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ROBERTSON v. MERSCORP, INC. | USDC M.D. Alabama Remands to State Court, Failed to record certain assignments of interests in mortgages

ROBERTSON v. MERSCORP, INC. | USDC M.D. Alabama Remands to State Court, Failed to record certain assignments of interests in mortgages


United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division.

NANCY O. ROBERTSON, in her
official capacity as
Probate Judge of Barbour
County, Alabama, on behalf
of herself and all others
similarly situated,

Plaintiff,

v.

MERSCORP, INC., a Delaware
corporation, and MORTGAGE
ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION
SYSTEMS, INC., a Delaware
corporation,

Defendants.

Plaintiff Nancy O. Robertson (“Robertson”), acting in her official capacity as probate judge of Barbour County, Alabama, and on behalf of all probate judges in the State, brought suit in state court against defendants MERSCORP, Inc. (“MERSCORP”), and Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), claiming that the defendants failed to record certain assignments of interests in mortgages. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446, the defendants removed this case to federal court on a diversity-of-citizenship ground. Robertson moves to remand to state court because the defendants have failed to satisfy their burden of demonstrating that the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement for diversity jurisdiction has been met in this case. For the reasons that follow, Robertson’s remand motion will be granted.

I. STANDARD FOR REMAND

Where, as here, a defendant seeks to remove a case on a diversity-jurisdiction ground and the damages have not been specified by the plaintiff, the removing defendant “must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the $75,000 jurisdictional requirement.” Leonard v. Enterprise Rent A Car, 279 F.3d 967, 972 (11th Cir. 2002). “A removing defendant bears the burden of proving proper federal jurisdiction.” Id. The court may not “speculate in an attempt to make up for the notice’s failings.” Lowery v. Alabama Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1215 (11th Cir. 2007).

II. BACKGROUND

The defendants operate the MERS system, which is a digital marketplace for mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. As the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals succinctly explained:

“MERS is a private electronic database, operated by MERSCORP, Inc., that tracks the transfer of the `beneficial interest’ in home loans, as well as any changes in loan servicers. After a borrower takes out a home loan, the original lender may sell all or a portion of its beneficial interest in the loan and change loan servicers. The owner of the beneficial interest is entitled to repayment of the loan. For simplicity, we will refer to the owner of the beneficial interest as the `lender.’ The servicer of the loan collects payments from the borrower, sends payments to the lender, and handles administrative aspects of the loan. Many of the companies that participate in the mortgage industry—by originating loans, buying or investing in the beneficial interest in loans, or servicing loans—are members of MERS and pay a fee to use the tracking system.

“When a borrower takes out a home loan, the borrower executes two documents in favor of the lender: (1) a promissory note to repay the loan, and (2) a deed of trust, or mortgage, that transfers legal title in the property as collateral to secure the loan in the event of default. State laws require the lender to record the deed in the county in which the property is located. Any subsequent sale or assignment of the deed must be recorded in the county records, as well.
“This recording process became cumbersome to the mortgage industry, particularly as the trading of loans increased. It has become common for original lenders to bundle the beneficial interest in individual loans and sell them to investors as mortgage-backed securities, which may themselves be traded. MERS was designed to avoid the need to record multiple transfers of the deed by serving as the nominal record holder of the deed on behalf of the original lender and any subsequent lender.

“At the origination of the loan, MERS is designated in the deed of trust as a nominee for the lender and the lender’s `successors and assigns,’ and as the deed’s `beneficiary’ which holds legal title to the security interest conveyed. If the lender sells or assigns the beneficial interest in the loan to another MERS member, the change is recorded only in the MERS database, not in county records, because MERS continues to hold the deed on the new lender’s behalf. If the beneficial interest in the loan is sold to a non-MERS member, the transfer of the deed from MERS to the new lender is recorded in county records and the loan is no longer tracked in the MERS system.”

Cervantes v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 656 F.3d 1034, 1038-39 (9th Cir. 2011) (internal citations omitted).

In her role as probate judge of Barbour County, Robertson is responsible for compiling and maintaining an accurate index of grantors and grantees of interests in real estate. Robertson also collects fees for the assignment and recording of mortgages.

Robertson alleges that the MERS system illegally circumvents Alabama’s recording statutes for interests in real estate. Robertson seeks an accurate accounting and index of all transfers in real estate involving the MERS system for the past ten years, an injunction ordering the defendants to comply with Alabama’s recording statutes, and reimbursement for any fees that should have been paid.

III. DISCUSSION

The defendants posit two theories of potential liability that they believe push the amount-in-controversy above the $75,000 threshold. They are uncertain which theory Robertson intends to pursue in this litigation, but base these theories on a reading of the complaint. As the defendants have the burden of establishing this court’s jurisdiction, the court focuses on these two theories to ascertain whether removal jurisdiction is proper.

First, the defendants put forward a Note Transfer Theory: any sale or transfer of notes constitutes an assignment of mortgages that must be recorded under Alabama law. According to the defendants, approximately 3,475 mortgages naming MERS as mortgagee of record were recorded in Barbour County for the past ten years, the relevant time period in Robertson’s complaint. The defendants argue that these mortgages were transferred at least 2,693 times. The Barbour County Probate Court charges a $16.50 fee to record the first page of an assignment and $2.50 for each additional page. Assuming that each assignment is one page, the defendants would owe $44,434.50 in recording fees for the past ten years.

Acknowledging that this figure falls short of the jurisdictional threshold, the defendants extrapolate the cost of recording fees ten years into the future. They presume that the number of note transfers would be the same, thereby reaching an amount-in-controversy of $88,869.
This methodology, however, ignores that the past ten years witnessed an unprecedented housing boom followed by the worst recession since the 1930s. It is simply unrealistic to assume that the number of note transfers in the next ten years would mirror the past decade. The defendants have put forward no evidence to back up their assumption about a constant rate of note transfers over the next ten years. This court cannot speculate as to future-note-transfer rates. Lowery, 483 F.3d at 1215 (“The absence of factual allegations pertinent to the existence of jurisdiction is dispositive and, in such absence, the existence of jurisdiction should not be divined by looking to the stars.”). Because the Note Transfer Theory cannot surmount the amount-in-controversy requirement without resort to hypothetical future costs, the defendants have failed to meet their burden.

The defendants’ alternative theory of liability is the False Mortgage Theory: the listing of MERS as the mortgagee of record is a false designation and concealment. Under this theory, MERS would have to re-record approximately 3,475 mortgages in Barbour County to update the mortgagee of record. According to the defendants, a standard mortgage is 15 pages long and the Barbour County Probate Court charges $16.50 for the first page and $2.50 for each additional page. The total cost to re-record these mortgages would be approximately $178,962.50.

While this figure is above the amount-in-controversy threshold, Robertson expressly disavows any reliance on the False Mortgage Theory. Rather, Robertson claims that the “mortgage, as recorded, does not conceal the real parties in interest.” Robertson’s Reply Brief (Doc. No. 18) at 9. Robertson’s complaint concerns actions taken after the mortgage is recorded, “when the security interest is bought and sold under cover of the Defendants’ operation.” Id. Robertson seeks an accounting of the interests in real estate, not an invalidation and re-recording of mortgages. Given Robertson’s representations to this court, the defendants would not be liable for $178,962.50 under the False Mortgage Theory.

Finally, in their notice of removal, the defendants comment that the costs incurred by them to provide an accurate index would be substantial. They provide no monetary estimate of these costs, however. But even if the defendants were to calculate this figure, “the costs borne by the defendant in complying with the injunction are irrelevant” because “the value of an injunction for amount in controversy purposes must be measured by what the plaintiff stands to gain.” Morrison v. Allstate Indemnity Co., 228 F.3d 1255, 1268 n.9 (11th Cir. 2000).

To the extent that there is any uncertainty as to the theory of liability in this litigation, “uncertainties are resolved in favor of remand.” Burns v. Windsor Insurance Co., 31 F.3d 1092, 1095 (11th Cir. 1994). The defendants, therefore, have failed to satisfy their burden of establishing the amount in controversy.
* * *
Accordingly, it is the ORDER, JUDGMENT, and DECREE of the court that plaintiff Nancy O. Robertson’s motion to remand (Doc. No. 12) is granted and that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), this case is remanded to the Circuit Court of Barbour County, Alabama for want of jurisdiction.

It is further ORDERED that all other pending motions are left for resolution by the state court after remand.

The clerk of the court is DIRECTED to take appropriate steps to effect the remand.

This case is closed.

