United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
WILLIAM F. TREBAS, JR., Plaintiff,
ALLY BANK, A UTAH CORPORATION, Defendant.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
Jeremiah C. Lynch, United States Magistrate Judge
William F. Trebas, Jr., appearing pro se, commenced this
action against Defendant Ally Bank asserting it lacked both
the factual and legal authority to foreclose on real property
Trebas owns. The property was the subject of a deed of trust
Trebas granted in 2012 to secure a loan he had obtained. He
contends the deed of trust, the promissory note, and
documents assigning the note and beneficial interests in the
deed of trust were fraudulently executed, or unlawfully
relied upon to ultimately support Ally Bank's foreclosure
on the property. He asserts Ally Bank is liable for fraud,
alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,
and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
asserts the Court has jurisdiction over his claim pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1331 on the basis that his claim arises
under laws of the United States. (Doc. 1 at 1.) The Court
also has supplemental jurisdiction over Trebas's claims
advanced under Montana law as provided in 28 U.S.C. §
Trebas is proceeding pro se the Court must construe his
pleading liberally, and the pleading is held “to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers[.]” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520 (1972). See also Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). In view of the required liberal
a district court should grant leave to amend even if no
request to amend the pleading was made, unless it
determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by
the allegation of other facts.
Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th
Cir. 2000) (emphasis added) (quoting Doe v. United
States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995)).
even with liberal construction of Trebas's pleading, for
the reasons discussed the Court concludes this action is
barred under the doctrine of res judicata. Although a federal
court must be cautious in raising a preclusion bar sua
sponte, it is appropriate to do so in special circumstances.
Arizona v. California, 530 U.S. 392, 412 (2000).
[I]f a court is on notice that it has previously decided the
issue presented, the court may dismiss the action sua sponte,
even though the defense has not been raised. This result is
fully consistent with the policies underlying res judicata:
it is not based solely on the defendant's interest in
avoiding the burdens of twice defending a suit, but is also
based on the avoidance of unnecessary judicial waste.
Arizona, at 412 (quoting United States v. Sioux
Nation, 448 U.S. 371, 432 (1980) (Rehnquist, J.,
dissenting)). “As a general matter, a court may, sua
sponte, dismiss a case on preclusion grounds ‘where the
records of that court show that a previous action covering
the same subject matter and parties had been
dismissed.'” Headwaters, Inc. v. United States
Forest Service, 399 F.3d 1047, 1054-55 (9th
Cir. 2005) (quoting Evarts v. W. Metal Finishing
Co., 253 F.2d 637, 639 n.1 (9th Cir. 1958)).
Thus, where judicial resources have previously been spent on
the resolution of a particular prior case, special
circumstances can be found warranting the court's sua
sponte application of res judicata to a subsequent attempt to
relitigate the same case. Cf. Arizona, at 412-413,
and Headwaters, Inc. at 1056-57.
Court has notice of the facts and circumstances of
Trebas's prior civil action filed in this Court,
captioned as Trebas v. Ally Bank, CV
17-113-M-DLC-JCL (Trebas I). This Court expended
significant judicial resources addressing the merits of
Trebas's legal claims pled against Ally Bank in
Trebas I, and on August 22, 2018, the Court entered
an order and a judgment dismissing that case. Nonetheless,
Trebas now seeks to commence a new lawsuit which presents
claims predicated upon the same nucleus of operative facts he
presented in Trebas I. Thus, any relitigation of
Trebas's dispute with Ally Bank would be inconsistent
with the prior dismissal in Trebas I, and it would
be a waste of judicial resources to again adjudicate claims
stemming from the same predicate facts as were presented in
Trebas I. Therefore, the Court finds it is
appropriate to raise the doctrine of res judicata sua sponte.
judicata, or claim preclusion, provides that “a final
judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or
their privies from relitigating issues that were or could
have been raised in that action.” Allen v.
McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980). Res judicata is
applicable when (1) the prior litigation and the present
action involve the same claims, or when the two cases have an
“identity of claims;” (2) a final judgment on the
merits was entered in the prior litigation; and (3) there
exists privity ...