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Real Estate Mortgage Network, Inc. v. Squillante

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 28, 2018

REAL ESTATE MORTGAGE NETWORK, INC.
v.
LAURA SQUILLANTE ET AL.

          Argued April 16, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action to foreclose a mortgage on certain real property owned by the named defendant, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the defendants were defaulted for failure to plead; thereafter, the court, Wahla, J., granted the plaintiff's motion for a judgment of strict foreclosure and rendered judgment thereon; subsequently, the court, Scholl, J., granted the named defendant's motion to open and vacate the judgment; thereafter, the court, Scholl, J., denied the named defendant's motion to reopen and vacate the judgment; subsequently, the court, Wahla, J., denied the named defendant's motion to reopen the judgment and extend the law day, from which the named defendant appealed to this court. Improper form of judgment; judgment directed.

          Matthew S. Carlone, for the appellant (named defendant).

          Joseph R. Dunaj, with whom, on the brief, was S. Bruce Fair, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Harper, Js.

          OPINION

          DiPENTIMA, C. J.

         The defendant Laura Squillante[1]appeals from an order of the trial court denying her motion to reopen a judgment of strict foreclosure. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erred in denying her motion because, although it was filed approximately nine months after the applicable law day, title had not vested in the plaintiff, Real Estate Mortgage Network, Inc., and, thus, the court had jurisdiction to reopen the judgment of strict foreclosure. We do not agree.

         The following uncontroverted facts are relevant to this appeal. On March 7, 2013, the plaintiff commenced an action for strict foreclosure against the defendant. In its complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had executed a promissory note with a principal amount of $447, 700, secured by a mortgage on real property located at 32 Frazer Fir Road in South Windsor. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was in default, and, as holder of the mortgage and note, the plaintiff was electing to accelerate the balance of the note and foreclose on the mortgage.

         On January 7, 2015, following the expiration of the foreclosure mediation period, the defendant was defaulted for failure to plead. Five days later, on January 12, 2015, the trial court rendered a judgment of strict foreclosure and scheduled the law day for April 27, 2015. Prior to the law day, on April 22, 2015, the defendant filed a motion to open and vacate the judgment of foreclosure.[2] The court granted the defendant's motion on April 27, 2015, and extended the law day until June 8, 2015. Prior to the new law day, on June 3, 2015, the defendant filed a motion to reopen, citing similar grounds as those pleaded in her prior motion to open. The court denied her motion on June 8, 2015, but extended the law day to June 29, 2015. The law day passed without any appeal or additional motions being filed.

         Approximately nine months after the June 29, 2015 law day, on March 24, 2016, the defendant filed a second motion to reopen the judgment of strict foreclosure. In her motion, the defendant claimed that the court had jurisdiction to open the judgment because title had not vested in the plaintiff. Specifically, the defendant argued that the June 29, 2015 law day was invalid because it fell within the appeal period following the court's denial of the defendant's first motion to reopen.[3] Because the law day was purportedly invalid, the defendant contended that title could not vest even though no appeal was filed. The trial court disagreed and concluded that title had vested in the plaintiff following the June 29, 2015 law day. Accordingly, the trial court denied the defendant's motion as moot.

         In her appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erroneously denied her most recent motion to reopen because a law day set within an applicable appeal period is invalid. The defendant argues that, irrespective of whether an appeal is filed, title cannot vest following a law day that impermissibly shortens the period in which to appeal a court's ruling. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we conclude that the June 29, 2015 law day did not shorten the defendant's appeal period and was therefore valid. Because the law day was valid, title vested in the plaintiff, and the defendant's second motion to reopen was moot.

         We begin by setting forth the applicable standard of review for a claim that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. ‘‘When the court draws conclusions of law, our review is plenary and we must decide whether those conclusions are legally and logically correct.'' Continental Capital Corp. v. Lazarte, 57 Conn.App. 271, 273, 749 A.2d 646 (2000).

         Whether the trial court has jurisdiction to open a judgment of strict foreclosure is generally dependent on whether title has vested in the encumbrancer.[4] See General Statutes § 49-15 (a) (1) (upon written motion by interested person, court may open and modify any judgment of strict foreclosure as it deems reasonable, ‘‘provided no such judgment shall be opened after the title has become absolute in any encumbrancer'' [emphasis added]). ‘‘When a motion to open and a subsequent appeal from the denial of the motion to open are filed after title has vested in an encumbrancer, no practical relief can be granted and ...


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