Robinson v. First Wyoming Bank, N.A., Jackson Hole

Decision Date19 December 1995
Docket NumberNo. 95-175,95-175
Citation909 P.2d 689,274 Mont. 307
PartiesLewis S. ROBINSON, III, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. FIRST WYOMING BANK, N.A., JACKSON HOLE, a Wyoming corporation, and First Wyoming Bancorporation, a Wyoming corporation, Defendants and Respondents.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

Michael J. Lilly, Berg, Lilly, Andriolo & Tollefsen, Bozeman, for Appellants.

Malcolm H. Goodrich, Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole & Dietrich, Billings, for Respondents.

ERDMANN, Justice.

This is an appeal of an order of the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, denying Lewis S. and Linda T. Robinsons' motion to quash a writ of execution issued on a Wyoming judgment in favor of Key Bank of Wyoming, formerly First Wyoming Bank (the bank), and a subsequent order granting summary judgment in favor of the bank on the Robinsons' declaratory judgment action. We reverse in part and affirm in part.

We restate the issues as follows:

1. Are the Robinsons barred from appealing the District Court's April 14, 1994, order denying their motion to quash the bank's writ of execution?

2. Did the District Court err in ruling that 28 U.S.C. § 1963 created a new judgment for purposes of the six year period during which a writ of execution can be issued?

3. Did the District Court err in failing to determine that the bank should have complied with the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act when it registered the Wyoming consent judgment in Montana state court?

4. Did the District Court err in granting summary judgment in favor of the bank on the Robinsons' declaratory judgment action?

FACTS

The Robinsons executed a promissory note in favor of the bank on March 22, 1985, in the amount of $353,161. On August 30, 1985, the Robinsons gave the bank a mortgage on property in the Gallatin Valley (the property) as security for the promissory note. The mortgage had an effective date of March 22, 1985.

In the mid-1980s, the Robinsons and the bank became involved in litigation in Wyoming over a variety of issues arising from the bank's treatment of the Robinsons. The Robinsons sued the bank for fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, RICO, negligence, and punitive damages. The bank counterclaimed against the Robinsons for payment of the promissory note together with other outstanding obligations. The bank and the Robinsons entered into a judgment by stipulated consent in which the Robinsons agreed to pay the bank $175,000. This payment was intended to completely replace the amount previously owed under the promissory note. The judgment on this amount was entered in the Wyoming Federal Court on December 3, 1987. It was not appealed by the Robinsons.

The Wyoming consent judgment was registered in the United States District Court for Montana on August 1, 1989, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1963. On November 27, 1991, the bank filed a transcript of the Montana federal court judgment with the Gallatin County Clerk of Court. The bank caused the clerk of court to issue four different writs of execution but the first three were returned unsatisfied. The fourth writ was issued on December 16, 1993, and was served on the Robinsons on January 3, 1994. On February 4, 1994, the Robinsons moved to dismiss the verified application for sale of the property and to quash the writ.

On February 2, 1994, the Robinsons filed a completely separate action against the bank seeking to have the bank's mortgage declared null and void. The bank filed a motion with the District Court to dismiss this action. Later, the bank moved to convert their motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment.

On April 7, 1994, the Robinsons moved to consolidate the two actions, which the court did on May 6. On April 14, 1994, the court denied the Robinsons' motion to quash the writ and ruled that the filing of the December 3, 1987, Wyoming judgment with the Montana Federal Court on August 1, 1989, was the equivalent of filing a new judgment. In its conclusion, the court determined that the six years for issuing a writ of execution on that judgment ran from August 1, 1989.

On May 2, 1994, the Robinsons moved the court to reconsider its April 14 order. On May 6, 1994, when the court had entered the order consolidating the two cases, it also noted that the bank's motion to dismiss would be converted to a motion for summary judgment. On June 17, 1994, the court denied Robinsons' motion for reconsideration of its April 14 order.

The court entered an order granting summary judgment in favor of the bank and against the Robinsons on February 2, 1995. From both the April 14, 1994, and the February 2, 1995, orders, the Robinsons appeal.

ISSUE 1

Are the Robinsons barred from appealing the District Court's April 14, 1994 order denying their motion to quash the bank's writ of execution?

