Home U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, as Trustee for MASTR Asset Backed Securities Trust 2007-HE2 v. JEANNE A. GOLRICK

MISC 17-000401

January 2, 2018

Franklin, ss.



This case is at least the fourth in a struggle between U.S. Bank National Association, as Trustee for MASTR Asset Backed Securities Trust 2007-HE2, and Jeanne A. Golrick over the Bank's attempted foreclosure on Ms. Golrick's home. There are several reasons for the multiple lawsuits. One is the Land Court's unusual jurisdiction: the Court has a say over parts of the foreclosure process, but not all of it. Another is the Bank's not pursuing to completion the first case between the parties. Another is Golrick's appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court of the second case between the parties (an action Golrick brought in Franklin Superior Court). What happened in the three prior cases dictates, for now, the outcome of this case, which is before this Court on the Bank's motion for summary judgment.

While Ms. Golrick disputes much of what the Bank asserts, she does not challenge the facts that are material to the Bank's motion. In 2010, the Bank decided to foreclose on the mortgage it purportedly held, as assignee of Golrick's original lender, on Golrick's residence. The Bank kicked off its efforts by filing in in this Court, against Golrick, a "servicemember" proceeding under St. 1943, c. 57, as amended, St. 1998, c. 142. This Decision will call that lawsuit Case One. This Court has jurisdiction (and maybe even exclusive jurisdiction) over such proceedings, see St. 1943, c. 57 at § 3, which some lenders choose to pursue prior to foreclosing on a mortgage. HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Matt, 464 Mass. 193 (2013), decided after the Bank filed Case One, reviews the history and purpose of servicemember proceedings. They are "neither a part of nor necessary to the foreclosure process;" they "simply ensure[] that a foreclosure will not be rendered invalid for failure to provide the protections of the [Federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 U.S.C. App. § 501 et seq. ("SCRA")] to anyone so entitled. . . ." Matt, 464 Mass. at 197.

The following facts are taken from the docket and the file of Case One. (Land Court staff saved from destruction the file of Case One once this case began. The Court will preserve that file in the records of this case, which this Decision will call Case Four.) Ms. Golrick appeared in Case One in September 2010. The SCRA protects only servicemembers, see id. at 194-97, 199, and the Bank pointed out that Golrick never had been in the military. Golrick never claimed otherwise, but she struck back at the Bank nevertheless. She asserted that the Bank hadn't proven that the mortgage on her property had been assigned to the Bank, and hence she contended that the Bank didn't have standing to file a servicemember action. Matt reminds us that non-servicemembers may alert the court to jurisdictional problems in servicemember actions. One such problem is the plaintiff's lack of standing to bring a servicemember action. See id. at 199.

Nearly two weeks after appearing in Case One, and fearing that the Bank was about to foreclose on her home, Golrick filed a quiet-title action – Case Two – in the Franklin County Superior Court. In Case Two, Golrick challenged the Bank's "standing" to foreclose on her home, again because it allegedly hadn't received a valid assignment of the mortgage on that home. She also sought a preliminary injunction halting any foreclosure. The Superior Court denied that request, and three days later, the Bank foreclosed on Golrick's home via a public auction. The Bank was the high bidder at that auction, and thus the Bank subsequently gave itself a foreclosure deed to the Golrick property. It nonetheless appears, however, that Golrick continues to live there.

The foreclosure didn't moot Cases One or Two. In December 2010, this Court (Scheier, J.) ruled that the Bank was the assignee of the Golrick mortgage, Justice Scheier thus denied Golrick's motion to dismiss the Bank's complaint for lack of standing and ordered "the case may proceed to judgment in the normal course."

The docket of Case One shows no activity between December 2010 and November 2016. The file of Case One contains an inquiry from the Bank to the Land Court Examiner in September 2013, asking if judgment had entered; the Examiner told the Bank it hadn't. Another three years passed, and having heard nothing from the Bank or Ms. Golrick, the Court administratively closed Case One in November 2016.

Of course, as of December 2010 (and as of September 2013), Case Two was still alive. While Ms. Golrick's complaint in Case Two sought to "quiet title" to her now foreclosed-upon home, by early 2014, the only issue she was pressing in Case Two was whether the Bank had received a valid assignment of her mortgage. After a bench trial, the Superior Court found as a matter of fact and law that the assignment was valid. The Superior Court thus entered judgment in favor of the Bank on Golrick's quiet-action. Golrick appealed that judgment, resulting in Case Three (before the Appeals Court). In April 2016, the Appeals Court affirmed the judgment in Case Two, and Case Three came to an end.

At some point later, it occurred to the Bank that it hadn't received a final judgment in Case One. The Bank thus brought this action – Case Four – to get equivalent relief under G.L. c. 231A, § 1 and the quiet-title statute, G.L. c. 240, § 6. Ms. Golrick appeared and admitted at the first conference in this matter that she is not, and never has been, a member of any branch of the United States military. She nevertheless challenged the Bank's standing to bring Case Four, arguing (again) that the Bank had not received a valid assignment of her mortgage. She also contends that the Bank's 2010 foreclosure is invalid because the Bank failed to obtain a SCRA judgment prior to foreclosing. She argues that the latter alleged misstep further undermines the Bank's standing to bring Case Four. She also counterclaims against the Bank, seeking to quiet title to what she regards as still her property, but her counterclaims rest on her defenses to the Bank's claims.

