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Carol A. Filicetti v. United States of America

February 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Edward J. Lodge U. S. District Judge



This case involves a dispute between the United States and Carol Filicetti, the ex-wife of taxpayer Joe Filicetti.*fn1 Joe is not a party to this action, but he failed to pay his 2005 federal income taxes and in 2008, the government filed a notice of tax lien against him. Carol seeks a determination that the tax lien did not attach to her home.

The parties cross-moved for summary judgment (Dkts. 20, 27) and the matter has been fully briefed. The Court has determined oral argument would not assist the decision-making process and will decide this motion without a hearing. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant Carol's motion and deny the government's motion.


Carol and Joe Filicetti divorced in December 2005. The divorce decree awarded the Filicettis' home to Carol, though she agreed to pay Joe 50 percent of the equity if she sold it within three years. Specifically, the divorce decree provides:

Carol is awarded the parties' residence at 2323 Woodlawn. . . .

In the event Carol sells the residence within three (3) years from the date of entry of this Decree, she agrees to split any equity received from said sale after the payment of the remaining balance on the first mortgage and any costs associated with the sale of the property equally between her and Joe. Three years and one day after the Judgment and Decree of Divorce is entered the property shall be Carol's and either retained or sold at her discretion, with her retaining all of the proceeds therefrom.

Divorce Decree, Ex. C to Parker Dec., Dkt. 31-3, ¶ 4.

Carol did not sell the house during the three years after the divorce decree was entered. But she did not record the divorce decree with the county recorder until October 2010, nearly five years after entry of the divorce decree. Meanwhile, Joe did not pay his federal income taxes for 2005, and in September 2008, the government filed a notice of federal tax lien against Joe for unpaid taxes.*fn2 This quiet title action ensued. Carol seeks a determination that the federal tax lien cannot attach to her home.


A. The Legal Standard

Motions for summary judgment are governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 56 provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

The party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of showing there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). Material facts are those necessary to the proof or defense of a claim, and are determined by reference to substantive law. Id. at 248. A fact issue is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Once the moving party has met its initial burden, the nonmoving party has the burden of presenting evidence to show that a genuine issue of fact remains. The party opposing the motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of her pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 248. If the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial" then summary judgment is proper as "there can be no 'genuine issue of material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322--23 (1986).*fn3

In applying the above standard, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Additionally, when parties cross-move for summary judgment, the Court will consider each motions on its own merits. Fair Housing Council v. Riverside Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1136 (9th Cir. 2001). Nonetheless, in ruling on cross-motions, the Court will consider the entirety of each party's ...

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