428 P.3d 749 (Hawaii 2018), SCWC-14-0001137, Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Greenspon
|Citation:||428 P.3d 749, 143 Hawaii 237|
|Opinion Judge:||POLLACK, J.|
|Party Name:||DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, as Trustee of Residential Asset Securitization Trust 2006-A8, Mortgage Pass-through Certificates Series 2006-H under the Pooling and Servicing Agreement Dated June 1, 2006, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Michael C. GREENSPON, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.|
|Attorney:||Michael C. Greenspon, pro se J. Blaine Rogers, Jenny J.N.A. Nakamoto, for respondent/plaintiff-appellee|
|Judge Panel:||RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.|
|Case Date:||September 17, 2018|
|Court:||Supreme Court of Hawai'i|
As Corrected OCTOBER 4, 2018.
CERTIORARI TO THE INTERMEDIATE COURT OF APPEALS (CAAP-14-0001137; DC-CIVIL NO. 10-1-2608)
Michael C. Greenspon, pro se
J. Blaine Rogers, Jenny J.N.A. Nakamoto, for respondent/plaintiff-appellee
RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.
This case considers whether a motion for sanctions may be dismissed without prejudice when the underlying facts and issues allegedly
establishing the sanctionable conduct are also at issue in another pending case involving the same parties. We also consider whether a final order must be signed by a district court clerk or judge for an appeal to lie from that order. We conclude that the trial court acted within its proper discretion when it dismissed the motion for sanctions without prejudice. We further hold that the signature of a court clerk or judge is generally necessary for appellate review of a final order. In the circumstances of this case, however, we determine that other signed filings related to the order being appealed were sufficient to provide appellate jurisdiction.
I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On March 31, 2003, Michael C. Greenspon obtained a loan from IndyMac Bank, F.S.B. (IndyMac) that was secured by a mortgage (the Mortgage) encumbering the property acquired by Greenspon (the Property). The Mortgage states that the promissory note for the loan (the Note) was made payable to IndyMac, and it identifies IndyMac as the mortgagee/lender. On July 11, 2008, IndyMac was closed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Upon IndyMacs closure, IndyMac Federal Bank, F.S.B. (IndyMac Federal) was assigned IndyMacs interest in the Mortgage.
In late 2008, IndyMac sent a letter to Greenspon stating that he was in default on the Note. IndyMac Federal subsequently instituted a non-judicial foreclosure sale. A notice of foreclosure was recorded in the Bureau of Conveyances, and a public auction of the Property was scheduled.
The foreclosure auction was conducted in early 2010. An affidavit regarding the foreclosure sale (Affidavit of Sale) identified "FDIC as Receiver for IndyMac Federal Bank, FSB" as mortgagee and Greenspon as mortgagor. The highest bidder at the auction was listed as "Deutsche Bank National Trust Company" (Deutsche Bank). A deed was filed in the Bureau of Conveyances, identifying the grantor as FDIC as Receiver for "IndyMac Bank, FSB" and the grantee as Deutsche Bank (the Deed). Deutsche Bank then mailed a written notice to vacate to the occupants of the Property. Greenspon remained on the premises.
A. Ejectment Complaint, Motion for Summary Judgment, and Motion to Dismiss
Deutsche Bank filed a Verified Complaint for Ejectment (ejectment action) against Greenspon in the District Court of the Second Circuit, Lahaina Division (district court) seeking a judgment and writ of possession for the Property. Deutsche Bank subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and Writ of Possession (Motion for Summary Judgment) asserting that, through its purchase at the non-judicial foreclosure sale, it became the fee simple owner of the Property and was entitled to possession.
