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Federal National Mortgage Association v. Epperson

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department C

October 1, 2013

FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff/Appellee,
v.
HAROLD EPPERSON and LEA EPPERSON, Defendants/Appellants.

Not for Publication – Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. CV2012-005014 The Honorable James R. Morrow, Judge Pro Tempore.

Tiffany & Bosco, P.A. Phoenix By David Cowles William M. Fischbach, III Attorneys for Plaintiff/Appellee.

Rhoads & Associates, PLC Phoenix By Douglas C. Rhoads Attorney for Defendants/Appellants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

PATRICIA A. OROZCO, Judge.

¶1 Harold and Lea Epperson (the Eppersons) appeal a judgment in favor of Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) on its forcible detainer claim. The Eppersons' arguments on appeal relate primarily to the issue of the legitimacy of title. The Eppersons also argue that the judgment of eviction was void because the trial court was deprived of jurisdiction by their pending appeal to the Ninth Circuit of a non-appealable remand order. Because parties may not litigate the issue of title in a forcible detainer action, and the trial court retained jurisdiction over the case despite the Eppersons' improper appeal, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 FNMA filed and served a forcible detainer complaint alleging the Eppersons refused to surrender real property that FNMA had purchased at a trustee's sale. The Eppersons responded by filing a notice of removal to federal court. The federal court remanded the matter to the trial court for lack of federal jurisdiction. The Eppersons purported to appeal the remand to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit instructed the Eppersons to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. In the meantime, in the trial court, the Eppersons filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction based upon their appeal of the district court's remand order. Notwithstanding their motion, the Eppersons continued to participate before the trial court by making various filings, including a motion to strike the complaint and exhibits, and a supplemental answer and counterclaim.

¶3 FNMA moved for judgment on the pleadings and to dismiss the counterclaim.[1] The trial court denied the Eppersons' motion to dismiss and their motion to strike. It granted FNMA's motions to dismiss the counterclaim and for judgment on the pleadings, finding the Eppersons guilty of forcible detainer and awarding FNMA immediate possession of the property.

¶4 The Eppersons timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) 12-2101(A)(1)(Supp. 2012).

DISCUSSION

¶5 The Eppersons contend that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because they were not properly served by the real party in interest, and they had appealed the federal court's remand order to the Ninth Circuit. The Eppersons also contend that the documents used by FNMA to foreclose on their home were fabricated, thus they had the right to litigate whether FNMA had standing to foreclose. They further assert that their due process rights were violated because FNMA's attorneys did not exercise the due diligence and good faith required by the Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions (RPEA) 4(a)-(b) and RPEA 11. Specifically, the Eppersons argue that FNMA's attorneys were required to examine the recorded documents. If they had, the Eppersons argue, FNMA would have detected the alleged fabrication and the invalidity of FNMA's title to the property prior to filing the action. Finally, the Eppersons maintain that FNMA lacked standing because it was not the real party in interest, again, based upon the alleged improprieties of the underlying non-judicial foreclosure.

¶6 Our review of a judgment on the pleadings requires us to treat the allegations of the complaint as true, but we review issues of law de novo. Giles v. Hill Lewis Marce, 195 Ariz. 358, 359, 988 P.2d 143, 144 (App. 1999); Nielson v. ...


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