reimbursed Pennsylvania HEAA; (g) the guarantor
attempted, but was unable, to collect this debt from Mr.
Romero; (h) on November 25, 2009, the guarantor assigned its
right and title to the loan to the Department; (i) no
payments were received from Mr. Romero; (j) as of June 22,
2015, Mr. Romero owed the United States $15, 583.45,
comprised of the $10, 814.84 the Department had paid the
guarantor plus $4, 768.61 in interest; and (k) interest
continued to accrue on the $15, 583.45 at an annual rate of
2.33% and daily rate of $0.69 through June 30, 2015 (PSOF,
Ex. E: Cert, of Indebt. for Note 2).
we proceed to the merits of the government's claims, we
address whether Mr. Romero has raised any genuinely disputed
issues of material fact in response to plaintiffs motion. In
his response to plaintiffs statement of undisputed facts, Mr.
Romero purports to deny each of plaintiff s facts except for
the fact of his Illinois citizenship and the date plaintiff
filed its complaint. However, Mr. Romero does not support his
denials with citations to materials in the record,
affidavits, admissions, or any other evidence upon which a
jury could properly proceed to find a verdict in his favor.
Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) states that "[a]ll material facts set
forth in the statement required of the moving party will be
deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of
the opposing party." L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C). A party
opposing a motion for summary judgment must identify the
material facts in dispute and cite to admissible evidence
controverting the moving party's evidence. Patterson
v. Indiana Newspapers, Inc., 589 F.3d 357, 359 (7th Cir.
2009). The Seventh Circuit has "repeatedly held that the
district court is within its discretion to strictly enforce
compliance with its local rules regarding summary-judgment
motions, " including by deeming a material fact admitted
if it is not properly controverted. Id. at 360.
"[R]epeatedly and improperly characteriz[ing] facts as
disputed without citing evidence that directly contradicts
[the other party's] assertions" does not
"demonstrate a genuine fact dispute." Senske v.
Sybase, Inc., 588 F.3d 501, 504 n.l (7th Cir. 2009). Nor
do "evasive denials that do not fairly meet the
substance of the material facts asserted, " Bordelon
v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 528
(7th Cir. 2000), or "improper denials and legal
argument, " Smith v. Lamz et ai, 321 F.3d 680,
683 (7th Cir. 2003), create a genuine dispute of material
facts. Mr. Romero's responses to plaintiffs statement of
facts fall into these categories.
Romero contends that he "has no independent recollection
of executing" Note 1 or receiving $18, 500.00 under Note
1, and, therefore, that he "lacks knowledge or
information sufficient to form a belief and on that basis
denies plaintiffs assertions (doc, # 34: Def.'s Resp. to
PSOF at ¶¶ 3, 5). A lack of recollection by itself,
however, is not sufficient to create a genuine issue of
material fact. See Tinder v. Pinkerton Sec, 305 F.3d
728, 735-36 (7th Cir. 2002) (plaintiffs affidavit asserting
that she did not remember seeing or receiving a brochure did
not raise a genuine issue that the brochure was distributed
to her in light of the uncontroverted affidavits of two other
individuals that indicated the brochure was sent and
presumably received); see also Hemphill v. State Farm
Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 805 F.3d 535, 541 (5th Cir. 2015)
("Lack of memory by itself is insufficient to create a
genuine issue of material fact"); Mucha v. nil of
Oak Brook, 650 F.3d 1053, 1056 (7th Cir. 2011) (holding
that an alleged lack of recollection was "inconclusive,
" and "cannot by itself create a genuine factual
dispute"); Hudson v. C.P. Rail Sys., 24
F.App'x 610, 613 (7th Cir. 2001) (party's "bare
assertion" that he "does not recall" making
inappropriate comments did not create a genuine issue of
material fact); FDIC v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of
Pittsburgh, Pa., 205 F.3d 66, 75 (2d Cir. 2000)
("vague denials and memory lapses ... do not create
genuine issues of material fact").
Mr. Romero's bare assertion that he does not remember
signing Note 1 and receiving the $18, 500.00 specified in the
note does not raise a genuine dispute as to whether he
executed the note and received the funds. Nor is Mr.