DONE, this the 2nd day of April, 2012.

/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

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Byrd v. MorEQUITY, INC., Ala: Court of Civil Appeals | “The conflict as to the date of (MERS) assignment materially impacts the standing issue”

Byrd v. MorEQUITY, INC., Ala: Court of Civil Appeals | “The conflict as to the date of (MERS) assignment materially impacts the standing issue”


 

Stephen A. Byrd and Cynthia B. Byrd,
v.
MorEquity, Inc.

No. 2100734.
Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama.
Decided March 16, 2012.
MOORE, Judge.

Stephen A. Byrd and Cynthia B. Byrd appeal from a summary judgment entered by the Mobile Circuit Court (“the trial court”) in an ejectment action filed by MorEquity, Inc. We reverse.

Procedural History

On April 20, 2010, MorEquity filed an action seeking possession of certain real property that was in the possession of the Byrds, who were using it as their residence. MorEquity alleged that it had acquired title to the real property through a foreclosure sale and that the Byrds had unlawfully detained the real property following the termination of their possessory interest in the property and a written demand to vacate the premises. The Byrds filed a pro se answer generally denying the allegations in the complaint and asserting that “we can show that our property was foreclosed on without just cause.”

On June 8, 2010, MorEquity filed a motion for a summary judgment with supporting materials. The Byrds thereafter retained attorneys, who filed an amended answer on the Byrds’ behalf on August 25, 2010. In the amended answer, the Byrds denied that MorEquity had a right to possession of the property, asserting, among other affirmative defenses, that MorEquity had conducted a foreclosure sale without first acquiring any ownership interest in the mortgage covering the property. The Byrds’ attorneys subsequently filed documents in opposition to MorEquity’s summary-judgment motion, to which MorEquity replied, attaching supplemental materials.

On December 9, 2010, the Byrds moved to strike some of the evidence submitted by MorEquity in support of its motion for a summary judgment. The trial court conducted a hearing on the motions on December 10, 2010. Following the hearing, MorEquity filed a supplemental evidentiary submission. On December 17, 2010, the trial court denied the motion to strike and entered a summary judgment in favor of MorEquity. The trial court entered a writ of possession in favor of MorEquity on January 5, 2011. The Byrds filed a timely motion to alter, amend, or vacate the summary judgment, which the trial court denied on March 15, 2011. The trial court stayed enforcement of its judgment on April 6, 2011, and the Byrds appealed on April 22, 2011.

Analysis

The threshold and dispositive issue on appeal is whether MorEquity had standing to prosecute the ejectment action. See Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, [Ms. 2100245, Dec. 16, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2011); see also Cadle Co. v. Shabani, 950 So. 2d 277, 279 (Ala. 2006) (accord). MorEquity filed its action under the authority of § 6-6-280(b), Ala. Code 1975. See EB Invs., L.L.C. v. Atlantis Dev., Inc., 930 So. 2d 502 (Ala. 2005) (holding that § 6-6-280(b) applied when the complainant alleged that it was entitled to possession of land through foreclosure deed and that the defendant was unlawfully detaining the land); Muller v. Seeds, 919 So. 2d 1174 (Ala. 2005) (same), overruled on other grounds by Steele v. Federal Nat’l Mortg. Ass’n, 69 So. 3d 89 (Ala. 2010); and Earnest v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n of Alabama, 494 So. 2d 80 (Ala. Civ. App. 1986) (same). Under § 6-6-280(b), a complaint in an ejectment action must be “commenced in the name of the real owner of the land or in the name of the person entitled to the possession thereof,” and a complaint is sufficient if, among other things, it alleges “that the plaintiff was possessed of the premises or has the legal title thereto.”

Like any other fact essential to recovery, the plaintiff has the burden of proving standing. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). At the summary-judgment stage, a plaintiff asserting standing cannot rest on mere allegations in the complaint, see Dover Historical Soc’y v. City of Dover Planning Comm’n, 838 A.2d 1103 (Del. 2003), but must prove standing through specific facts set forth by affidavit or other evidence. Grayson v. AT & T Corp., 15 A.3d 219 (D.C. 2011). To prevail on a motion for a summary judgment, the plaintiff must present a prima facie case that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the plaintiff is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Armstrong v. McGee, 579 So. 2d 1310, 1312 (Ala. 1991). In making a determination whether the plaintiff has satisfied that burden, this court, de novo, reviews the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, Robinson v. Alabama Cent. Credit Union, 964 So. 2d 1225, 1228 (Ala. 2007), and “entertains such reasonable inferences as the jury would have been free to draw.” Bell v. T.R. Miller Mill Co., 768 So. 2d 953, 956 (Ala. 2000). “`”The burden does not shift to the opposing party to establish a genuine issue of material fact until the moving party has made a prima facie showing that there is no such issue of material fact.”‘” McClendon v. Mountain Top Indoor Flea Market, Inc., 601 So. 2d 957, 958 (Ala. 1992) (quoting Berner v. Caldwell, 543 So. 2d 686, 688 (Ala. 1988), quoting in turn Schoen v. Gulledge, 481 So. 2d 1094, 1096 (Ala. 1985)).

In this case, MorEquity asserts that it had standing to maintain the ejectment action against the Byrds because, it says, it held a foreclosure deed to the property, which it submitted to the trial court. The Byrds maintain, however, that the foreclosure deed is void because it was procured through foreclosure proceedings that were conducted by MorEquity without authority. In Sturdivant, supra, this court held that a foreclosure deed was void, ___ So. 3d at ___ (quoting § 35-10-9, Ala. Code 1975, which provides that “[a]ll sales of real estate, made under powers contained in mortgages or deeds of trust contrary to the provisions of [statutory law governing the power of sale pursuant to the terms of a mortgage], shall be null and void….”), and would not sustain an ejectment action when the evidence showed that the foreclosure proceedings had been initiated by the plaintiff without a valid assignment of the power of sale. Under Sturdivant, the vendee to a void foreclosure deed would not be considered a “real owner of the land” with “legal title thereto” within the meaning of § 6-6-280(b). ___ So. 3d at ___.

MorEquity submitted evidence indicating that the Byrds executed a promissory note in favor of Wilmington Finance, Inc., in the principal amount of $85,000 on July 19, 2007. That same date, to secure the note, the Byrds entered into a mortgage covering the subject property. Section 22 of that mortgage provides that, in the event of a default and failure to cure, and after appropriate notices are provided to the Byrds,

“Lender at its option may require immediate payment in full of all sums secured by this Security Instrument without further demand and may invoke the power of sale and any other remedies permitted by Applicable Law.”

“Lender” is defined in the mortgage solely as Wilmington Finance, Inc.; however, the mortgage provides that Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”), is the nominee for Wilmington Finance, Inc., and that MERS is the designated mortgagee with all legal rights of a mortgagee, including “the right … to foreclose and sell the Property.”

Pursuant to § 35-10-12, Ala. Code 1975,

“[w]here a power to sell lands is given in any mortgage, the power is part of the security and may be executed by any person, or the personal representative of any person who, by assignment or otherwise, becomes entitled to the money thus secured.”

MorEquity submitted evidence indicating that MERS assigned the mortgage, complete with its power of sale,[1] to MorEquity so that it could execute that power under § 35-10-12. We agree with the Byrds, however, that MorEquity’s evidence is conflicting as to the date of the assignment.

MorEquity attached to the affidavit of Kenneth Scheller, an assistant vice president of MorEquity, a document entitled “ASSIGNMENT OF MORTGAGE” (capitalization and italics in original), which states:

“FOR VALUE RECEIVED, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (`MERS’) as Nominee for WILMINGTON FINANCE, INC., its successors and assigns, hereby assign and transfer to MOREQUITY, INC., 7116 EAGLE CREST BLVD., EVANSVILLE, IN 47715, its successors and assigns, all its right, title and interest in and to a certain MORTGAGE executed by: STEPHEN A. BYRD AND CYNTHIA B. BYRD, in the original principal amount of $85,000.00 and bearing the date of … 07/19/2007 and recorded on 07/25/2007 in the office of the Recorder of MOBILE County, State of ALABAMA in Instrument Number XXXXXXXXXX in BOOK 6227 and PAGE 205.”

