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Robertson v. GMAC Mortgage LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 28, 2014

GMAC MORTGAGE LLC, et al., Defendants.


MARSHA J. PECHMAN, Chief District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Bank of New York Trust Company N.A.'s motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 183.) Having reviewed the motion, the response (Dkt. No. 188), the reply (Dkt. Nos. 178-79), and all related papers, the Court GRANTS the motion.


This case concerns a piece of property in Seattle, Washington, currently owned by Plaintiff Duncan Robertson. (Dkt. No. 4-1 at 4.) The relevant facts of this case begin in 1999 when the property's prior owner, Linda Nicholls, executed an adjustable rate note for $100, 000 from Old Kent Mortgage Company. (Dkt. No. 64-1 at 4.) Ms. Nicholls inherited the property from her mother. To secure the note, Nicholls executed a Deed of Trust against the property in favor of Old Kent Mortgage. (Dkt. No. 51-1 at 15.) The Nicholls Deed of Trust was recorded in King County. (Id. at 2.) Since 1999, the Nicholls' Note and Deed of Trust have been assigned several times. Plaintiff has never been a party to those instruments.

In 2006, Nicholls borrowed money from Plaintiff. The loan was secured by a thirdposition deed of trust, which was junior to the Nicholls' Deed of Trust. (Dkt. Nos. 51-3, 51-4). Nicholls defaulted on the loan from Robertson. Robertson then foreclosed on his deed of trust. In the resulting non-judicial foreclosure sale, Robertson purchased the property. (Dkt. No. 51-2 at 2.) The Nicholls' Deed of Trust continued to encumber the property, even after Robertson's foreclosure on the junior obligation.

Robertson wanted to pay off the Nicholls' senior deed of trust obligation. Most of his claims asserted in this case involve these alleged attempts. (Dkt. No. 4-1 at 11.) The Bank of New York Trust Company, N.A. ("BNY") has limited involvement in these events. The record before this Court shows that in early 2007, BNY appointed First American Title Company as successor trustee. (Dkt. No. 190-7 at 1.) In 2012, a corrective Corporate Assignment of the Deed of Trust was recorded in which BNY, along with other entities listed as the successor trustees, assigned the Nicholls' Deed of Trust to Residential Funding Company, LLC. (Dkt. No. 185 at 53.) The corrective filing was done by GMAC, another defendant in this case.

Plaintiff initiated this case in King County asserting 12 causes of action against various parties who had dealings with the Nicholls' Deed of Trust. (Dkt. No. 4-1.) Defendants removed the case to this Court. (Dkt. No. 1.) BNY now moves for summary judgment.


A. Legal Standard on a Motion Summary Judgment

Federal Rule 56(a) provides that the court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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). In determining whether a factual dispute requiring trial exists, the court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). All material facts alleged by the non-moving party are assumed to be true, and all inferences must be drawn in that party's favor. Davis v. Team Elec. Co. , 520 F.3d 1080, 1088 (9th Cir. 2008).

A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248. There is no genuine issue for trial "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). When a lawsuit consists of multiple causes of action, the court may grant summary judgment on all or any part thereof. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Plaintiff attacks the jurisdiction of this Court to hear his Deed of Trust Act ("DTA") claims. He argues the Washington Constitution confers exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving "title of possession of real property" to state superior courts, not federal court. (Dkt. No. 188 at 8-9.) While the Washington Constitution does address the hierarchy between the state's courts and vests original jurisdiction for those matters dealing with real property or title in the superior court, those provisions do not proscribe any limitations on the jurisdiction of this Court. Nor could the Washington state limit federal court jurisdiction. Haywood v. Drown , 556 U.S. 729 (2009). In accordance with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court recently held that while states retain substantial leeway to establish the contours of their judicial systems, they lack authority to nullify a federal right or cause of action they believe is inconsistent with their local policies. (Id. at 736.) A state's authority to organize its courts, while considerable, remains subject to the strictures of the federal Constitution. See McKnett v. St. Louis & San Francisco R. Co. , 292 U.S. 230, 233 (1934). Both federal court's ability to decide this state-law claim and the propriety of the removal statute are not up for legal debate. See City of Greenwood, Miss. v. Peacock , 384 U.S. 808 (1966.)

In a second line of attack, he suggests this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because removal would be impermissible "if the superior court of Washington has no subject matter jurisdiction, i.e. authority, pursuant to Wash. Const. art IV, ยง6 to acquiesce to the DTA provisions." (Id. at 1.) According to Plaintiff, the DTA is unconstitutional because it takes "exclusive jurisdiction from the superior court and gives it over to financially incentivized trustees." (Dkt. No. 188 at 14.) In doing so, he argues that the DTA violates Article IV, section 6 of the Washington Constitution. Plaintiff's argument makes little sense. Even if the DTA is ...

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