Romero's lack of "independent recollection" of
signing the document sufficient to raise a question as to the
authenticity of the copy of Note 1 that plaintiff submitted.
See Brown v. Chicago Transit Auth. Ret. Plan, 197
F.App'x 475, 481 (7th Cir. 2006) (holding that the
plaintiffs affidavit that she did not remember seeing
documents was not enough to create a disputed issue of
material fact as to the documents' authenticity).
Therefore, we deem admitted plaintiffs assertions that Mr.
Romero executed Note 1, that the note is authentic, and that
Mr. Romero received $18, 500.00 pursuant to Note 1.
Note 2, Mr. Romero simply denies, with no explanation or
citation to the record, that he executed Note 2 on or about
September 5, 1998 (Def.'s Resp. to PSOF at ¶ 9).
There is no doubt that plaintiffs statement of facts
misstated the date that Note 2 was executed. The copy of Note
2 that plaintiff submitted shows that it was signed on August
13, 1999 (PSOF, Ex F: Note 2). As we noted above, we find
that this error was a mere technicality. "But rather
than point out this inadvertent error and note that the
statement is otherwise undisputed, defendants dispute the
statement, which serves only to waste the court's, and
the litigants', time." Ezeil v. Bass, No.
09 C 6908, 2012 WL 379744, at *2 n.3 (N.D. 111. Feb. 1,
2012). Mr. Romero's summary denial - without any
supporting citations to materials in the record -- does not
create a genuine issue of material fact as to the
authenticity or accuracy of Note 2. See, e.g., Norton v.
Country Mortg. Servs., Inc., No. 07 C 6530, 2010 WL
55902, at *3-4 (N.D. 111. Jan. 4, 2010) (holding that there
was no genuine issue as to authenticity of signatures where
plaintiff did not cite any evidence to support her denial of
authenticity); Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Amstek
Metal, LLC, No. 07 C 647, 2008 WL 4066096, at *3 n.3
(N.D- HI- Aug. 27, 2008) (disregarding the plaintiffs denial
of the authenticity of documents because the plaintiff did
not provide any documentation contradicting or undermining
their authenticity). We therefore deem admitted plaintiffs
assertions that Mr. Romero executed Note 2, that the note is
authentic, and that Mr. Romero received $10, 000.00 pursuant
to the note.
Romero "denies" every other statement of fact
plaintiff asserts (except for his Illinois citizenship and
the date plaintiff filed its complaint), on the basis that
they are conclusions of law and/or fact. Mr. Romero's
responses constitute the sort of "generalized
self-serving legal conclusions, rather than particularized
statements of fact, " that are insufficient to create a
genuine issue of material fact. Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of
City of Chi., 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001); see
also Houston v. Sargent Jones & Officer Simmons, No.
14 C 9462, 2015 WL 9304489, at *2 (N.D. 111. Dec. 22, 2015)
(a party "cannot create genuine issues of material fact
by relying upon legal arguments, conclusions or suppositions
. . . which do not constitute 'facts'");
Boyce v. Johnson, No. 13 C 6832, 2015 WL 7351679, at
*2 (N.D. 111. Nov. 20, 2015) (same). As this Court has
emphasized, "[i]n determining what is disputed, we focus
not only on whether the parties profess to dispute a fact,
but also on the evidence the parties offer to support their
statements." Sansone v. Kormex Metal Craft, Inc.,
No. 14 C 841 8, 2016 WL 1529900, at *1 (N.D. 111. Apr.
14, 2016) (collecting cases). Mr. Romero offers no evidence
or citation in support of his summary claims that plaintiffs
statements of undisputed facts amount to conclusions of law
or fact. Rather, Mr. Romero relied on "evasive
denials" and "legal argument" that do not
create a genuine dispute of material facts.
Bordelon, 233 F.3d at 529; Smith, 321 F.3d
we disagree that plaintiffs assertions constitute legal or
factual conclusions. As we explain further below, most of
plaintiff s assertions are properly asserted statements of