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Citibank, N.A. v. Slagter

Supreme Court of Montana

May 2, 2017

CITIBANK, N.A., as Trustee for WAMU Asset-Backed Certificates, WAMU Series 2007-HE2 Trust, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
PHILIP J. SLAGTER; UBON SLAGTER, Defendants and Appellants.

          Submitted on Briefs: March 29, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District, In and For the County of Ravalli, Cause No. DV-15-333 Honorable James A. Haynes, Presiding Judge

          For Appellants: Philip J. Slagter (Self-Represented), and Ubon Slagter (Self-Represented), Corvallis, Montana

          For Appellee: Cassie R. Dellwo, Mackoff Kellogg Law Firm, Dickinson, North Dakota

          Mike McGrath Chief Justice

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Philip J. Slagter and Ubon Slagter (the Slagters) appeal from an August 16, 2016 District Court order granting Citibank's motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

         ¶3 On December 12, 2006, the Slagters executed a Deed of Trust conveying an interest in real property to the Trustee, Washington Mutual Bank, to secure a mortgage. Citibank, N.A. as Trustee for WAMU Asset-Backed Certificates, WAMU Series 2007-HE2 Trust (Citibank) succeeded Washington Mutual Bank as beneficiary of the Deed of Trust.

         ¶4 The Slagters defaulted on the loan on January 1, 2008. Citibank initiated non-judicial foreclosure proceedings. On October 23, 2013, Citibank purchased the property at public auction.

         ¶5 In 2013, the Slagters filed a complaint against Citibank seeking to void the foreclosure based on lack of standing, misrepresentation, no default, and invalidity of the deed of trust. Citibank filed a motion to dismiss under Montana Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Slagters failed to file a response and the District Court dismissed the complaint with prejudice on December 16, 2013. The Slagters filed a notice of appeal to this Court, which affirmed the District Court's dismissal of Slagters' complaint on October 14, 2014.[1]

         ¶6 On August 25, 2015, Citibank filed a motion for possession of the real property. The Slagters responded with a motion to dismiss and a motion to strike. The court ordered the Slagters to respond to Citibank's motion. The Slagters filed an answer and counterclaim asserting Citibank is an unregistered foreign trust and the deed of trust was void. Citibank then filed a motion for summary judgment. The Slagters responded but failed to cite any evidence in the record or file any affidavit in opposition to Citibank's motion. The District Court gave the Slagters time to respond appropriately, which they did on July 8, 2016, with the affidavit of Phillip Slagter. The affidavit did not set forth any evidence that Citibank failed to provide sufficient notice to vacate the property or specific reasons they could not present facts essential to their opposition. The District Court granted Citibank's motion for summary judgment on August 16, 2016.

         ¶7 The Montana Supreme Court reviews the granting of a motion for summary judgment de novo, using the same standards applied by the district court under M. R. Civ. P. 56. Pilgeram v. GreenPoint Mortg. Funding, Inc., 2013 MT 354, ¶ 9, 373 Mont. 1, 313 P.3d 839; In re Estate of Harmon, 2011 MT 84A, ¶ 14, 360 Mont. 150, 253 P.3d 821. Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. M. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3); Roe v. City of Missoula, 2009 MT 417, ¶ 14, 354 Mont. 1, 221 P.3d 1200. Whether a court has jurisdiction is a legal conclusion, which this Court reviews de novo. Pinnow v. Mont. State Fund, 2007 MT 332, ¶ 13, 340 Mont. 217, 172 P.3d 1273.

         ¶8 The Slagters argue the District Court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. Montana's district courts have original jurisdiction in all civil matters and cases at law and equity. Mont. Const. art. VII, § 4; § 3-5-302(1), MCA; Comm'r of Political Practices for Mont. v. Bannan, 2015 MT 220, ¶ 9, 380 Mont. 194, 354 P.3d 601. An action for possession of real property located in Montana is a civil matter. Section 70-27-101, MCA. The District Court had jurisdiction.

         ¶9 The Slagters argue Citibank did not have standing to bring this action. To determine if Citibank had standing, this Court must determine whether it was a proper party to request an adjudication of the unlawful detainer action. Geil v. Missoula Irrigation Dist., 2002 MT 269, ¶ 27, 312 Mont. 320, 59 P.3d 398 (citing Gryczan v. State, 283 Mont. 433, 442, 942 P.2d 112, 118 (1997)). Citibank purchased the property at a valid trustee's sale. As owner of the property, Citibank ...


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