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Smith v. Smith

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 12, 2018

SHARON KAY SMITH nka BERGMANN, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
VERNON K. SMITH, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Gerald F. Schroeder, District Judge.

         District court decision renewing judgments, affirmed.

          Law Office of Vernon K. Smith, Boise, for appellant. Vernon K. Smith argued.

          Swafford Law, PC, Idaho Falls, for respondent. Larren K. Covert argued.

          BURDICK, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         This consolidated appeal arises out of Ada County and involves the validity of two judgments and their subsequent renewals obtained by Sharon Smith, nka Sharon Bergmann (Sharon) against Vernon Kenneth Smith (Vernon). The judgments have remained unsatisfied, and Sharon has been granted renewals of the judgments every five years as required by the applicable statute.[1] In 2014, Sharon sought to collect on the judgments, and Vernon subsequently challenged the validity of the judgments and their renewals. The magistrate court determined the judgments were valid and any claims of improper renewal were barred by res judicata. Vernon appealed to the district court, which dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction and res judicata. In November 2016, while Vernon's initial appeal was pending, a magistrate judge once again renewed one judgment for an additional five years. Vernon appealed this renewal, which the district court again dismissed citing res judicata. Vernon appealed the district court's decisions and this Court consolidated both appeals. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Sharon and Vernon were divorced on February 11, 1991. On the same day, a magistrate judge entered a judgment awarding money and property to Sharon in the amount of $202, 526.13 (1991 judgment). To secure payment of the judgment, Sharon was granted a lien on all of the community property awarded to Vernon. The judgment was later amended on February 28, 1994, to exclude Sharon's attorney fees as a community debt, and subsequently was reduced to $194, 936.13.

         In 1996, Sharon filed a motion to renew the 1991 judgment, as it had not yet been satisfied. Vernon objected to the renewal, stating that no valid lien was created by the judgment because he had no real property for a lien to attach to, and thus without a valid lien the judgment could not be renewed. Justice McDevitt, sitting as a district judge pro tem, stated there was no requirement that the judgment be attached to some real property; rather, the statute only required the judgment be unsatisfied to be renewed. Because there was no dispute that the judgment was unsatisfied, Sharon's motion for renewal of the 1991 judgment was granted on November 5, 1996. Vernon appealed the renewal, and the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the renewal of the judgment. Smith v. Smith, 131 Idaho 800, 803, 964 P.2d 667, 670 (Ct. App. 1998). The judgment was subsequently renewed in 2001, 2006, and 2011. Vernon did not challenge any subsequent renewal.

         In January 1999, Sharon obtained a judgment against Vernon for child support and spousal maintenance (1999 judgment). The amount of the judgment was $25, 280.16 for child support and $9, 490.00 for spousal maintenance. This judgment was renewed in 2004, 2009, and 2014. Vernon did not appeal the 1999 judgment or any of the subsequent renewals.

         In May 2015, following the death of Vernon's mother, Sharon moved the court to appoint a receiver for a limited liability company solely owned by Vernon, to issue a temporary restraining order, and to issue a writ of execution. Sharon alleged Vernon had inherited the entirety of his mother's estate, and had transferred the inheritance to VHS Properties, LLC, of which Vernon was the sole member. Sharon alleged no payments had been made on the judgments and the total amount now owing with interest was $866, 285.20 on the 1991 judgment and $93, 940.16 on the 1999 judgment, as of March 20, 2015. In September 2015, Vernon objected and filed a petition for declaratory judgment to confirm the judgments void and unenforceable. Vernon subsequently moved for summary judgment on his motion for declaratory judgment. In February 2016, the magistrate court denied Vernon's motion for summary judgment, finding the judgments and renewals were valid, and claims of improper renewal were barred by res judicata.

         Vernon appealed the magistrate court's decision regarding the validity of the judgments to the district court. The district court dismissed Vernon's appeal. With regard to the 1991 judgment, the district court determined that because Vernon appealed the 1996 renewal, any issues he sought to raise which could have been asserted in that appeal were barred by res judicata. Additionally, the district court determined, the time for appealing the 1994 amendment and the renewals of the 1991 judgment had expired, and thus the court could not consider Vernon's assertions that the renewals were invalid. With regard to the 1999 judgment, the district court concluded that Vernon's failure to timely appeal the 1999 judgment or any of its renewals deprived the court of jurisdiction to consider his present appeal.

         While the initial appeal to the district court was pending, Vernon filed another notice of appeal challenging the most recent renewal of the 1991 judgment, which was granted by the magistrate court on November 17, 2016. The district court stated that the issues raised by Vernon in the second appeal either were identical to issues in the previous appeal, or could have been asserted in the previous appeal, and thus the appeal was dismissed. Vernon timely appealed to this Court. Both cases were consolidated for appeal and oral argument.

         II. ISSUES ON APPEAL

         1. Did the district court properly determine that the issues raised by Vernon on appeal regarding the 1991 judgment were barred by res judicata?

         2. Did the district court properly determine that Vernon's failure to timely appeal the 1999 judgment renewals deprived the court of jurisdiction to consider the validity of the renewals?

         3. Is Sharon entitled to attorney fees on appeal?

         III. ...


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