(Capitalization and underlining in original.) A notary certified that that document was signed on April 20, 2009. On the other hand, MorEquity attached to the affidavit of Jeff Schutte, its associate director, a document entitled “NOTIFICATION OF SALE, TRANSFER OR ASSIGNMENT OF YOUR MORTGAGE LOAN,” (capitalization and bold typeface in original), indicating that MorEquity had acquired the mortgage via a sale effective December 30, 2009.[2]

The conflict as to the date of assignment materially impacts the standing issue. In Sturdivant, this court held that, in order to conduct a foreclosure sale, a party must have the power to foreclose and sell the property as of the date of the initiation of the foreclosure proceedings, ___ So. 3d at ___, which is the date the party “accelerates the maturity date of the indebtedness and publishes notice of a foreclosure sale,” Perry v. Federal Nat’l Mortg. Ass’n, [Ms. 2100235, Dec. 30, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2011), impliedly overruled on other grounds by Ex parte Secretary of Veterans Affairs, [Ms. 1101171, Feb. 10, 2012] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2012). The undisputed evidence in this case shows that the debt had been accelerated as of December 11, 2009, and that the notice of the foreclosure sale was first published on December 15, 2009, which was long after the alleged April 20, 2009, assignment date but over two weeks before the alleged December 30, 2009, assignment date. If the latter date is accurate, MorEquity would not have had authority to initiate the foreclosure proceedings; only Wilmington Finance, Inc., or MERS could have started foreclosure proceedings at that time. Pointedly, two December 11, 2009, letters submitted by MorEquity, notifying the Byrds individually of the acceleration of the debt,[3] and the notices of foreclosure sale published beginning on December 15, 2009,[4] all indicate that Wilmington Finance, Inc., had invoked the foreclosure process, implying that the assignment had not yet occurred by mid-December, as the document attached to Schutte’s affidavit reflects.

MorEquity did not present a prima facie case of standing because its own evidence creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether it had the power to foreclose and sell the property when the foreclosure proceedings were initiated on December 15, 2009.

The Byrds seek reversal of the summary judgment on numerous other grounds, including the alleged failure of MorEquity to provide notice of default and acceleration of the debt, see Jackson v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., [Ms.1100594, Feb. 17, 2012] ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Ala. 2012) (holding that failure of notice of default and acceleration of debt may invalidate foreclosure sale); the alleged failure of MorEquity to prove that it provided contractual notice of the foreclosure sale, see Thompson v. Wachovia Bank, Nat’l Ass’n, 39 So. 3d 1153 (Ala. Civ. App. 2009), overruled on other grounds by Steele v. Federal Nat’l Mortg. Ass’n, 69 So. 3d 89 (Ala. 2010) (genuine issue of material fact existed where borrowers denied receipt of notice of the foreclosure sale and mortgagee failed to submit admissible evidence indicating that it sent required notice), and Kennedy v. Wells Fargo Home Mtg., 853 So. 2d 1009 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003) (accord); the existence of alleged irregularities in the published notice of the foreclosure sale, see § 35-10-8, Ala. Code 1975 (establishing contents of notice of foreclosure sale); the alleged agreement of MorEquity to forego foreclosure while the Byrds participated in its loss-mitigation program, but see Coleman v. BAC Servicing, [Ms. 2100453, Feb. 3, 2012] ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2012) (holding that oral agreements to forebear foreclosure are not valid under the Statute of Frauds); the alleged failure of MorEquity to comply with the loss-mitigation regulations of the National Housing Act, 12 U.S.C. § 1701x(c)(5); and MorEquity’s alleged breach of its fiduciary duty by underbidding on the property at the foreclosure sale. See Berry v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., 57 So. 3d 142, 147-48 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010). Without commenting on the merits of those grounds, we note that they all may be characterized as affirmative defenses to an ejectment action pertaining to the proper exercise of the power of sale or irregularities in the manner of the sale itself, which errors may render a foreclosure deed voidable. See Sturdivant, ___ So. 3d at ___ (Moore, J., concurring specially). Because we are reversing the trial court’s judgment on a more fundamental issue — a genuine dispute as to the lack of MorEquity’s authority to initiate the foreclosure proceedings, which would render the foreclosure deed void — we pretermit discussion of those issues.

For the foregoing reasons, the summary judgment entered by the trial court in favor of MorEquity is reversed, and the cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

Thomas, J., concurs.

Pittman and Bryan, JJ., concur in the rationale in part and concur in the result, with writings.

Thompson, P.J., concurs in the result, without writing.

PITTMAN, Judge, concurring in the rationale in part and concurring in the result.

I agree that the summary judgment in favor of MorEquity, Inc., is due to be reversed and the cause remanded because MorEquity failed to establish that there was no factual dispute as to whether it was the assignee of the mortgage before it initiated the foreclosure proceedings against the Byrds. In my judgment, that failure simply means that MorEquity did not make a prima facie showing that it could satisfy one of the elements of its ejectment claim, not that MorEquity failed to demonstrate that it had standing to sue.

I believe that this case and others like it, see, e.g., Ex parte McKinney, [Ms. 1090904, May 27, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2011); Cadle Co. v. Shabani, 950 So. 2d 277 (Ala. 2006); and Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, [Ms. 2100245, Dec. 16, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2011), present questions of an ejectment plaintiff’s inability to prove the allegations of its complaint rather than questions of standing. See Ex parte McKinney, ___ So. 3d at ___ (Murdock, J., dissenting); and Sturdivant, ___ So. 3d at ___ (Pittman, J., dissenting).

“As [our supreme court] recently observed: `[O]ur courts too often have fallen into the trap of treating as an issue of “standing” that which is merely a failure to state a cognizable cause of action or legal theory, or a failure to satisfy [an] element of a cause of action.’ Wyeth, Inc. v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama, 42 So. 3d 1216, 1219 (Ala. 2010). Compare Steele v. Federal Nat’l Mortg. Ass’n, 69 So. 3d 89, 91 n.2 (Ala. 2010) (citing Wyeth as authority for rejecting the appellant’s suggestion that a plaintiff’s failure to have made a demand for possession before bringing an ejectment action presented an issue of standing).”

Ex parte McKinney, ___ So. 3d at ___ (Murdock, J., dissenting).

Our supreme court has determined that standing “implicates [a trial court’s] subject-matter jurisdiction.” Ex parte Howell Eng’g & Surveying, Inc., 981 So. 2d 413, 418 (Ala. 2006); see also Hamm v. Norfolk Southern Ry Co., 52 So. 3d 484, 499 (Ala. 2010) (Lyons, J., concurring specially) (citing Riley v. Pate, 3 So. 3d 835, 838 (Ala. 2008), and State v. Property at ` Rainbow Drive, 740 So. 2d 1025, 1028 (Ala. 1999)). That court has also explained that subject-matter jurisdiction “concerns a court’s power to decide certain types of cases,” Ex parte Seymour, 946 So. 2d 536, 538 (Ala. 2006), which power is derived from the constitution and statutes of Alabama. Id. Can it seriously be doubted that a circuit court derives its power to decide an ejectment case from § 6-6-280, Ala. Code 1975, rather than from the allegations of the plaintiff who seeks relief pursuant to that statute?

BRYAN, Judge, concurring in the rationale in part and concurring in the result.

I agree that the summary judgment in favor of MorEquity, Inc. (“MorEquity”), is due to be reversed and the cause remanded because there was evidence establishing a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether MorEquity had been assigned the mortgage before it initiated the foreclosure proceedings. However, I disagree with the main opinion’s conclusion regarding the significance of that disputed factual issue. As indicated by my dissent in Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, [Ms. 2100245, Dec. 16, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2011), I am of the opinion that, when an ejectment-action plaintiff bases his or her claim to legal title to the property on a foreclosure deed, evidence tending to prove that the foreclosing party had not been assigned the mortgage before he or she initiated the foreclosure proceedings does not implicate the ejectment-action plaintiff’s standing to bring the ejectment action. Rather, such evidence tends to prove an affirmative defense to the ejectment-action plaintiff’s claim. See Berry v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., 57 So. 3d 142, 149-50 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010) (holding that, when an ejectment-action plaintiff bases his or her claim to legal title on a foreclosure deed, evidence tending to prove that the foreclosure sale and resulting foreclosure deed were invalid tends to prove an affirmative defense to the ejectment claim rather than tending to prove that the ejectment-action plaintiff lacked standing to bring the ejectment action). Thus, in the present case, I am of the opinion that the evidence tending to prove that MorEquity had not been assigned the mortgage before it initiated the foreclosure proceedings established the existence of a genuine issue of material fact with respect to Stephen A. Byrd and Cynthia B. Byrd’s affirmative defense asserting that MorEquity was not entitled to prevail on its ejectment claim because, they said, the foreclosure was invalid, but it did not establish a genuine issue of material fact with respect to MorEquity’s standing to bring the ejectment action.

