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37 Associates v. REO Construction Consultants

January 19, 2006

37 ASSOCIATES, TRUSTEE FOR THE 37 FORRESTER STREET, SW TRUST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
REO CONSTRUCTION CONSULTANTS, INC. ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM OPINION

Currently ripe and ready for resolution is the Motion for Summary Judgment By Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs, Quinard Thomas and U.S. Bank ("Defs. Mot.").*fn1 For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted.

INTRODUCTION

This case involves a parcel of property located at 37 Forrester Street, SW in Washington, D.C. ("the Property"). First Amended Complaint to Quiet Title ("Amend. Comp.") ¶ 2. Both plaintiff, 37 Associates, Trustee for 37 Forrester Street, SW Trust ("plaintiff"), and defendants/counter-plaintiffs, REO Construction Consultants, Inc. et al. ("defendants"), claim to be the lawful owners of the property.

LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A material fact is one that affects the outcome of the litigation. Kalekiristos v. CTF Hotel Mgmt. Corp., 958 F. Supp. 641, 645 (D.D.C. 1997), aff'd 132 F.3d 1481 (D.C. Cir. 1997). There exists a genuine issue of material fact "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. (citations omitted). To prevail on their motion for summary judgment, defendants must establish that on the basis of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits,"*fn2 no reasonable finder of fact could render a verdict in plaintiff's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986).

BACKGROUND

I. Facts

There is no genuine dispute as to the following facts.

Prior to October of 1996, multiple tax liens were assessed against the Property by the District of Columbia due to unpaid taxes. Amend. Comp. ¶ 3. The District of Columbia Department of Finance and Revenue then sold the property to the District of Columbia at a tax sale. Id. ¶ 5. On October 1, 1996, the District of Columbia, in turn, assigned, sold, and transferred its tax lien on the Property to District TLC Trust 1996 ("TLC"). Id. On November 20, 1996, the Tax Lien Certificate, dated October 1, 1996, was recorded with the District of Columbia Department of Finance and Revenue, Recorder of Deeds Division, as Instrument No. 76529. Id.

On May 17, 1999, several individuals, including Sonnie Ellis and Erskine Hartwell, were indicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ("Maryland District Court"). Defs. Mot. at Ex. A. On October 14, 1999, following the commencement of the criminal forfeiture action, the United States filed a Notice of Lis Pendens with the Clerk of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. Id. at Ex. B. The instrument was recorded as No. 9900088525. Id.

On October 21, 1999, TLC filed suit in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia ("Superior Court") to foreclose rights of redemption as to Instrument No. 76529.

On June 29, 2000, the United States filed a motion for a preliminary criminal forfeiture in Maryland District Court as to property belonging to Erskine Hartwell ("Hartwell"), including the parcel at issue in this case. Defs. Mot. at Ex. C. On August 18, 2000, the United States' motion for a preliminary criminal forfeiture was granted. Defs. Mot. at Ex. D. On September 13, 2000, the United States published notice of the criminal forfeiture in the Prince George's Journal and the Washington Times. Defs. Mot. at Ex. E.

Two months later, on November 14, 2000, the United States filed a motion for a final order of criminal forfeiture in Maryland District Court. Defs. Mot. at Ex. F. On January 11, 2001, Maryland District Court ordered that "all rights, title and interests of Erskine Hartwell, and any and all other persons" in the property were forfeited to the United States, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 853. Defs. Mot. at Ex. G.

Shortly thereafter, on January 17, 2001, the Superior Court granted TLC's motion for a default judgment to ...


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