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Plymouth County v. Merscorp, Inc.

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

June 4, 2013

PLYMOUTH COUNTY, IOWA, by and through DARIN J. RAYMOND, Plymouth County Attorney, Plaintiff,
v.
MERSCORP, INC.; MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC REGISTRATION SYSTEMS, INC.; BANK OF AMERICA, N.A.; BAC HOME LOANS SERVICING; CITIMORTGAGE, INC.; CORINTHIAN MORTGAGE CO.; EVERHOME MORTGAGE COMPANY; GMAC RESIDENTIAL FUNDING CORP.; HSBC BANK, U.S.A., N.A.; JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A.; CHASE HOME FINANCE, L.L.C.; EMC MORTGAGE CORP.; SUNTRUST MORTGAGE, INC.; WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.; WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE, INC.; WMC MORTGAGE CORP.; and JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS 1-100, Defendants.

Not To Be Published

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO CERTIFY DISMISSAL AS FINAL AND APPEALABLE UNDER RULE 54(b)

MARK W. BENNETT U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA

This case is before me on plaintiff Plymouth County’s May 6, 2013, Motion To Certify Dismissal As Final And Appealable Under Rule 54(b) (docket no. 89). The County seeks an order pursuant to Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure finding that there is no just reason for delay of any appeal and directing entry of final judgment—pursuant to my August 21, 2012, Memorandum Opinion And Order Regarding Defendants’ Motion To Dismiss (docket no. 70), and my October 16, 2012, Memorandum Opinion And Order Regarding Plaintiff’s Motion To Alter Or Amend The Judgment And For Leave To File An Amended Complaint (docket no. 79)[1]— against all defendants other than GMAC Residential Funding Corp. (GMAC), against whom all claims are automatically stayed during the pendency of GMAC’s bankruptcy. The County’s prior appeal of the decisions in question was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction on March 22, 2013, because my orders did not resolve the County’s claims against GMAC and I had not provided any Rule 54(b) certification. See docket no. 83. The Dismissed Defendants (that is, all of the defendants other than GMAC) filed an Opposition To Plaintiffs’ “Motion To Certify Dismissal As Final And Appealable Under Rule 54(b)” (docket no. 90) on May 20, 2013, and the County filed a Reply (docket no. 91) on May 30, 2013, then an Amended Reply (docket no. 92) on May 31, 2013, in further support of its Motion To Certify.

In support of its Motion To Certify, the County argues that the claims against GMAC, stayed by its bankruptcy, are separable from (albeit identical to) the claims against the dismissed defendants; no future developments will moot the need to review the orders in question, but the outcome of an immediate appeal would bind the parties with respect to the remaining claims against GMAC, precluding a duplicate appeal; and equitable considerations favor granting the motion, because there is nothing to be gained by waiting for the resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings against GMAC, but waiting will only delay ultimate resolution of the novel issues presented and prolong the period of uncertainty. In response, the Dismissed Defendants argue that all of the claims, facts, and legal issues involving all of the defendants are identical, so that entry of final judgment would necessarily result in duplicative appeals; proceeding with an appeal now would prejudice GMAC, as it would be precluded from participating in the appeal, but it would still be bound by the appellate court’s determination of issues relating to it, just as the Dismissed Defendants would be; and the County has not shown that it would suffer immediate harm if a Rule 54(b) order is not entered. In its Reply, the County argues, in essence, that the bankruptcy stay and Rule 54(b) were never intended to allow a defendant in bankruptcy to “hold hostage” litigation against solvent co-defendants. The County also clarifies that the prejudice it will suffer by delay of final judgment is the delay in its ability to bring a novel legal issue to the appellate court.

Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides as follows:

(b) Judgment on Multiple Claims or Involving Multiple Parties. When an action presents more than one claim for relief—whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim—or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties’ rights and liabilities.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) (emphasis added).

As the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently explained,

“[W]e generally consider only orders that dispose of all claims as final and appealable under [28 U.S.C.] § 1291.” [Huggins v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 566 F.3d 771, 773 (8th Cir. 2009)]. “Rule 54(b) creates a well-established exception to this rule by allowing a district court to enter a final judgment on some but not all of the claims in a lawsuit.” Clark v. Baka, 593 F.3d 712, 714 (8th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (citations and quotation marks omitted). However, the district court may enter final judgment under this rule “only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). We review the court’s decision to grant Rule 54(b) certification for an abuse of discretion, noting that such interlocutory appeals are “generally disfavored” and that “it is only the special case that warrants an immediate appeal from a partial resolution of the lawsuit.” Clark, 593 F.3d at 714–15 (citations and quotation marks omitted).
When deciding whether to grant Rule 54(b) certification, the district court must undertake a two-step analysis. The court “‘must first determine that it is dealing with a final judgment .... in the sense that it is an ultimate disposition of an individual claim.’” Outdoor Cent.[, Inc. v. GreatLodge.com, Inc.], 643 F.3d [1115, ] 1118 [(8th Cir. 2011)] (quoting Curtiss–Wright Corp. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7, 100 S.Ct. 1460, 64 L.Ed.2d 1 (1980)). Second, “[i]n determining that there is no just reason for delay, the district court must consider both the equities of the situation and judicial administrative interests, particularly the interest in preventing piecemeal appeals.” Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). “Certification should be granted only if there exists ‘some danger of hardship or injustice through delay which would be alleviated by immediate appeal.’” Hayden v. McDonald, 719 F.2d 266, 268 (8th Cir. 1983) (per curiam) (citation omitted).
Generally, we give substantial deference to the district court’s decision to certify orders under Rule 54(b) as the district court is “‘most likely to be familiar with the case and with any justifiable reasons for delay.’” Clark, 593 F.3d at 715 (citation omitted). However, this deference “rests on the assumption that the district court undertook to weigh and examine the competing interests involved in a certification decision.” Hayden, 719 F.2d at 268. . . . A detailed statement of reasons why there is “no just reason for delay” need not accompany a Rule 54(b) entry of judgment, but “where the district court gives no specific reasons, our review of that court's decision is necessarily more speculative and less circumscribed than would be the case had the court explained its actions more fully.” Little Earth of United Tribes, Inc. v. United States De[‘t of Hous. & Urban Dev., 738 F.2d 310, 313 (8th Cir. 1984) (per curiam). “If, as here, a district court’s decision does not reflect an evaluation of such factors as the interrelationship of the claims so as to prevent piecemeal appeals or show a familiar[ity] with the case and with any justifiable reasons for delay, we scrutinize its decision carefully.” Huggins, 566 F.3d at 774 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
“In the absence of a reasoned analysis by the district court, ‘we may assume that the district court ... relied on the reasons set out in the motion for certification.’” Clark, 593 F.3d 712 (quoting Huggins, 566 F.3d at 774).

Williams v. County of Dakota, Neb., 687 F.3d 1064, 1067-68 (8th Cir. 2012).

Three decades ago, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals quoted with approval “some of the relevant factors in reviewing Rule 54(b) ...


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