[1] The Byrds contend in their brief to this court that any assignment of the mortgage did not convey the underlying note, which serves as the basis for the power of sale. See Coleman v. BAC Servicing, [Ms. 2100453, Feb. 3, 2012] ___ So. 3d ___, ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2012) (holding that, under § 35-10-12, Ala. Code 1975, power of sale resides in the party with the right to the money secured by the mortgage, which would be the note holder). However, the Byrds did not raise that issue at or before the summary-judgment hearing, instead asserting it for the first time in one sentence in their postjudgment motion. Because a trial court need not consider a legal argument raised for the first time in a postjudgment motion, Green Tree Acceptance, Inc. v. Blalock, 525 So. 2d 1366, 1369-70 (Ala. 1988), and considering further the sparse nature of the argument below, we decline to address the Byrds’ now fully formed legal argument on appeal.

[2] The Byrds raise issues regarding the admissibility of both the alleged April 20, 2009, assignment and Schutte’s affidavit testimony relating to the alleged December 30, 2009, assignment. The Byrds also argue that the trial court erred in considering new evidence regarding the notarization of the alleged April, 20, 2009, assignment submitted by MorEquity after the summary-judgment hearing. Because of our disposition of the standing issue, we find no need to address those issues.

[3] Those letters both state: “Re: Wilmington Finance, Inc. v. Stephen A. Byrd and Cynthia B. Byrd, Husband and Wife.” The letters also state “cc: MorEquity Inc.” MorEquity does not explain why the caption indicates Wilmington Finance, Inc., is pursuing the Byrds for the mortgage debt, but the letter is copied to MorEquity.

[4] The notice of foreclosure sale states:

“Default having been made in the payment of the indebtedness secured by that certain mortgage executed to [MERS], acting solely as Nominee for Wilmington Finance Inc. on July 19, 2007, by Stephen A. Byrd and Cynthia B. Byrd, Husband and Wife, and recorded in Book 6227 Page 205; said mortgage transferred and assigned to Wilmington Finance Inc. et seq., in the Office of the Judge of Probate of Mobile County, Alabama, the undersigned, as Mortgagee or Transferee, under and by virtue of the power of sale contained in the said mortgage will sell at public outcry to the highest bidder for cash in front of the main entrance of the Mobile County, Alabama, Courthouse in the City of Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama, on January 14, 2010 ….”

The “undersigned” is designated as “Wilmington Finance, Inc., its successors and assigns, Mortgagee or Transferee.” MorEquity is not mentioned.

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Patterson v. GMAC Mortgage, LLC | Alabama Appeals Court Vacates Judgment “Not assigned mortgage before it initiated foreclosure”

Patterson v. GMAC Mortgage, LLC | Alabama Appeals Court Vacates Judgment “Not assigned mortgage before it initiated foreclosure”


via: Leagle

 PATTERSON v. GMAC MORTGAGE, LLC

 Reginald A. Patterson and Diana V. Patterson, v. GMAC Mortgage, LLC.

 No. 2100490.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

 Decided January 20, 2012.

 PER CURIAM.1

Reginald A. Patterson and Diana V. Patterson appeal from a judgment in favor of GMAC Mortgage, LLC (“GMAC Mortgage”). We vacate the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the appeal.

On September 4, 2007, GMAC Mortgage brought an ejectment action against the Pattersons. GMAC Mortgage alleged that the Pattersons had mortgaged their house located on Southcrest Trail in Bessemer (“the house”) to Option One Mortgage Corporation (“Option One”), that Option One had transferred the mortgage to GMAC Mortgage, that GMAC Mortgage had foreclosed the mortgage on August 7, 2007, and that GMAC Mortgage was the owner of the house by virtue of the foreclosure sale. GMAC Mortgage further alleged that it had made a written demand for possession of the house in accordance with § 6-5-251(a), Ala. Code 1975,2 and that the Pattersons had not vacated the house. As relief, GMAC Mortgage sought possession of the house, damages for wrongful detention of the house, and a determination that the Pattersons had forfeited their right to redeem the house by failing to vacate it within 10 days after GMAC Mortgage demanded possession.3 Answering, the Pattersons asserted, among other things, that the foreclosure was unlawful. They also asserted a counterclaim seeking a determination that the foreclosure was unlawful.

GMAC Mortgage moved for a summary judgment and later supplemented its summary-judgment motion with additional evidence. The Pattersons submitted evidence in opposition to the summary-judgment motion.

The evidence submitted by GMAC Mortgage in support of its summary-judgment motion included the foreclosure deed purporting to convey title to the house to GMAC Mortgage. The foreclosure deed recites that GMAC Mortgage accelerated the debt secured by the mortgage.4 The foreclosure deed also recites that GMAC Mortgage gave notice of the foreclosure of the mortgage in a newspaper of general circulation in Jefferson County on May 19, May 26, and June 2, 2007, and that GMAC Mortgage foreclosed the mortgage on August 7, 2007. The evidence submitted by GMAC Mortgage also included a written assignment executed by Option One on August 6, 2007, in which Option One assigned the mortgage to GMAC Mortgage.

Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order granting GMAC Mortgage’s summary-judgment motion insofar as it sought a determination that the foreclosure was valid but denied the motion in all other respects on the ground that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether the Pattersons had received notice of GMAC Mortgage’s demand for possession of the house after the foreclosure.

Following a bench trial regarding the issue whether the Pattersons had received notice of GMAC Mortgage’s demand for possession, the trial court entered a judgment (1) finding that GMAC Mortgage had given the Pattersons notice of its demand for possession, (2) ordering the Pattersons to deliver possession of the property to GMAC Mortgage, and (3) ruling that the Pattersons had forfeited their right to redeem the property; however, the trial court did not award any damages for wrongful detention of the property. The Pattersons timely appealed to the supreme court, which transferred the appeal to this court pursuant to § 12-2-7(6), Ala. Code 1975.

On appeal, the Pattersons assert, among other things, that the trial court erred in determining that the foreclosure was valid. While the Pattersons’ appeal was pending, this court delivered its decision in Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loans, LP, [Ms. 2100245, Dec. 16, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2011). In Sturdivant, BAC Home Loans, LP (“BAC”), initiated foreclosure proceedings on the mortgage encumbering Bessie T. Sturdivant’s house before the mortgage had been assigned to BAC. BAC then held a foreclosure sale at which it purchased Sturdivant’s house, and the auctioneer executed a foreclosure deed purporting to convey title to Sturdivant’s house to BAC. BAC was assigned the mortgage the same day as the foreclosure sale. Thereafter, BAC brought an ejectment action against Sturdivant, claiming that it owned title to her house by virtue of the foreclosure deed. After the trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of BAC, Sturdivant appealed to the supreme court, which transferred her appeal to this court. We held that BAC lacked authority to foreclose the mortgage because it had not been assigned the mortgage before it initiated foreclosure proceedings and that, therefore, the foreclosure and the foreclosure deed were invalid. We further held that, because the foreclosure and the foreclosure deed were invalid, BAC did not acquire legal title to Sturdivant’s house through the foreclosure deed and thus BAC did not own an interest in the house when it commenced its ejectment action. We further held that, because BAC did not own any interest in Sturdivant’s house when it commenced its ejectment action, BAC did not have standing to bring that action and, consequently, the trial court never acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over the ejectment action. Because BAC did not have standing to bring its ejectment action and the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over the ejectment action, we held that the judgment of the trial court was void, and we vacated that judgment. Moreover, because a void judgment will not support an appeal, we dismissed the appeal.

In the case now before us, GMAC Mortgage, like BAC in Sturdivant, had not been assigned the mortgage before it initiated foreclosure proceedings. Consequently, under our holding in Sturdivant, GMAC Mortgage lacked authority to foreclose the mortgage when it initiated the foreclosure proceedings, and, therefore, the foreclosure and the foreclosure deed upon which GMAC based it ejectment claim are invalid. Moreover, under our holding in Sturdivant, because GMAC Mortgage did not own any interest in the house, it lacked standing to bring its ejectment action against the Pattersons. Because GMAC Mortgage lacked standing to bring the ejectment action, the trial court never acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over the ejectment action. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is void and is hereby vacated. Moreover, because a void judgment will not support an appeal, we dismiss this appeal. Id.

JUDGMENT VACATED; APPEAL DISMISSED.

Pittman, Thomas, and Moore, JJ., concur.

Thompson, P.J., concurs in the result, with writing.

