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Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego v. Hartley

December 5, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: M. James Lorenz United States District Court Judge


Plaintiff The Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego ("RDA") filed a Motion for a Turnover Order in Aid of Execution ("Motion") in an effort to obtain partial satisfaction of the default judgment in the amount of over $170,000, which was entered against Defendant Robin Hartley ("Hartley") on October 15, 2002. According to RDA, Hartley has not made any payment toward the judgment, and the judgment remains wholly unsatisfied.

The Motion seeks the turnover of a green 1998 Lincoln Navigator, Oregon license plate number YYH189, which is registered in Hartley's name but is in possession of Third Party Kimsonn Prom ("Prom"). At her judgment debtor examination, Prom explained she received the vehicle from Hartley on December 1, 2005 in satisfaction of a $3,000 debt he owed her. According to RDA, the vehicle had a Kelly Blue Book value of $15,000 at that time.

On May 31, 2006, the Motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Leo S. Papas for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(3). On September 20, 2006, Judge Papas issued a Report and Recommendation Granting Motion for Turnover Order in Aid of Execution and Recommending Injunction Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 708.180(d) ("Report and Recommendation"). Neither party objected to the Report and Recommendation.

A district judge "may accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision" on a dispositive matter prepared by a magistrate judge proceeding without the consent of the parties for all purposes. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). "The district judge to whom the case is assigned shall make a de novo determination . . . of any portion of the magistrate judge's disposition to which specific written objection has been made . . .." Id. The district judge need not review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations in the absence of objections. See United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc). However, review is not precluded in the absence of objections.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 69 provides for the enforcement of money judgments obtained in Federal Court "in accordance with the practice and procedure of the state in which the district court is held, . . .." Accordingly, California's detailed and comprehensive scheme, Enforcement of Judgments Law, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§ 680.101-724.260, governs the manner and extent to which civil judgments are enforceable. See Imperial Bank v. Pim Elec., Inc., 33 Cal. App. 4th 540, 546 (1995).

Under these provisions, a judgment creditor may apply to a court for a judgment debtor examination, which may include examination of third parties in possession or control of the debtor's property:

Examination proceedings (also called proceedings in aid of execution or supplementary proceedings) are one of several special procedures designed to aid judgment creditors. They permit the judgment creditor to examine the judgment debtor, or third persons who have property of or are indebted to the judgment debtor, in order to discover property and apply it toward the satisfaction of the money judgment.

Id. at 546-47. In examination proceedings, the court "may order the person examined, be it the judgment debtor or a third person, to deliver property or funds to a levying officer or directly to the judgment creditor." Id. at 547; see also Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 708.205 (third party orders).

RDA examined Prom pursuant to this procedure, discovered she was in possession of Hartley's vehicle, and that she asserted an interest in the vehicle, since she claimed she received it from Hartley in repayment of a debt he owed her. RDA filed the instant Motion in an attempt to obtain turnover of the vehicle and its related documents of title. (Mot. at 4.)

On August 10, 2006, the Magistrate Judge held a hearing on the Motion. Prom appeared and claimed she had an interest in Navigator.*fn1 (R&R at 3.) On September 19, 2006, the Magistrate Judge held another hearing on RDA's Motion, Prom again appeared, and she again claimed an interest in the vehicle. (R&R at 3.)

One of the procedures applicable to this circumstance is embodied in section 708.180, which authorizes the court to determine the interests in the property when a third party claims an interest adverse to the judgment debtor.*fn2 Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 708.180(a); see also Evans v. Paye, 32 Cal. App. 4th 265 (1995).

The Magistrate Judge did not make a determination of the interests in the Navigator. Based on the evidence before him, he recommended an order issue pursuant to section 708.180(d), forbidding Prom from transferring or otherwise disposing of the Navigator until such a determination could be made. (R&R at 4.) In order to make this recommendation, the Magistrate Judge must have "determine[d] that the judgment debtor probably owns an interest in the property." Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 708.180(d). Although he does not expressly make this finding in the Report and Recommendation, the court finds it is implied, since it is legally required and reasonably supported by the record. Accordingly, the Report and Recommendation MODIFIED to include this requisite finding as a proposed finding, which this court adopts.

The proposed section 708.180(d) injunction does not afford RDA the relief sought in its Motion, since RDA sought a turnover order pursuant to section 708.205(a). Accordingly, the Report and Recommendation is MODIFIED to the extent it recommends that RDA's Motion be granted at this time. The Magistrate Judge found "there is a factual dispute regarding the ownership of the Navigator, which cannot be resolved until the Court determines the interests in the Navigator." (R&R at 4.) Based on this finding, a turnover order can not issue at this time. ...

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