Sandstrom v. Sandstrom

Decision Date25 August 1994
Docket Number93-254,Nos. 93-253,s. 93-253
Citation880 P.2d 103
PartiesRay SANDSTROM, Appellant (Petitioner), v. Jodi SANDSTROM, Appellee (Respondent). Ray SANDSTROM, Appellant (Defendant), v. Jodi SANDSTROM, Appellee (Plaintiff).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Ray Sandstrom, pro se.

Michael D. Zwickl, Casper, for appellee.

Before GOLDEN, C.J., THOMAS, MACY and TAYLOR, JJ., and CARDINE, J. (Retired).

MACY, Justice.

Appellant Ray Sandstrom (the husband) appeals from the district court's orders which purportedly granted summary judgments in favor of Appellee Jodi Sandstrom (the wife) in both of these cases and which ordered the husband to have no further ex parte contacts with the wife.

We affirm Case No. 93-253 and dismiss Case No. 93-254.

Issues

The husband presents four issues for our review:

Point One

Whether the settlement agreement executed by the parties and brought to the attention of the court precluded any further action in the case, including the order granting summary judgment?

Point Two

Whether the facts presented not only precluded summary judgment but also required the court to declare the judgment involved to be void and unenforceable?

Point Three

Whether the referral to a commissioner of the hearing upon the appellant's motion to vacate void judgment denied him a proper hearing and resulted in an improper summary judgment?

Point Four

Whether the court improperly enjoined the appellant from communicating with the appellee?

Facts

The parties divorced in Florida in 1991. The divorce court ruled that during the marriage the husband had gifted all his corporate stock in Sandstrom, Inc. to the wife.

The corporation held the title to a ranch which was located in Fremont County, Wyoming. After the petition for a dissolution of the marriage had been filed but before the decree was entered, the corporation conveyed the title to the ranch to Debra Jo Hoecherl. Hoecherl subsequently quitclaimed her interest in the ranch to Pete Stamper. The divorce court set aside the transfer of the ranch from the corporation to Hoecherl and declared: "Equitable title to the Wyoming Ranch, ... and all of the personalty therein, is vested in [the wife], subject only to her taking the necessary legal action, if any, to vest legal title in her name."

The husband appealed to a Florida district court of appeal. Among other things, he argued that the divorce court had erred by granting relief which the wife had not requested in her pleadings. The district court of appeal affirmed the divorce court's decision on that issue and specifically found that in her pleadings the wife had requested the relief which the divorce court had granted. Sandstrom v. Sandstrom, 617 So.2d 327, 328 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1993). The Florida Supreme Court refused to hear the case on appeal. Sandstrom v. Sandstrom, 629 So.2d 135 (Fla.1993).

The wife filed the Florida judgment in the district court in Fremont County, Wyoming (the domestication action). She also filed an action in that court to quiet title against all persons who claimed an interest in the Wyoming ranch (the quiet title action). The husband was not specifically named as a defendant in the quiet title action; however, he asserted a right in the property and filed an answer and counterclaim.

The husband filed a motion in the domestication action to vacate a void foreign judgment. He contended that the Florida divorce decree was void because he had not been given due process in the Florida action. He argued that the Florida divorce court granted relief which was different from that requested in the wife's pleadings and thereby violated his right to receive notice under the Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution. 1 A hearing was held before a district court commissioner. The commissioner presented his findings to the district court, but the district court did not specifically rule on the husband's motion.

The wife filed a motion for a summary judgment in each case. After the husband failed to respond to the wife's motions, the wife moved for the entry of a judgment in each case. The husband filed a memorandum in each case regarding the summary judgment motion. One day before the hearing was scheduled to be held on the motions for summary judgment, the husband filed a motion to dismiss the quiet title action. He contended that the wife had signed an agreement which settled all the outstanding differences between the parties.

The district court heard arguments on the wife's motion for a summary judgment in the domestication action and filed its order on October 11, 1993, which granted a summary judgment to the wife in that case. The district court filed an identical order in the quiet title action. The district court also ordered the husband to have no further ex parte contacts with the wife. The husband appealed to this Court.