Bryan, J., dissents, with writing.

THOMPSON, Presiding Judge, concurring in the result.

Reginald A. Patterson and Diane V. Patterson executed a mortgage, secured by their house, to Option One Mortgage Corporation on January 25, 2006, and they later defaulted on the mortgage. GMAC Mortgage, LLC, initiated foreclosure proceedings, and, in May 2007, GMAC began publishing notice of its intent to conduct a foreclosure sale. On August 6, 2007, Option One assigned the mortgage to GMAC, and the next day, August 7, 2007, GMAC conducted the foreclosure sale and purchased the property at that sale. Also on August 7, 2007, GMAC sent the Pattersons a letter demanding possession of the property.

In their brief on appeal, the Pattersons argue, among other things, that GMAC failed to demonstrate proof of a valid foreclosure. Specifically, the Pattersons argue, as they did before the trial court, that GMAC, which first obtained an interest in the property the day before it conducted its foreclosure sale, did not have an interest in the property at the time it initiated the foreclosure process and that one without an interest in a mortgage may not institute foreclosure proceedings. In support of those arguments, the Pattersons cite § 6-6-280, Ala. Code 1975; Steele v. Federal Nat’l Mortgage Ass’n, 69 So.3d 89, 93 (Ala. 2010) (“[Section 6-6-280(b)] unambiguously states that a complaint seeking ejectment `is sufficient if it alleges that the plaintiff was possessed of the premises or has the legal title thereto, properly designating or describing them, and that the defendant entered thereupon and unlawfully withholds and detains the same.'”); MacMillan Bloedell, Inc. v. Ezell, 475 So.2d 493 (Ala. 1985); Kelly v. Carmichael, 217 Ala. 534, 117 So.2d 67 (1928); and Berry v. Deutche Bank Nat’l Trust Co., 57 So.3d 142 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010).

While the Pattersons’ appeal was pending in this court, this court decided Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, [Ms. 2100245, Dec. 16, 2011] So. 3d (Ala. Civ. App. 2011). In Sturdivant, supra, this court considered an appeal from a summary judgment proceeding in which the record demonstrated that in September 2009 BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, had initiated foreclosure proceedings with regard to a mortgage Bessie T. Sturdivant had executed and that was secured by Sturdivant’s house. BAC Home Loans conducted a foreclosure sale on December 1, 2009, and, also on December 1, 2009, it received an assignment from the holder of the mortgage on Sturdivant’s property. BAC Home Loans, relying on the deed it received as a result of the December 1, 2009, foreclosure sale, sought to eject Sturdivant from the property. This court noted that in order to demonstrate a prima facie case in support of its claim in ejectment, BAC Home Loans was required to show, among other things, that it had legal title to the property. Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, So. 3d at (citing § 6-6-280(b), Ala. Code 1975). In that case, BAC Home Loans claimed that it had legal title by virtue of the deed it had received after it had conducted the foreclosure sale. Article 1 of Title 35, Chapter 10, Ala. Code 1975, governs sales conducted to foreclose on a mortgage and, in pertinent part, requires that a power of sale may be executed by “any person … who, by assignment or otherwise, becomes entitled to the money” secured by the mortgage. § 35-10-1, Ala. Code 1975. In Sturdivant, this court, relying on several of the authorities cited in the Pattersons’ brief on appeal in this case, concluded that because BAC Home Loans had no interest in the property at the time it initiated its foreclosure proceedings, the foreclosure sale was invalid. So. 3d at (citing § 35-10-9, Ala. Code 1975). This court held that, because the foreclosure sale was invalid, BAC Home Loans had no legal title on which to base it claim in ejectment and, as a result, that BAC Home Loans lacked standing to assert its ejectment action. Sturdivant, So. 3d at.

In this case, GMAC initiated foreclosure proceedings at least four months before it obtained an interest in the mortgage.5 GMAC was first assigned an interest in the mortgage on August 6, 2007, the day before it conducted its already scheduled August 7, 2007, foreclosure sale. Given the Pattersons’ arguments on appeal, the authorities they cited in support of those arguments, and the holding of Sturdivant, supra, I agree with the Pattersons that GMAC failed to demonstrate that it had standing to prosecute its ejectment action and that the trial court erred in allowing GMAC to prosecute its action. I therefore concur in the result reached by the main opinion.

BRYAN, Judge, dissenting.

In Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, [Ms. 2100245, Dec. 16, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2011), BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP (“BAC”), brought an ejectment action against Bessie T. Sturdivant, seeking, among other things, possession of her house. BAC based its claim to title to Sturdivant’s house on a foreclosure deed that had resulted from the foreclosure of a mortgage encumbering Sturdivant’s house. BAC had foreclosed the mortgage as the assignee of the mortgagee. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of BAC, and Sturdivant appealed. The main opinion in Sturdivant held that the foreclosure conducted by BAC and the foreclosure deed purporting to convey title to Sturdivant’s house to BAC were invalid because BAC had not been assigned or succeeded to the interest of the mortgagee in the mortgage when BAC commenced the foreclosure proceedings. Moreover, relying on the supreme court’s decision in Cadle v. Shabani, 950 So.2d 277 (Ala. 2006), the main opinion held that, because the foreclosure and the foreclosure deed were invalid, BAC lacked standing to prosecute its ejectment action, the trial court never acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over that action, and, therefore, the judgment of the trial court was void.

I dissented from the main opinion in Sturdivant because, in my opinion, Cadle was distinguishable on its facts from Sturdivant; in Cadle, the ejectment plaintiff did not have paper title to the property that was the subject of the ejectment action when it commenced its ejectment action, whereas BAC, the ejectment plaintiff in Sturdivant, did have paper title to the property that was the subject of the ejectment action when it commenced its ejectment action. It was my opinion that Sturdivant was entitled to assert and prove that the paper title upon which BAC relied, i.e., the foreclosure deed, was invalid as an affirmative defense to BAC’s ejectment action but that Sturdivant’s successfully proving that BAC’s paper title was invalid did not deprive BAC of standing to bring the ejectment action and did not justify the conclusion that the trial court had never acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over the ejectment action. Moreover, because, in my opinion, proof that BAC’s paper title was invalid did not deprive BAC of standing or deprive the trial court of subject-matter jurisdiction over the ejectment action, I disagreed with the main opinion’s basing its decision on a ground that had not been argued to the trial court because of the well-established principle that an appellate court may not base a reversal of the trial court’s judgment on a ground that was not argued to the trial court. See Smith v. Equifax Servs., Inc., 537 So.2d 463, 465 (Ala. 1988). As the supreme court explained in Smith:

 

“An appellee can defend the trial court’s ruling with an argument not raised below, for this Court `will affirm the judgment appealed from if supported on any valid legal ground.’ Tucker v. Nichols, 431 So.2d 1263, 1265 (Ala. 1983). There is a rather obvious fundamental difference in upholding the trial court’s judgment and reversing it; this Court will not reverse the trial court’s judgment on a ground raised for the first time on appeal, Costarides v. Miller, 374 So.2d 1335 (Ala. 1979), even though it affirms judgments on bases not asserted in the trial court, Bank of the Southeast v. Koslin, 380 So.2d 826 (Ala. 1980). This difference is predicated on the `long-standing, well-established rule that [in order to secure a reversal] the appellant has an affirmative duty of showing error upon the record.’ Tucker v. Nichols, supra, at 1264.”

537 So. 2d at 465(emphasis on “affirms” in original; other emphasis added).

In my opinion, Cadle is distinguishable from the case now before us for the same reason it was distinguishable from Sturdivant — the ejectment plaintiff in Cadle did not have paper title to the property when it commenced its ejectment action, whereas GMAC Mortgage, LLC (“GMAC Mortgage”), the ejectment plaintiff in the case now before us, did have paper title to Reginald A. Patterson and Diane V. Patterson’s house when it commenced its ejectment action. Therefore, consistent with my dissent in Sturdivant, I believe that, although the Pattersons were entitled to prove that GMAC’s foreclosure and foreclosure deed were invalid as an affirmative defense to GMAC Mortgage’s ejectment claim, proof that the foreclosure and the foreclosure deed were invalid did not establish that GMAC Mortgage lacked standing to prosecute the ejectment action or that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the ejectment action. Consequently, in my opinion, the Pattersons are subject to the long-standing principle that an appellate court may not base a reversal of the trial court’s judgment on a ground that was not argued to the trial court. See Smith. Although the Pattersons argued to the trial court that the foreclosure and the foreclosure deed were not valid, they did not argue to the trial court that they were invalid on the ground that the mortgage had not been assigned to GMAC Mortgage when it commenced the foreclosure proceedings. Consequently, I dissent from the main opinion because it bases its decision on a ground that was not argued to the trial court. See Smith.