The bank contends that the April 14, 1994, order was a post-judgment order and a "special" order capable of appeal under Rule 1(b)(2), M.R.App.P. Thus, the time for its appeal expired on May 14, 1994, and the Robinsons' February 23, 1995, appeal of this order should be dismissed. The Robinsons counter that once the cases were consolidated on May 6, the order became an interlocutory order in the consolidated appeals. As a result, the Robinsons contend the April 14 order was not subject to appeal at that time. See Rule 1, M.R.App.P.; Matter of Sage Creek Drainage Area (1988), 234 Mont. 243, 763 P.2d 644.

The bank asserts that the order was entered prior to the consolidation of the actions and cannot be viewed as an interlocutory order in the consolidated proceedings. Other supreme courts, however, have held that once cases are consolidated they are one for all appellate purposes. Mallin v. Farmers Ins. Exchange (1990), 106 Nev. 606, 797 P.2d 978, 980; State v. District Court of Second Judicial District (Wyo.1963), 387 P.2d 550. In concurring with this principle, the Ninth Circuit Court said:

In our view, the best approach is to permit the appeal only when there is a final judgment that resolves all of the consolidated actions unless a 54(b) certification is entered by the district court. This leaves the discretion with the court which is best able to evaluate the affect [sic] of an interim appeal on the parties and on the expeditious resolution of the entire action.

Huene v. United States (9th Cir.1984), 743 F.2d 703, 705 (alteration in original).

In the present case, the order in question was issued on April 14, 1994, which gave the Robinsons until May 14, 1994, in which to file an appeal with this Court. The actions were consolidated on May 6, 1994. Thus, the consolidation postponed the time for appeal of the order to that of the court's final judgment in the consolidated actions. We therefore hold that the substance of the April 14, 1994, order is properly before this Court.

ISSUE 2

Did the District Court err in ruling that 28 U.S.C. § 1963 created a new judgment for purposes of the six year period during which a writ of execution can be issued?

The Wyoming federal court judgment was registered in Montana federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1963. That section provides: "A judgment so registered shall have the same effect as a judgment of the district court of the district where registered and may be enforced in like manner." The District Court concluded that registration under this statute created a new judgment so that the date of the Wyoming judgment for purposes of the issuance of a writ of execution is the date that the judgment was registered in Montana federal court. The Robinsons disagree, contending that the plain language of § 1963 requires the six year period during which a writ of execution can be issued under § 25-13-101, MCA, to commence upon the date the judgment was docketed in Wyoming--December 3, 1987.

The District Court's conclusion was in response to a question of law. Accordingly, we will review questions of law to determine if the district court's interpretation is correct. Farmers Plant Aid, Inc. v. Huggans (1994), 266 Mont. 249, 252, 879 P.2d 1173, 1175. Federal courts have ruled inconsistently on whether the registration of a judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1963 creates a new judgment date. Compare Juneau Spruce Corp. v. International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (U.S.D.C.Haw.1955), 128 F.Supp. 697, with Stanford v. Utley (8th Cir.1965), 341 F.2d 265, and United States v. Kellum (5th Cir.1975), 523 F.2d 1284.

The Ninth Circuit Court, in Marx v. Go Publishing Co. (9th Cir.1983), 721 F.2d 1272, ruled that § 1963 created a new judgment when it was filed in federal court. In that opinion, however, the court looked to California state law and determined that "[u]nder analogous California law, the ten year period for a valid and enforceable judgment of a sister state runs anew from the time of its filing in the state superior court...." Marx, 721 F.2d at 1273. The court then stated "[w]e discern no reason why the statute of limitations rule of the state should not apply to the federal proceedings." Marx, 721 F.2d at 1273.

When the Wyoming judgment was registered in Montana federal court, Montana had not yet adopted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. Section 25-9-303, MCA, provided for the registration of a federal judgment in state court, however, it was limited to judgments rendered in the Circuit or District Court of the United States, Ninth Circuit, District of Montana. This statute does not address the registration of judgments of a sister state, as did the California statute in Marx. Therefore, we have no analogous state authority upon which to rely at the time the judgment was registered and Marx is inapplicable.

While the Eighth Circuit, in Stanford, held that registration under § 1963 provided the equivalent of a new judgment in the registration court, the issue presented in Stanford is distinguishable from the issue presented in this case. In Stanford,...

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