Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The underlying dispute in this case concerned a mortgage purported granted by Andrew and Maureen DeMore to the predecessor in interest to HSBC Bank, USA, N.A. on a parcel of property owned by the DeMores. This appeal came by way of bankruptcy court after each of the DeMores filed separate voluntary petitions for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. Donald Lassman, as trustee for the DeMores’ bankruptcy cases, filed adversary actions against HSBC to avoid the mortgage, arguing that the mortgage on the DeMores’ property was voidable under Massachusetts state law because the certificate of acknowledgment was “materially defective.” Specifically, Lassman asserted that the certificate failed to make clear that the DeMores executed the mortgage as their free act and deed. The Bankruptcy Court granted summary judgment to Lassman. The district court reversed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the certificate of acknowledgment was not materially defective because it made clear that the DeMores had executed the mortgage as their free act and deed. View "HSBC Bank USA, N.A. v. Lassman" on Justia Law

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Edythe Dyer executed a promissory note to Dreamhouse Mortgage Corporation and granted a mortgage on her property in Boston, Massachusetts to Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS). MERS assigned the mortgage to U.S. Bank. Wells Fargo was U.S. Bank’s servicer of the loan. U.S. Bank later notified Dyer that it intended to foreclose on the property by utilizing the statutory power of sale provided for in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183, 21. Dyer filed suit naming U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo as defendants, arguing, inter alia, that U.S. Bank was not a proper party to utilize the statutory power of sale. The case was removed to federal court, where the parties consented to a proceeding before a magistrate judge. The magistrate judge granted Defendants’ motion for judgment of the pleadings and dismissed all of Dyer’s claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) U.S. Bank was authorized to exercise the statutory power of sale; and (2) the magistrate judge correctly dismissed Dyer’s Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A claim against Wells Fargo. View "Dyer v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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At issue in this dispute was a piece of real estate, called Long Wharf, that juts into Boston Harbor. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) wished to develop the Long Wharf pavilion, which stands at the northern side of the Wharf, for commercial purposes, but the National Park Service (NPS) refused to grant the BRA permission to do so on the ground that the land remain open for recreational use. The BRA sued NPS and the Secretary of the Interior under the Land and Water Conservation Funds Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the decision of the NPS was supported by substantial evidence and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "Boston Redevelopment Auth. v. Nat'l Park Serv." on Justia Law

