Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Temple v. DiPietro

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

December 31, 2015

FAITH TEMPLE
v.
STEVEN DIPIETRO

          Argued April 8, 2015

         As Corrected April 28, 2016

Page 369

          On the briefs and at oral argument: John S. Campbell, Esq., Campbell & Associates, P.A., Portland, for appellant Stephen DiPietro.

         David E. Stearns, Esq., Ainsworth, Thelin & Raftice, P.A., South Portland, for appellee Phillip Stearns.

         G. Charles Shumway II, Esq., Falmouth, for appellee Faith Temple.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 370

          HJELM, J.

          [¶1] In 2012, Faith Temple, a church located in Portland, filed a complaint in state court seeking a judgment based on a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judgment that, under a former name, it obtained in 1985 against Steven DiPietro. During the pendency of the state court action, Faith Temple

Page 371

also moved for a writ of execution on the original bankruptcy judgment. The court ( Wheeler, J. ) issued an order directing the issuance of a writ, and then granted judgment on the pleadings in favor of Faith Temple on both its complaint and DiPietro's counterclaim against Faith Temple and its pastor, Phillip Stearns, whom DiPietro had joined as a counterclaim defendant.

          [¶2] In this appeal, DiPietro contends that (1) Faith Temple's complaint was not premised on a cause of action that is recognized in Maine; (2) the Bankruptcy Court's 1985 judgment is unenforceable for lack of jurisdiction to issue a money judgment; (3) the court erred in authorizing the issuance of the writ of execution; (4) the court erred in granting judgment on the pleadings to Faith Temple; and (5) the court erred in dismissing his counterclaim against Stearns. Because we agree that the court erred in authorizing issuance of the writ of execution and in granting judgment on the pleadings to Faith Temple, we vacate both the execution order and the judgment. Further, because DiPietro stated claims against Stearns individually, we vacate the order granting Stearns's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

          [¶3] In 1982, Faith Temple, which, according to the record, was then operating under the name of First United Pentecostal Church, entered into a contract with Steven DiPietro for construction of a church. After receiving partial payment from Faith Temple, DiPietro failed to complete the construction and then filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maine. As part of that proceeding, Faith Temple, proceeding under its former name, sought a dischargeability determination for its breach of contract claim against DiPietro pursuant to 11 U.S.C.S. § 523(a)(2)(A) (LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 114-91). In May 1985, the Bankruptcy Court issued a memorandum decision, concluding that $11,000 of the $25,000 claimed by First United was nondischargeable and directing entry of an order to that effect. The Bankruptcy Court, acting through its clerk, then issued an order stating that First United was entitled to " recover of the defendant Stephen W. DiPietro, the sum of $11,000 with interest at the rate provided by law from the date of entry of the order of judgment plus its costs." The order states that it was sent to DiPietro's attorney, but DiPietro denies receiving notice of the order.

          [¶4] In September 2012, more than twenty-seven years after the Bankruptcy Court issued its decision, Faith Temple filed a complaint in the Maine District Court (Bridgton) seeking a judgment against DiPietro in the amount of the Bankruptcy Court judgment plus compounding post-judgment interest, for a total of $119,547.25. On an ex parte motion filed by Faith Temple, the court ( Powers, J. ) allowed an attachment against DiPietro's property in the amount of $125,000. DiPietro then removed the case to the Superior Court (Cumberland County) and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

          [¶5] In July 2013, after the court ( Wheeler, J. ) denied his motion to dismiss, DiPietro filed an answer to the complaint and a counterclaim against Faith Temple and Stearns.[1] In his answer, DiPietro denied virtually all of the factual allegations set out in the complaint, including Faith Temple's allegation that he had not paid the judgment. Additionally, he raised thirty-two affirmative defenses, primarily

Page 372

involving the validity of the Bankruptcy Court judgment and Faith Temple's failure to obtain a writ of execution, but also including defenses such as laches, estoppel, and fraud. In his counterclaim against both Faith Temple and Stearns, DiPietro sought a declaratory judgment that Faith Temple was not entitled to a writ of execution, and also alleged slander of title; negligent infliction of emotional distress; intentional infliction of emotional distress; unjust enrichment; abuse of process; violation of 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 (LEXIS through P.L. 114-91); and misrepresentation and concealment.

          [¶6] Stearns moved to dismiss DiPietro's counterclaim against him, claiming that he was improperly joined pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 13(h), and also arguing that he could not be held individually liable for actions taken in his capacity as pastor of the church. Additionally, Faith Temple filed a motion for issuance of an order to show cause why an execution should not issue on the Bankruptcy Court judgment pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 4654 (2015), which governs executions that do not fall within statutory time limits. DiPietro opposed the motion, arguing that Faith Temple had not presented any reasons for its delay in enforcing the Bankruptcy Court judgment and that, in any event, the judgment was invalid.

          [¶7] In November 2013, a non-testimonial hearing was held on all pending motions. On December 30, 2013, the court granted Stearns's motion to dismiss DiPietro's counterclaim against him and Faith Temple's motion for an order to show cause, directing that a writ of execution issue.

          [¶8] DiPietro moved for findings of fact pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 52 and for reconsideration of the December 2013 order pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 59(e). At around the same time, Faith Temple filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(c), arguing that because the court had determined that the bankruptcy judgment was valid and authorized issuance of an execution, there was no merit to any of DiPietro's affirmative defenses or counterclaims. Faith Temple also filed a motion for an additional attachment, calculating that " pre-judgment interest and costs can reasonably be expected to total $154,000," and requesting that the existing attachment be increased to that amount. In his opposition to that motion, DiPietro requested that the existing attachment be dissolved or reduced.

          [¶9] On June 4, 2014, the court issued orders adjudicating all pending motions. First, it denied DiPietro's motion for findings of fact and reconsideration, and directed that " [e]xecution shall issue forthwith" in the amount of $11,000 plus compounding post-judgment interest. The court also issued an order granting DiPietro's motion to reduce the original attachment, reducing it from $125,000 to $52,195.[2] At the same time, however, the court issued an order granting Faith Temple's motion for an additional attachment, ordering that attachment be made against DiPietro's property in the total amount of $163,091.48.[3] The court also

Page 373

granted Faith Temple's motion for judgment on the pleadings " because the court rejects [DiPietro]'s analysis of this case in its entirety," and entered final judgment for Faith Temple. DiPietro filed a timely appeal of those orders and the court's December 2013 order pursuant to 14 M.R.S. § 1851 (2015) and M.R. App. P. 2(b)(3).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Complaint for an Action on a Judgment

          [¶10] As a threshold matter, DiPietro contends that Maine does not recognize a cause of action to obtain a domestic judgment on a foreign judgment and that the trial court therefore erred by not dismissing Faith Temple's complaint. Although DiPietro correctly asserts that there is no statute affirmatively establishing a cause of action to seek a judgment based on a foreign judgment, a review of Maine's common law history of enforcing foreign judgments reveals that such a claim exists. Therefore, despite Faith Temple's failure to articulate a legal basis for its complaint, we must reject DiPietro's argument.

          [¶11] Prior to the approval of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act in 1948 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, see Unif. Enf't of Foreign Judgments Act prefatory note (Nat'l Conference of Comm'rs on Unif. State Laws 1964), the only method for enforcing a foreign judgment in most states was through an action on the judgment. See Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 100 cmt. b (Am. Law Inst. 1971) (stating that " the method usually employed in this country for the enforcement of a foreign judgment for the payment of money is to bring a new action in the nature of debt upon the judgment in the forum State and to obtain a new judgment there" ); see alsoMilwaukee Cty. v. M. E. White Co., 296 U.S. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.