In response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Greenspon filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction by the district court and an opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment (Motion to Dismiss). Greenspon challenged the validity of Deutsche Banks interest in the Property, arguing, inter alia, that IndyMacs assignment of the Mortgage to IndyMac Federal was fraudulently conducted seven months after the FDICs closure of IndyMac. Further, Greenspon asserted, the Deed conflicted with the Affidavit of Sale because the Deed listed "FDIC as Receiver for IndyMac Bank, FSB" as the grantor whereas the Affidavit of Sale listed "FDIC as Receiver for IndyMac Federal, F.S.B." as the mortgagee. Thus, Greenspon contended, neither IndyMac nor IndyMac Federal had contractual authority to conduct the power of sale or the non-judicial foreclosure conveying the Property to Deutsche Bank. Because title to the Property was in dispute, Greenspon concluded, summary judgment was inappropriate and the district court lacked jurisdiction under Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 604-5(d) (1993)1 to hear the case.
Greenspon also filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit (circuit
court action) naming Deutsche Bank; IndyMac Federal; OneWest Bank, F.S.B.; and Cal-Western Reconveyance Corporation as defendants and asserting various claims of fraud pertaining to the title of the Property.2
At the hearing on the Motion for Summary Judgment, Greenspon requested that the district court take judicial notice of his circuit court action. The district court accepted a copy of the circuit court action complaint, but, finding Deutsche Bank had met its burden for summary judgment, orally granted Deutsche Banks Motion for Summary Judgment.
Deutsche Bank subsequently filed its opposition to Greenspons Motion to Dismiss. Deutsche Bank argued that the oral ruling granting Deutsche Bank summary judgment rendered the Motion to Dismiss moot.
The district court, however, granted Greenspons Motion to Dismiss and dismissed the case without prejudice (Dismissal Order).4 The Dismissal Order stated that the district court had taken judicial notice of the circuit court action and that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Deutsche Banks ejectment action because title to the Property was in dispute. The district court also vacated the oral ruling granting Deutsche Banks Motion for Summary Judgment.
B. Greenspons Motion for Sanctions
In June 2014, Greenspon submitted a motion for costs and attorneys fees based upon District Court Rules of Civil Procedure (DCRCP) Rule 11 (1996)5 (Motion for Sanctions) for the filing of a "false verified complaint." Relying upon evidence and proceedings in the circuit court action, Greenspon argued that Deutsche Bank had no right to possession of the Property and that its counsel negligently and recklessly failed to make any reasonable inquiry into the validity of Deutsche Banks title claims prior to filing the ejectment action.6 Thus, Greenspon argued,
sanctions against both Deutsche Bank and its counsel were necessary because the ejectment action lacked a factual basis, was frivolous, and was brought for improper purposes. Accordingly, Greenspon requested that the district court impose DCRCP Rule 11 sanctions and enter an award for all attorneys fees and costs Greenspon incurred in defending the ejectment action, with interest.
In response, Deutsche Bank argued that its claims were not frivolous and that the district court granted Greenspons Motion to Dismiss primarily to allow the circuit court action to be fully litigated and resolved. Any issues regarding title raised by Greenspon in the Motion for Sanctions, Deutsche Bank maintained, were determinations made in the circuit court action that was then pending appeal and were thus beyond the district courts jurisdiction. Deutsche Bank therefore contended that the district court should not grant Greenspons Motion for Sanctions.7
The district court held a hearing on the Motion for Sanctions and issued an order denying the motion without prejudice (Order Denying Sanctions).8 In a footnote in the order, the district court explained that the denial was without prejudice because the Motion for Sanctions raised issues of title that were pending appeal in Greenspons circuit court action: As represented by counsel for [Deutsche Bank] in the Opposition, Greenspon v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, CAAP-13-0001432, is currently on appeal. As the Court understands, that case involves among other things, issues relating directly to the issue of title to the subject property. The outcome of said appeal may have a direct bearing upon the instant case. Accordingly, unless and until a decision has been made on said appeal, the [Motion for Sanctions] may be premature and is therefore being denied without prejudice.
C. Greenspons Motion for Taxation of Costs
On September 9, 2014, Greenspon filed an ex parte request for taxation of costs (Request for Costs) citing DCRCP Rule 54(d) (1996)9 and HRS § § 607-910 and 607-13 (1993).11 Greenspon also filed a proposed...
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