Footnotes


1. Because of the issues involved, this appeal was held in abeyance pending the adjudication of the appeal in Sturdivant v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, [Ms. 2100245, Dec. 16, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2011).

Back to Reference

2. Section 6-5-251(a) provides:”The possession of the land must be delivered to the purchaser or purchaser’s transferees by the debtor or mortgagor if in their possession or in the possession of anyone holding under them by privity of title, within 10 days after written demand for the possession has been made by, or on behalf of, the purchaser or purchaser’s transferees.”

Back to Reference

3. Section 6-5-251(c), Ala. Code 1975, provides:”Failure of the debtor or mortgagor or anyone holding possession under him or her to comply with the provisions of this section forfeits the right of redemption of the debtor or one holding possession under the debtor.”

Back to Reference

4. The Pattersons deny that they received notice of the acceleration of the debt.

Back to Reference

5. The record indicates that notice of the foreclosure by publication was first made in May 2007 and completed in June 2007. The Pattersons contend that they were not provided notice of the acceleration of the mortgage indebtedness or of foreclosure, and the record does not contain evidence that they received those notices.

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Squires v. BAC | SD Alabama Court Denies BAC MTD – TILA case alleging violation of §1641(g)(1) which is notice of the sale or transfer of a loan from one entity to another

Squires v. BAC | SD Alabama Court Denies BAC MTD – TILA case alleging violation of §1641(g)(1) which is notice of the sale or transfer of a loan from one entity to another


IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
SOUTHERN DIVISION

WILLIAM C. SQUIRES, et al.,

Plaintiffs,

v.

BAC HOME LOANS SERVICING, LP,

Defendant.

[ipaper docId=77192351 access_key=key-qvlz5w5j7vowd31ef4g height=600 width=600 /]

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OUTRAGEOUS | How Chase Ruined Lives of People Who Paid Off Their Mortgages

OUTRAGEOUS | How Chase Ruined Lives of People Who Paid Off Their Mortgages


Yves Smith-

Once you read the allegations in the cases included in this post, I strongly suspect you will agree that the “ruining lives” in the headline is not an exaggeration. And as important, these two cases, with very similar fact sets, also suggest that these abuses are not mere “mistakes”. These are clearly well established practices that Chase can’t be bothered to clean up, since cleaning them up costs money and letting them continue is more profitable.

Both cases took place in Alabama. In both cases, the borrowers had made every mortgage payment on time. One was a couple with three children, the Barnetts. The second is a widow, Besty Barlow, but her husband was still alive when this ugly saga started.

[NAKED CAPITALISM]

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Here comes the start of small towns, major cities to go BK … Wall Street’s Tax on Main Street

Here comes the start of small towns, major cities to go BK … Wall Street’s Tax on Main Street


NY TIMES – Gretchen Morgenson

AMID all the talk of debt and default in Washington last week, tiny Central Falls, R.I., went bankrupt.

Like many states and cities in these hard economic times, Central Falls — population: 19,000 — was caught short by hefty pension obligations and weak tax revenue. It may not be the last municipality to file for bankruptcy. Jefferson County, Ala., is now on the brink of it, thanks to a sewer bond issue gone wildly bad.

But while pensions and the economy are behind many of municipalities’ troubles, Wall Street has played a role, too. Hidden expenses associated with how local governments finance themselves are compounding financial problems down at city hall.

[NY TIMES]

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Smith v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs | AL Court of Civil Appeals “BofA Affidavit, Testimony Fail”

Smith v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs | AL Court of Civil Appeals “BofA Affidavit, Testimony Fail”


Frank S. Smith, Jr.,
v.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, an officer of the United States of America.

No. 2100194.

Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama.

June 24, 2011.

EXCERPT:

The Secretary moved for a summary judgment, asserting that, as a matter of law, he was entitled to possession of the house because, he said, he owned legal title to the house by virtue of the auctioneer’s deed. In support of his motion, the Secretary submitted an affidavit signed by Scott Hiatt, which stated:

“My name is Scott Hiatt, and I am Assistant Vice President and Attorney in Fact for Bank of America, N.A. In my employment capacity, I am personally familiar with the account of Frank S. Smith, Jr. and Juliet L. Smith ….

“On February 22, 2007, Plaintiff, Bank of America, N.A., sold at foreclosure the following real property located in Jefferson County, Alabama:

“[legal description of the house];

“Pursuant to power of sale contained in a promissory note and mortgage executed by Frank S. Smith, Jr. and Juliet L. Smith dated December 29, 1998, to and in favor of Franklin American Mortgage Company by instrument recorded in … the records in the Office of the Judge of Probate, Jefferson County, Alabama, which mortgage was subsequently assigned to The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, an Officer of the United States of America by instrument recorded … and re-recorded in … the said Probate Court Records.

“Frank S. Smith, Jr. and Juliet Smith defaulted in the payments of said indebtedness and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs commenced foreclosure with written notices to Frank S. Smith, Jr. and Juliet Smith and due newspaper publication in The Alabama Messenger.

“Said real property was sold at foreclosure February 22, 2007, for a successful bid of $66,097.50, paid by The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Purchaser. Frank S. Smith, Jr. and Juliet Smith were notified of said foreclosure sale by letter dated February 28, 2007, sent by certified mail of the foreclosure proceeding and [Frank S. Smith and Juliet Smith] were given ten (10) days to vacate said property.”

(Emphasis added.) Along with Hiatt’s affidavit, the Secretary submitted an uncertified copy of the mortgage; uncertified copies of the subsequent assignments of the mortgagee’s rights under the mortgage, which included an assignment to the Secretary; an uncertified copy of the auctioneer’s deed; an unauthenticated copy of an affidavit by the publisher of the Alabama Messenger; and an unauthenticated copy of a letter dated February 28, 2007, from an attorney representing the Secretary and addressed to Frank and Juliet at the house, which informed them that the Secretary had purchased the house at the foreclosure sale on February 22, 2007, and demanded that they vacate the house within 10 days.

[…]

In the case now before us, Hiatt’s affidavit did not show that Bank of America was a participant in the servicing of the mortgage or in the foreclosure. It did not explain how Hiatt, in his capacity as an officer of, and attorney-in-fact for, Bank of America, would have acquired personal knowledge of the information he testified to in his affidavit. Moreover, none of the documents that accompanied his affidavit were sworn, certified, or otherwise authenticated. Consequently, based on the holding of the supreme court in Crawford, we hold that the testimony contained in Hiatt’s affidavit and the documents that accompanied his affidavit were inadmissible and, therefore, that the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of the Secretary. Therefore, we reverse the summary judgment and remand the cause for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Thomas, and Moore, JJ., concur.

[ipaper docId=59028194 access_key=key-stuccaw4i88ynelotew height=600 width=600 /]

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ROADBLOCK | Banks Hit Foreclosure Hurdle

ROADBLOCK | Banks Hit Foreclosure Hurdle


WSJ-

Banks trying to foreclose on homeowners are hitting another roadblock, as some delinquent borrowers are successfully arguing that their mortgage companies can’t prove they own the loans and therefore don’t have the right to foreclose.

These “show me the paper” cases have been winding through the courts for several years. But in recent months, some judges have been siding with borrowers and stopping foreclosures after concluding that banks’ paperwork problems are more serious than previously thought and raise broader ethical questions.

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In RE: PHILLIPS | Alabama BK Court Denies Aurora, U.S. Bank Motion to Dismiss Fraud Claims

In RE: PHILLIPS | Alabama BK Court Denies Aurora, U.S. Bank Motion to Dismiss Fraud Claims


UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA

IN RE PHILLIPS

In re: RICK ALLEN PHILLIPS and REBECCA RUTLAND PHILLIPS, Debtors.
RICK ALLEN PHILLIPS
, Plaintiff,

v.

AURORA LOAN SERVICES, LLC and U.S. BANK, AS TRUSTEE FOR STRUCTURED ADJUSTABLE RATE MORTGAGE LOAN TRUST MORTGAGE PASS-THROUGH CERTIFICATES, SERIES 2007-10.

Case No. 08-11442-MAM-7, Adv. Proc. No. 11-00027.

United States Bankruptcy Court, S.D. Alabama.

May 9, 2011.

