United States District Court, D. Columbia.
GEORGE R. HUGHES, Plaintiff,
VINCENT L. ABELL, et al., Defendants
For GEORGE R. HUGHES, Plaintiff: Heather M. Latino, LEAD ATTORNEY, LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF DC, Washington, DC; Jennifer Ngai Lavallee, LEAD ATTORNEY, LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.
VINCENT L. ABELL, Defendant, Pro se, Washington, DC.
For WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Defendant: Amy Sanborn Owen, LEAD ATTORNEY, BRIGLIAHUNDLEY, P.C., Fairfax, VA; Benje Allen Selan, LEAD ATTORNEY, COCHRAN & OWEN, LLC, Vienna, VA.
For BRANCH BANKING AND TRUST COMPANY, Interested Party: Shaan S Chima, LEAD ATTORNEY, GEBHARDT & SMITH LLP, Baltimore, MD.
For JACKSON & CAMPBELL, P.C., Interested Party: David Howard Cox, LEAD ATTORNEY, Glenn W.D. Golding, JACKSON & CAMPBELL, P.C., Washington, DC.
VINCENT L. ABELL, Counter Claimant, Pro se, Washington, DC.
VINCENT L. ABELL, Cross Claimant, Pro se, Washington, DC.
VINCENT L. ABELL, Cross Defendant, Pro se, Washington, DC.
For MARIA-THERESA WILSON, Intervenor: Randell Charles Ogg, LEAD ATTORNEY, BODE & GRENIER, LLP, Washington, DC.
For ASSET LENDING CORPORATION, Intervenor: John Paul Szymkowicz, LEAD ATTORNEY, SZYMKOWICZ & SZYMKOWICZ, LLP, Washington, DC.
For WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Cross Defendant, Cross Claimant: Amy Sanborn Owen, LEAD ATTORNEY, BRIGLIAHUNDLEY, P.C., Fairfax, VA.
JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.
This case arises out of a lengthy dispute about the conveyance of a Washington, D.C., property. Extensive litigation resulted in a settlement agreement, which this Court approved. See Settlement & Dismissal Order [ECF No. 157]. That approval left open one issue: who is entitled to the settlement proceeds? The Court referred that question to a magistrate judge, who issued an order requiring anyone claiming an interest in those proceeds to file a statement of claim. See Jan. 18, 2013 Minute Order. The magistrate judge's commendable efforts in assessing those statements left two parties standing: Maria-Theresa Wilson (" Wilson" ) and Asset Lending Corporation (" Asset" ). Wilson filed a motion for summary judgment and, after a round of briefing, the magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation granting the motion and finding that she is entitled to the funds. See Report & Recommendation [ECF No. 176] (" R& R" ). Asset objected, and Jackson & Campbell, P.C. (" J& C" ) filed a motion to intervene in order to object. See Asset Objections [ECF No. 177]; J& C Mot. to Intervene [ECF No. 178]. After referring that motion to the magistrate judge, and following even more briefing, this Court adopted the magistrate judge's recommendation that J& C not be allowed to intervene--but the Court permitted J& C to file an amicus brief. See Mem. Op. [ECF No. 186]. Now before the Court are  Asset's objections to the magistrate judge's recommendation that summary judgment be granted in favor of Wilson, and  J& C's amicus briefs supporting Asset. For the reasons described below, the Court will accept the magistrate judge's recommendation and enter judgment in favor of Wilson.
The long history of this case is extensively detailed in several prior opinions of this Court and in the magistrate judge's thorough R& Rs. See, e.g., Mem. Op. [ECF No. 186] 1-4. The details salient to the resolution of Wilson's summary judgment motion are as follows. Under the terms of the settlement agreement reached by the parties and approved by this Court, Wells Fargo deposited $42,000 into the Court's Registry " for the benefit of the Abell Creditors." Settlement & Dismissal Order [ECF No. 157] at 2. When the magistrate judge called for statements from claimants, Wilson moved to intervene. See Wilson's Mot. to Intervene [ECF No. 155]. She did so because, back in 2007, she obtained a $2,060,000 judgment against Abell and others in D.C. Superior Court. R& R at 3. On July 24, 2007, she recorded that judgment with the D.C. Recorder of Deeds, placing a lien on Abell's properties in D.C. Id. Abell sought to stay the execution of that judgment pending appeal, and on June 3, 2008, after the D.C. Court of Appeals conditionally granted Abell's motion, a D.C. Superior Court judge set bond for the stay. Id. at 4. Wilson did not take any steps to alter the notice of judgment she filed with the D.C. Recorder of Deeds. Id. at 5.
While Abell's appeal was pending, Sophia Williams--not a party here--also obtained a judgment against Abell in unrelated litigation. Id. at 9. That judgment was recorded on June 2, 2010, and Asset maintains that it was then validly assigned the judgment, meaning that it has a lien against Abell as well. Id. at 9-10.
The D.C. Court of Appeals decided the appeal in Wilson's case on June 3, 2011. Id. at 5. Wilson recorded an amended judgment with the D.C. Recorder of Deeds on November 4, 2011. Id. Later that month, a Superior Court judge ordered that the " stay on execution and enforcement of the Judgment" was dissolved, and that Wilson could immediately proceed to collect on the judgment: hence her claim to the funds in the Court's Registry here. Id.
Wilson and Asset disagree about two things: (1) whether Williams properly assigned her judgment to Asset, and (2) the effect of the Superior Court's June 3, 2008 Order on Wilson's lien priority date. For Asset to be entitled to the funds, it must have been validly assigned the Williams judgment, and Wilson's lien priority date must be later than June 2, 2010 (in other words, it must be November 4, 2011, not July 24, 2007).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), once a magistrate judge has entered his recommended disposition of a dispositive matter--such as Wilson's motion for summary judgment--a party may file specific written objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). The district court then " must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to" and may " accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).
Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the evidence demonstrate that " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See C ...