Case No. 93-253
Domestication Action
A. Summary Judgment

The husband argues that the district court erred by granting a summary judgment in favor of the wife in the domestication action because his motion to dismiss, which he based upon the alleged settlement agreement, created a genuine issue of material fact. In reviewing an order which grants a summary judgment: " 'We examine [the record to determine] whether a genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the prevailing party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.' " Foianini v. Brinton, 855 P.2d 1238, 1240 (Wyo.1993) (quoting Slavens v. Board of County Commissioners for Uinta County, 854 P.2d 683, 685 (Wyo.1993)).

The district court did not err in granting a summary judgment for the wife in the domestication action. The husband did not file his motion to dismiss in the domestication action until after the district court had already entered its order which granted a summary judgment in favor of the wife. Also, the husband failed to respond to the wife's motion for a summary judgment within the time provided in Rules 56(c) and 6(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure. 2 The husband did not present the alleged settlement agreement to the district court in a timely fashion.

B. Validity of Florida Judgment

The husband argues that the Florida judgment was void and unenforceable under W.R.C.P. 60(b)(4) 3 and that the district court erred by granting a summary judgment to the wife. He contends that, because the Florida court violated his due process rights when it granted relief to the wife which she had not requested in any of her pleadings, the Florida judgment was void and was not entitled to be accorded full faith and credit in Wyoming.

Under article IV, section 1, of the United States Constitution, the final judgments and public acts of one state must be given full faith and credit in every other state. The United States Supreme Court has held that full faith and credit "generally requires every State to give a judgment at least the res judicata effect which the judgment would be accorded in the State which rendered it." A foreign judgment will be enforced to its full extent regardless of any errors or irregularities it may contain.

The full faith and credit clause generally protects the judgment of a court of a sister state against collateral attacks, unless proper grounds for the collateral attack can be established.

Marworth, Inc. v. McGuire, 810 P.2d 653, 655-56 (Colo.1991) (en banc) (quoting Durfee v. Duke, 375 U.S. 106, 109, 84 S.Ct. 242, 244, 11 L.Ed.2d 186 (1963)) (citations omitted). Wyoming implemented the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution 4 by adopting the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. WYO.STAT. §§ 1-17-701 to -707 (1988). See generally Salmeri v. Salmeri, 554 P.2d 1244 (Wyo.1976).

A judgment is void if the rendering court "acted in a manner inconsistent with due process [of law]." JW v. State, ex rel. Laramie County Department of Public Assistance and Social Services (In re WM), 778 P.2d 1106, 1110 (Wyo.1989). A judgment which was obtained in violation of due process of law is not entitled to have full faith and credit. 50 C.J.S. Judgments § 889 at 472 (1947). See also World-Wide Volkswagen Corporation v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291, 100 S.Ct. 559, 564, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980). "It is basic that, before a property interest can be terminated, except in emergency situations, due process must be afforded to litigants in the form of notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard." Lawrence-Allison and Associates West, Inc. v. Archer, 767 P.2d 989, 997 (Wyo.1989) (emphasis in original).

The husband presented his argument to the Florida courts that the pleadings did not properly request the relief which had been granted to the wife. The Florida courts decided against him. Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, a foreign judgment is entitled to be accorded the same validity and effect in a sister state as it would have in the rendering state. Bell Atlantic Tricon Leasing Corporation v. Johnnie's Garbage Service, Inc., 113 N.C.App. 476, 439 S.E.2d 221, 223 (1994). When parties are prohibited from reasserting issues in the rendering state, they are also barred from asserting those issues in a sister state. Cf. Osborn v. Ashland County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, 979 F.2d 1131, 1131-35 (6th Cir.1992) (per curiam) (holding that a federal court must not consider a due process issue which had previously been decided by a state court).

Under Florida law, the judicial doctrine of collateral estoppel prohibits relitigation of an issue "where the parties and issues are identical and where a particular matter has been fully litigated and determined in a prior litigation which has resulted in a final decision in a court of competent jurisdiction." Prudential Insurance Company of America v. Turkal, 528 So.2d 487, 488 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1988) (per curiam). Under this rule, the parties would be barred from relitigating the issue in Florida as to...

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