Mindi C. Robinson, Adams and Reese, LLP, Birmingham, Alabama, Attorneys for Defendants.
Scott Hetrick and Nicholas F. Morisani, Adams and Reese, LLP, Mobile, Alabama, Attorneys for Defendants.

Nick Wooten, Auburn, Alabama, Attorney for Plaintiff.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ADVERSARY CASE

MARGARET A. MAHONEY, Bankruptcy Judge

This case is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss this adversary case on various grounds. The Court has jurisdiction to hear this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 157 and 1334 and the Order of Reference of the District Court. The Court has the authority to enter a final order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)(2). For the reasons indicated below, the Court is granting the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss all grounds for relief, except for the fraud on the court grounds.

FACTS

The Plaintiff’s complaint alleges that the documentation of the Phillips’ mortgage and transfer of it were flawed such that the mortgage is avoidable as a preference or fraudulent transfer. The complaint also asserts that the defendants violated the Phillips’ automatic stay and committed a fraud on the Court. The facts that are relevant to this motion are a limited set of the facts alleged in the complaint.

Phillips entered into a note and mortgage with Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB on September 7, 2007, in the amount of $840,000 when he purchased real estate located at 26200 Perdido Beach Boulevard, Condo Unit 1505, Orange Beach, Alabama. The mortgage indicated that the lender was Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB. The mortgage also indicated that Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (“MERS”) was “the mortgagee under this Security Agreement.” The document also stated that MERS was “acting solely as a nominee for Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns.” The note was in the name of Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB as well. The mortgage was recorded in the Baldwin County, Alabama Probate Court records on October 10, 2007. There was no new filing in the Baldwin County Probate Court until July 28, 2009, when an assignment of the mortgage was filed. MERS, “as nominee for Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB,” assigned the mortgage to Aurora Loan Services.

On April 25, 2008, Rick Phillips and his wife filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. On December 30, 2008, Aurora filed a motion for relief from the automatic stay. The motion stated that Aurora was the “holder of the mortgage” and was a “creditor” of Phillips. The motion had a copy of the note and mortgage attached to it. The note stated that Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB was the note holder. The note was not endorsed to any other party or in blank. The mortgage stated that Lehman Brothers Bank, FSB, was the lender with MERS being the “mortgagee under this Security Instrument” and stating that MERS was “acting solely as a nominee for Lender and Lender’s successors and assigns.” Neither the Debtor nor the Trustee objected to the standing of Aurora to seek relief from the stay. In fact, an order to which the Debtor and Trustee consented was entered on February 12, 2009.

There are other facts asserted in the complaint about the mortgage. U.S. Bank had purchased the note and mortgage of Phillips on or about October 30, 2007, and placed the mortgage in a securitized trust of which U.S. Bank was trustee. Aurora was named servicer for U.S. Bank about the same date. The complaint also states that the mortgage was assigned to U.S. Bank in the MERS system of recordation on about October 1, 2007. These facts support Phillips’ claims in the complaint.

LAW

The complaint asserts that Phillips is entitled to: have the mortgage declared null and void as a fraudulent transfer due to 11 U.S.C. § 544(a)(3); have the transfer of funds to U.S. Bank at foreclosure declared a preference under 11 U.S.C. § 547 and have the funds turned over to the trustee; have the foreclosure and transfer of funds to U.S. Bank declared a violation of the automatic stay pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 362; have the actions of Aurora and U.S. Bank declared a fraud on the court; and have this court quiet title to the property, declaring title to be in the bankruptcy estate of Phillips. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss prior to answering the complaint as is their right pursuant to Fed. R. Bank. P. 7012.

To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations such that it raises a right to relief above the speculative level. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In assessing the merits of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must assume that all factual allegations set forth in the complaint are true. See, e.g. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1 (2002). Because all factual allegations are taken as true, the failure to state a claim for relief presents a purely legal question. Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1269 n.19 (11th Cir. 2009).

The defendants assert four grounds upon which the complaint should be dismissed. The grounds are res judicata, judicial estoppel, the fact that Aurora was a creditor, and the fact that the defendants could not have violated the stay. The court concludes that res judicata eliminates all grounds except fraud on the court and therefore Counts One, Two, Three and Five are due to be dismissed.

“Application of res judicata is central to the fundamental purpose of the judiciary — the conclusive resolution of disputes.” Curry v. Baker, 802 F.2d 1302, 1310 (11th Cir. 1986) (citing Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153 (1979)). “Finality `relieve[s] parties of the cost and vexation of multiple lawsuits, conserve[s] judicial resources, and, by preventing inconsistent decisions, encourage[s] reliance on adjudication.'” Id. (quoting Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980)). “Under res judicata, also known as claim preclusion, a final judgment on the merits bars the parties to a prior action from re-litigating a cause of action that was or could have been raised in that action.” In re Piper Aircraft Corp., 244 F.3d 1289, 1296 (11th Cir. 2001). Claim preclusion bars subsequent litigation when the following conditions are met: (1) the prior decision was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (2) there was a final judgment on the merits; (3) both cases involve the same parties or their privies; and (4) both cases involve the same causes of action. Id. “In general, cases involve the same cause of action for purposes of res judicata if the present case `arises out of the same nucleus of operative fact, or is based upon the same factual predicate, as a former action.” Israel Discount Bank, Ltd. v. Entin, 951 F.2d 311, 315 (11th Cir. 1992) (quoting Citibank, N.A. v. Data Lease Fin. Corp., 904 F.2d 1498, 1503 (11th Cir. 1990)).

With regards to the Relief from Stay Order that was entered on February 12, 2008, this Court’s jurisdiction was proper under 28 U.S.C. §§ 157 and 1334 and the Order of Reference of the District Court. The order was entered by consent of the parties and, following entry of that order, no party filed a motion to reconsider. The Consent Order Granting Relief from Stay was a final order. The Motion for Relief from Stay lists the Phillips as debtors and Ms. Littleton as the Trustee. All parties received notice of the motion and the mortgage and note were attached to the motion. Neither the Phillips nor the Trustee raised any objection, rather, the stay was lifted by agreement of the parties. The Plaintiff now brings a complaint seeking to avoid the mortgage, quiet title, and turnover the funds liquidated. Permitting such a challenge to go forward would violate the doctrine of res judicata because each of the elements of claim preclusion have been met in this case. The proper time for the Plaintiff to question the mortgage and note was when the Relief from Stay Motion was filed. However, no one challenged or questioned the mortgage and note at that time. It would be improper to permit them to relitigate those issues now.

With regards to Count Four of the Plaintiff’s complaint alleging Fraud on the Court, that issue has not been previously litigated. The complaint alleges that the Defendants filed false pleadings concealing the true mortgage creditor’s identity, thereby violating the bankruptcy rules and perpetrating a fraud on the court. Inappropriate behavior, including litigation abuse and fraud, can be dealt with by a bankruptcy court pursuant to § 105 of the Code as an “abuse of the bankruptcy process.” Under § 105, sanctions may be warranted against parties who willfully abuse the judicial process. In re Gorshtein, 285 B.R. 118 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2002). This power is broad enough to empower a court to impose sanctions for “filings [in a case] as well as commencement or continuation of an action in bad faith.” Id. (citing In re Spectee Group, Inc., 185 B.R. 146, 155 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 1995). Taking the Plaintiff’s factual allegations as true, Aurora claimed in the motion for relief from stay to be a creditor and the holder of the mortgage. There is no document that supports those assertions other than a statement in a Pooling and Servicing Agreement filed with the SEC. This allegation of filing a false pleading is sufficient to raise a right to relief above a speculative level in that the Plaintiff has stated a claim for fraud on the court. The motion for dismissal is due to be denied with regards to Count Four of the complaint.

Therefore it is ORDERED:

1. The Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss as to counts one, two, three, and five is GRANTED;
2. The Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss as to count four is DENIED.

Copy courtesy of LEAGLE

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

Housing Wire Again Runs PR Masquerading as News on Behalf of Its Big Client, Lender Processing Services

Housing Wire Again Runs PR Masquerading as News on Behalf of Its Big Client, Lender Processing Services


Naked Capitalism- Yves Smith

The very fact that this item “LPS fires back with motion seeking sanctions against Alabama attorney,” was treated as a news story by Housing Wire is further proof that Housing Wire is above all committed to promoting client and mortgage industry interests and only incidentally engages in random acts of journalism.

LPS is desperate to create a shred of positive-looking noise in the face of pending fines under a Federal consent decree, mounting private litigation, and loss of client business under the continued barrage of bad press. Housing Wire, who has LPS as one of its top advertisers, is clearly more than willing to treat a virtual non-event as newsworthy to help an important meal ticket.