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When Plaintiff observed that a company named 110, Inc. was operating a substance abuse treatment facility next door to his residence, he argued that the Town of Wenham’s unilateral, non-public approval of 110, Inc.’s use was unlawful. Plaintiff filed a complaint in state court, alleging four causes of action. The Town removed the case to federal court. The district court subsequently granted the Town’s motion to dismiss some of Plaintiff’s claims. The court concluded that the complaint failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for the deprivation of property without due process and that Plaintiff’s declaratory judgment claim had been rendered moot. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff’s federal claim, holding that Plaintiff was not deprived of any constitutionally protected property interest without due process of law; (2) vacated the district court’s determination that one state law claim was moot; and (3) otherwise affirmed the remand of the remaining state law claim to state court. View "Miller v. Town of Wenham, Mass." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a citizen enforcement action under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act against Defendants, the owner of a neighboring parcel of land and the business operating on it, alleging that contaminated stormwater runoff from the property was being discharged into United States waters, contaminating Plaintiffs’ property, and that Defendants lacked a valid Rhode Island Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. After a trial, the district court concluded that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proof. Thereafter, the trial court granted Defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in excluding from evidence a portion of certain expert witness testimony as a result of Plaintiffs’ tardiness in filing the witness’s revised expert report; (2) the district court did not err in granting judgment for Defendants; and (3) the district court’s award of attorney’s fees was not a clear error of judgment. View "Paolino v. JF Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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After seeking a mortgage modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program Plaintiff filed a complaint against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Homeward Residential Inc., claiming breach of contract, unfair debt collection under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, and derivative equitable relief. A federal district court dismissed Plaintiff’s action in its entirety. The First Circuit vacated and remanded, holding that Plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently alleged that Defendants failed to offer her a mortgage modification in a timely manner and that Plaintiff had sufficiently pled damages for her Chapter 93A claim. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s breach of contract and Chapter 93A claims failed, and therefore, her derivative claim for equitable relief failed as well. View "Young v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Thomas and Frances Frangos (Plaintiffs) secured a loan and pledged their home as collateral to secure a promissory note issued to the lender. Plaintiffs defaulted on the mortgage twice. A foreclosure sale was scheduled, but on the eve of the sale, Plaintiffs filed suit. Plaintiffs sought an injunction permanently barring Bank of America, N.A. and New Penn Financial, LLC (Defendants) from foreclosing, as well as damages premised on an alleged breached of a provision in the mortgage agreement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in its judgment. View "Frangos v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Plaintiff, a participant in the Section 8 Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, listed among her assets a trust that had been established in 2010 to hold Plaintiff's proceeds from a series of tort settlements. The Brookline Housing Authority (BHA) subsequently determined that Plaintiff was “over-income” for continued participation in the Program, as locally administered by the BHA. Plaintiff appealed, requesting that the BHA exclude at least some of these trust disbursements from its income calculation in reasonable accommodation of her disability. The BHA reaffirmed its determination. Thereafter, Plaintiff sued, alleging that the BHA had violated state and federal law by incorrectly calculating her income under the relevant federal regulations and by engaging in disability-based discrimination. The district court ruled in favor of BHA. The First Circuit (1) reversed the district court’s ruling on Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim brought under the Housing Act, holding that the BHA misconstrued federal regulations in calculating Plaintiff’s income; (2) vacated the district court’s ruling on Plaintiff’s state and federal discrimination claims and remanded with instructions to dismiss those claims as moot; and (3) affirmed the district court’s denial of Plaintiff’s remaining claims. Remanded. View "DeCambre v. Brookline Housing Auth." on Justia Law

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When Carlo Gimenez Bianco (Gimenez) refused to remove his emotional support dog from his condominium unit in violation of the Castillo Condominium Association’s “no pets” bylaw, the Association forced Gimenez to vacate and sell the unit. Gimenez brought a complaint of disability discrimination with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which filed a charge of discrimination against the Association. An administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a recommended decision concluding that the Association had not violated the Fair Housing Act. The Secretary of HUD set aside the ALJ’s recommended decision and found the Association liable for discrimination. On remand, the ALJ issued a recommended decision proposing to award Gimenez $3,000 in emotional distress damages and assessed a $2,000 civil penalty against the Association. The Secretary increased the proposed award of emotional distress damages to $20,000 and increased the civil penalty to $16,000. The First Circuit denied the Association’s petition for review and granted the Secretary’s cross-petition for enforcement of his order, holding (1) the Secretary’s final order was supported by substantial evidence in the record; (2) the ALJ did not err in refusing to apply res judicata to pretermit Gimenez’s HUD charge; and (3) the Secretary’s final order was not tainted by procedural error. View "Castillo Condo. Ass’n v. U.S. Dep’t of Housing & Urban Dev." on Justia Law

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In a criminal prosecution in a New York district court, a federal grand jury indicted Appellant on drug-trafficking and money laundering charges. Appellant pleaded guilty to money laundering violations. The government, meanwhile, instituted a forfeiture action in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico to litigate forfeiture issues related to the criminal charges. The government asserted that several parcels of real estate and Appellant’s interests in certain businesses were forfeitable but did not mention Appellant’s interest in a professional basketball team (the Franchise). The parties eventually reached a settlement, but the settlement agreement did not mention the Franchise. Years later, Appellant filed this motion for execution of judgment seeking compensation for the government’s alleged seizure of the franchise ancillary to the criminal case. The government alleged that it had never seized the franchise. The district court denied Appellant’s motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to establish that the Franchise was seized. View "United States v. Rivera-Ortiz" on Justia Law