As Ms. Golrick challenges the Bank's standing to bring this case, the Court addresses that issue first. See Matt, 464 Mass. at 199 (the court must inquire into standing whenever a party questions it). While the Bank seeks relief that's the equivalent of what it could receive in a servicemembers proceeding, this case – Case Four – is not a servicemembers proceeding. The test for standing in this case thus is not the one Matt describes at 464 Mass. at 203-04, whether the Bank is a mortgagee or an "agent[] thereof." Instead, the Bank's standing to bring Case Four depends on the tests for standing that apply to c. 231, § 1A actions and quiet-title actions under c. 240, § 6. Standing under the former statute requires only a controversy between the parties, the resolution of which will have a significant effect upon the plaintiff's rights. See Bortolotti v. Hayden, 449 Mass. 193 , 197 (2007). A plaintiff establishes standing under c. 240, § 6 by possessing a "sufficient legal interest in [disputed] property. . . ." A claim of "rightful legal ownership" meets that requirement. McCartin Leisure Industries, Inc. v. Baker, 376 Mass. 62 , 66 (1978).

The Bank has standing under both statutes to pursue Case Four. Ms. Golrick claims she owns her home; the Bank says it's the owner. Those conflicting positions demonstrate that there's a controversy between the parties, and resolving Case Four will either enhance the Bank's title to Golrick's home or diminish that title. That is enough to establish the Bank's standing to bring its c. 231, § 1A action. The Bank also has pleaded and has provided evidence (more about that later) that it has a claim of rightful legal ownership to the Golrick property. That's enough to establish the Bank's standing to bring an action under c. 240, § 6.

The Court thus turns to the merits of the Bank's claims. The Bank first asks for a declaration that Ms. Golrick isn't entitled to the benefits of the SCRA. Golrick concedes that she's never been in the military, and thus this Court will issue the requested declaration.

The Bank next asks for a declaration that it didn't need to get an SCRA judgment prior to foreclosing on the Golrick property. Matt agrees. See Matt, 464 Mass. at 197 (stating that a bank may obtain via c. 240, § 6, either pre- or post-foreclosure, a declaration concerning the mortgagor's SCRA status). This Court thus will issue the Bank's second requested declaration.

That resolves the Bank's claims. Now to Ms. Golrick's counterclaims. She has two, which the Court will address in reverse order. Counterclaim Count II argues that the Bank's 2010 foreclosure was invalid on account of the Bank not receiving an SCRA judgment first. Matt disagrees, and Golrick hasn't presented any arguments as to why Matt is wrong. In Counterclaim Count I, Golrick argues that the Bank never received a valid assignment of her mortgage. Here's where the prior cases, particularly Cases Two and Three, intrude. A valid, final judgment in a lawsuit is "'conclusive on the parties and their privies, and prevents relitigation of all matters that were or could have been adjudicated in the action." This doctrine "is 'based on the idea that the party to be precluded has had the incentive and opportunity to litigate the matter fully in the first lawsuit.'" O'Neill v. City Manager of Cambridge, 428 Mass. 257 , 259 (1998), quoting Blanchette v. School Comm. of Westwood, 427 Mass. 176 , 179 n.3 (1998), and Heacock v. Heacock, 402 Mass. 21 , 24 (1988).

The Bank claims that the Franklin Superior Court, in Case Two, decided Ms. Golrick's invalid-assignment arguments against her. In order to have the judgment in Case Two bind this Court's decision on Counterclaim Count I, the Bank must prove only three things: that (1) the parties to Cases Two and Four are the same (or are in "privity" with such parties); (2) Cases Two and Four contain identical claims; and (3) the Franklin Superior Court issued a final judgment on the merits in Case Two. Petrillo v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Cohasset, 65 Mass. App. Ct. 453 , 457 (2006). It is undisputed that the Bank and Golrick were parties to Case Two. It is further undisputed that Golrick sought in Case Two to quiet title to the Golrick property, and that she also contended in Case Two that the Bank never received a valid assignment of her mortgage. She makes the identical claims here. Finally, it is undisputed that the Superior Court issued in Case Two a final judgment on the merits, a judgment that the Appeals Court affirmed in Case Three. See Rule 54(a), Mass. R. Civ. P. ("final judgment" means "the act of the trial court finally adjudicating the rights of the parties affected by the judgment. . ."); Dexter Associates Ltd. v. Worcester Lerner Shops, Inc., 26 Mass. App. Ct. 390 , 393-94 (1988).

Ms. Golrick thus cannot relitigate, before this Court, the assignment issues decided in Case Two. Golrick resists that result. She claims to have discovered evidence that shows that the Franklin Superior Court might have been misled, or at least decided the assignment issues incorrectly. Cases holding litigants to final judgments uphold those judgments even if someone's prepared to present new evidence or legal theories. See, for example, Mackintosh v. Chambers, 285 Mass. 594 , 596-97 (1934). That's not to say that, once a case is over, a party who obtains new evidence is out of luck. Rule 60(b), Mass. R. Civ. P., sets forth multiple grounds on which a court that has issued a prior, now-conclusive judgment "may relieve a party" from that judgment. Rule 60(b) also states that the rule "does not limit the power of a court to entertain an independent action to relieve a party from a judgment, order, or proceeding, or to set aside a judgment for fraud upon the court." But the audience for claims of fraud, new evidence, or any other ground listed in Rule 60(b) concerning the issues decided in Case Two is not this Court. Instead, Ms. Golrick must present any grounds she may have under Rule 60(b) for overturning the judgment in Case Two to the court that issued that judgment, the Franklin Superior Court.

In view of the foregoing, the Court ALLOWS U.S. Bank's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court will enter judgment in favor of U.S. Bank on Counts I and II of its complaint in this action. Ms. Golrick's counterclaims will be dismissed, with prejudice.

Judgment shall enter accordingly.