If you know anything about litigation, particularly when small fry square off against large companies, it’s standard for the well funded party to engage in a war of attrition against the underdog. One overused device is to threaten or file for sanctions. Even when they are weak or groundless, they still waste opposing counsel’s time and energy.

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

DailyFinance | COURT: Busted Securitization Prevents Foreclosure

DailyFinance | COURT: Busted Securitization Prevents Foreclosure


On March 30, an Alabama judge issued a short, conclusory order that stopped foreclosure on the home of a beleaguered family, and also prevents the same bank in the case from trying to foreclose against that couple, ever again. This may not seem like big news — but upon review of the underlying documents, the extraordinarily important nature of the decision and the case becomes obvious.

No Securitization, No Foreclosure



© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (1)

Ka-B°oO°M!!! Alabama Judge Denies Securitization Trustee Standing To Foreclose HORACE v. LaSALLE BANK NA

Ka-B°oO°M!!! Alabama Judge Denies Securitization Trustee Standing To Foreclose HORACE v. LaSALLE BANK NA


Attorney Nick Wooten does it again and again!

PHYLLIS HORACE

v.

LASALLE BANK NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION, et al

EXCERPT:

ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED:

Following hearing and review of all submissions from the parties the Court has come to two conclusions necessary for the disposition of this case:

First, the Court is surprised to the point of astonishment that the defendant trust (LaSalle Bank National Association) did not comply with the terms of it’s own Pooling and Servicing Agreement and further did not comply with the New York Law in attempting to obtain assignment of plaintiff Horac’s note and mortgage.

Second, the plaintiff Horace is a third party beneficiary of the Pooling and Servicing Agreement created by the defendant trust (Lasalle Bank National Association). Indeed without such Pooling and Servicing Agreements, plaintiff Horace and other mortgages similarly situated would never have been able to obtain financing.

[…]

Continue below…

[Full Docs]

[ipaper docId=52101105 access_key=key-iej1nv2qejgqv46zf0p height=600 width=600 /]

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

BOMBSHELL | Affidavit of Professor Ira Mark Bloom for U.S. Bank v. Congress

BOMBSHELL | Affidavit of Professor Ira Mark Bloom for U.S. Bank v. Congress


Affidavit of Professor Ira Mark Bloom for U.S. Bank v. Congress

A Must Read…

[ipaper docId=50548037 access_key=key-25qgb0tuzzditckbm77s height=600 width=600 /]

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (0)

SFF BOMBSHELL- DEPOSITION TRANSCRIPT OF LPS/ FIDELITY BILL NEWLAND

SFF BOMBSHELL- DEPOSITION TRANSCRIPT OF LPS/ FIDELITY BILL NEWLAND


The latest bombshell follows with a brilliant 325 Pg. Deposition of LPS/ Fidelity’s Bill Newland.

Feel free to upload docs using email a tip link located above the site.

EXCERPTS:

2   Q    Sure.  Are there any attorneys who are not
3   members of the Fidelity — or the LPS attorney network
4   who can access your Process Management system?
5        A    Not that I’m aware of.
6        Q    And is it a fact that the only attorneys who
7   are using Process Management are attorneys who have
8   signed a referral agreement with LPS?
9        A    That would be correct.
10        Q    So, while your clients are free to choose
11   whomever as a foreclosing attorney, if they are an MSP
12   user and they are an LPS — they have an LPS agreement
13   with you for Default Solutions, the only attorneys
14   available on LPS system are attorneys who have signed
15   a contract with LPS?
16        A    That have signed a contract with LPS, yes.

<SNIP>

3        Q    So I just want to be sure.  What you’re
4   testifying to is that there is no compensation ever
5   paid by the servicer to LPS Default Solutions for all
6   this work that it does on behalf of the servicer with
7   respect to the foreclosure?
8        A    No.
9        Q    There is compensation or there is not
10   compensation?
11        A    No, there’s no compensation.
12        Q    Is it your testimony then that the only fees
13   which LPS Default Solutions collects with respect to
14   the foreclosure of any given loan is the
15   administrative support fee charged to the network
16   attorneys?

17        A    Yes.
18        Q    And the division of LPS Default Solutions
19   which we are here about today and which you are
20   testifying as a 30(b)(6) representative, the only
21   source of income it derives for its work with respect
22   to foreclosure is the administrative support fee?

23        A    That’s my understanding.


Continue below to the transcript…

[ipaper docId=45556213 access_key=key-rvgb96qx4uuxvufi2md height=600 width=600 /]

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in STOP FORECLOSURE FRAUDComments (4)

DEPOSITION of A “REAL” VICE PRESIDENT of MERS WILLIAM “BILL” HULTMAN

DEPOSITION of A “REAL” VICE PRESIDENT of MERS WILLIAM “BILL” HULTMAN


Bill joined MERS in February, 1998. He brings more than 14 years of broad experience in finance and treasury. Before joining MERS, he served as Director of Asset Liability Management for Barnett Banks, Inc., Asset Liability Manager at Marine Midland Bank and Treasurer of Empire of America FSB. As a conservator for the FDIC, he managed insolvent institutions for the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Prior to his experience in the financial services industry, Bill was a partner in the law firm of Moot and Sprague, as well as an attorney at Forest Oil Corporation, specializing in the areas of securities and corporate law.

Does MERS have any salaried employees?
A No.

Q Does MERS have any employees?
A Did they ever have any? I couldn’t hear you.

Q Does MERS have any employees currently?
A No.

Q In the last five years has MERS had any
employees?

A No.

Q To whom do the officers of MERS report?
A The Board of Directors.

Q To your knowledge has Mr. Hallinan ever
reported to the Board?
A He would have reported through me if there was
something to report.

Q So if I understand your answer, at least the
MERS officers reflected on Hultman Exhibit 4, if they
had something to report would report to you even though
you’re not an employee of MERS, is that correct?
MR. BROCHIN: Object to the form of the
question.
A That’s correct.

Q And in what capacity would they report to you?
A As a corporate officer. I’m the secretary.

Q As a corporate officer of what?
Of MERS.

Q So you are the secretary of MERS, but are not
an employee of MERS?
A That’s correct.

[etc…]

Q How many assistant secretaries have you
appointed pursuant to the April 9, 1998 resolution; how
many assistant secretaries of MERS have you appointed?

A I don’t know that number.

Q Approximately?
A I wouldn’t even begin to be able to tell you
right now.

Q Is it in the thousands?
A Yes.

Q Have you been doing this all around the
country in every state in the country?
A Yes.

Q And all these officers I understand are unpaid
officers of MERS?

A Yes.

Q And there’s no live person who is an employee
of MERS that they report to, is that correct, who is an
employee?

MR. BROCHIN: Object to the form of the
question.

A There are no employees of MERS.

[ipaper docId=134672819 access_key=key-tm0begjvmegnxpqvshh height=600 width=600 /]

__________________________________________

FULL DEPOSITION of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) PRESIDENT & CEO R.K. ARNOLD “MERSCORP”

_______________________________________________

EXCLUSIVE | ‘MERS’ DEPOSITION of SECRETARY and TREASURER of MERSCORP 4/2010

_______________________________________________

EXCLUSIVE | ‘MERS’ DEPOSITION of SECRETARY and TREASURER of MERSCORP 4/2010

_______________________________________________

 

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in MERS, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., Mortgage Foreclosure Fraud, Nick Wooten, securitization, William C. HultmanComments (5)

FULL DEPOSITION of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) PRESIDENT & CEO R.K. ARNOLD “MERSCORP”

FULL DEPOSITION of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) PRESIDENT & CEO R.K. ARNOLD “MERSCORP”


[ipaper docId=32186716 access_key=key-2dpm2dxhrtxpiyhm4e0s height=600 width=600 /]

R.K. ARNOLD Pres. & CEO Of MERS (Photo Credit) Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times

_______________________________________________

EXCLUSIVE | ‘MERS’ DEPOSITION of SECRETARY and TREASURER of MERSCORP 4/2010

_______________________________________________

DEPOSITION of A “REAL” VICE PRESIDENT of MERS WILLIAM “BILL” HULTMAN

_______________________________________________

© 2010-15 FORECLOSURE FRAUD | by DinSFLA. All rights reserved.



Posted in foreclosure, foreclosure fraud, foreclosure mills, MERS, MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS INC., R.K. Arnold, securitizationComments (0)


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