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MacIntyre v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 10, 2019



          Daniel D. Domenico United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Attorney Fees (Doc. 41), filed August 8, 2019. On September 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion, and on September 26, 2019, Defendant filed its reply. (Docs. 50, 56.)[1] For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART.


         Plaintiff Holly MacIntyre was the owner of real residential property in Jefferson County, Colorado. Defendant JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. (“Chase”)-claiming to be the holder of a promissory note secured by the property-sought a judgment permitting it to conduct a foreclosure sale of the property. In this case, Ms. MacIntyre alleged that during the trial in state court, Chase produced a forged note bearing signatures not made by the parties to which they were attributed-so as to fraudulently cause the sale. Chase disputed the allegations, and, after weighing the evidence, the state court concluded that Chase was the holder of the note and issued a judgment of judicial foreclosure against Ms. MacIntyre. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed. Eventually, the Colorado Supreme Court dismissed her appeal as moot on Ms. MacIntyre's own motion after the property was sold.

         On January 18, 2019, proceeding pro se, Ms. MacIntyre filed this case alleging that “Chase's fraud in the foreclosure proceeding has caused [her] extraordinary financial damage.” Chase filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Ms. MacIntyre filed a motion to vacate the state court judgment in the Court of Appeals, which ordered: “Appellant's motion to vacate the judgment as moot is denied. Case was mandated on January 4, 2017. No. further motion to vacate will be considered.” (Doc. 22-1, at 2.) On June 28, this Court granted Chase's motion to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which prevents federal court review of state court proceedings. (Docs. 30, 35.). On August 8, Chase filed this motion for attorneys' fees under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-17-201 (“Section 201”).


         Plaintiff denies that Section 201 is applicable to this action. She argues that 28 U.S.C. § 1919 (“Section 1919”), which permits courts to order payment of just costs (but not attorneys' fees) after a jurisdictional dismissal, instead governs. She also argues that Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-17-102(6) (“Section 102”), limiting when fees can be collected from a pro se party, prohibits Chase from collecting attorneys' fees from her. She has not contested the reasonableness of the fees Chase requests.

         The Court is somewhat sympathetic to Ms. MacIntyre, though her current predicament is of her own making. In a prior proceeding in state court, Chase foreclosed upon her house. Since then, Ms. MacIntyre has traversed through different cases and courts seeking to undo that outcome. Such was her purpose here. But despite Chase's warnings to her, through conferral and motion practice, of the inefficacy of her claims in this Court, she continued. As Chase maintained, the Court had no authority, under these circumstances, to undo the state proceeding or its outcome. And because, as explained below, Ms. MacIntyre's legal contentions in response to the present motion are meritless, this case, rather than help her cause, will cause her additional financial hardship.

         A. Inapplicability of Section 1919

         Ms. MacIntyre calls Chase's invocation of Section 201 a “distraction.” She believes Section 1919 controls and preempts Section 201. She even cites Colorado ethical rules she finds implicated by Chase's failure to disclose Section 1919. See Colo. R. Prof. C. 3.3(a)(2) (“A lawyer shall not knowingly . . . fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel.”). She notes to the Court that there “is not a single reported case in the history of American jurisprudence in which attorney's fees have been awarded under § 1919.” Castillo Grand, LLC v. Sheraton Operating Corp., 719 F.3d 120, 124 (2d Cir. 2013). She believes, therefore, that she cannot be liable for attorneys' fees here.

         Ms. MacIntyre is mistaken. Section 1919 has nothing to do with the instant motion and does not preempt Section 201. Section 1919 states: “Whenever any action or suit is dismissed in any district court . . . for want of jurisdiction, such court may order the payment of just costs.” A plain reading of the statute, as Chase notes, reveals it gives the Court authority to order payment of costs. It does not prohibit the Court from ordering payment of reasonable attorneys' fees. Attorneys' fees are not mentioned in Section 1919, so the Court is not surprised that no other court has used it to award them. Attorneys' fees and costs are discrete forms of litigation expense, separately awardable under certain circumstances. See U.S. ex rel. Grynberg v. Praxair, Inc., 389 F.3d 1038, 1056-57 (10th Cir. 2004) (discussing separate applicability of fee- and cost-shifting statutes permitting awards of litigation expenses in suits where, like here, federal courts are not authorized to decide the merits). Section 1919 is about costs; the motion in question here is about attorneys' fees.

         B. Applicability of Section 201

         In this case, Ms. MacIntyre brought a single tort claim under Colorado law. She alleged that “Chase's fraud in the foreclosure proceeding has caused [her] extraordinary financial damage by the irreversible loss of her primary residence, combined with her subsequent displacement due to eviction.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 36.) Chase moves for mandatory attorneys' fees under Section 201, which states in relevant part:

In all actions brought as a result of a death or an injury to person or property occasioned by the tort of any other person, where any such action is dismissed on motion of the defendant prior to trial under rule 12(b) of the Colorado rules of civil procedure, such defendant shall ...

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