United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge
Bank brought suit against Jennifer Pike seeking a declaratory
judgment that its mortgage on her property is not subject to
her homestead interest or, alternatively, that Deutsche Bank
is entitled to equitable subrogation for the amount it paid
to satisfy a prior mortgage. Pike brought counterclaims,
seeking to quiet title in the property in her favor and a
declaratory judgment that she retains a homestead right in
case was scheduled for a bench trial. Prior to trial and
based on the parties' pretrial filings and briefs, the
court dismissed Deutsche Bank's equitable subrogation
claim. At the final pretrial conference, counsel for Deutsche
Bank asked for an opportunity to move for reconsideration of
the decision to deny Deutsche Bank's equitable
subrogation claim. Counsel and the court agreed that the only
other issue in the case was the effect of the divorce decree
on Pike's homestead right and agreed that this is a legal
issue which does not require a trial. The court granted
Deutsche Bank the opportunity to move for reconsideration of
the decision to dismiss its equitable subrogation claim.
Deutsche Bank filed its motion, and Pike filed a response.
The court denied the motion for reconsideration.
agreed during the final pretrial conference, the court
directed Pike to file an additional brief on the issue of the
effect of the divorce decree on her homestead right and
provided time for Deutsche Bank to respond. Both the
additional brief and the response have been filed. Therefore,
the question of whether the divorce extinguished Pike's
homestead interest in the property, the only remaining issue
in the case, has been briefed and is ready for ruling.
of 2000, William T. Pike, Jr. married Jennifer who became
Jennifer L. Pike. On August 15, 2001, William bought the
property at issue in this case, 34 Dogwood Lane, New London,
New Hampshire. The purchase was financed in part with a
mortgage from Mascoma Savings Bank.
the property was conveyed between William and Jennifer and to
and from a revocable trust and was mortgaged twice after the
initial purchase. The last mortgage was granted by William
in 2004 to secure a loan from First Franklin Financial
Corporation. Jennifer did not sign the First Franklin loan or
mortgage. The First Franklin mortgage was assigned to
Deutsche Bank in 2009.
and William were divorced on July 3, 2013. At that time,
William owned the property. Jennifer was living at the
property with their son, Charlie.
Final Decree of Divorce provided, with respect to the
property, that it was awarded to Jennifer "free and
clear of any interest of William Pike." Despite the
"free and clear" language, the decree continued on
to state that "Jennifer may remain in the home until it
goes into foreclosure, or Charlie graduates high school. The
Parties will share equally any equity in the home."
William was required to share equally in the costs of repairs
to the home.
transferred the property to Jennifer by deed on July 26,
2013. The deed was recorded on August 8, 2013.
Bank's remaining claim seeks a declaratory judgment that
its mortgage on the property is not subject to Jennifer's
homestead interest in the property. In her remaining
counterclaims, Jennifer seeks to quiet title in the property
in her favor under RSA 498:5-a and seeks a declaratory
judgment that she retains her homestead right in the
property. William is not and has never been a party in this
Bank contends that the divorce decree extinguished
Jennifer's homestead interest in the property as of July
3, 2013, and that when Jennifer acquired a new homestead
interest on July 26, 2013, the new homestead interest was
subject to the preexisting First Franklin mortgage. Jennifer
contends that the divorce decree did not extinguish her
homestead interest in the property because she was living at
the property and was granted an interest in the property by
the divorce decree. As a result, Jennifer argues, her
homestead interest survived the divorce and is superior to
the First Franklin mortgage. Deutsche Bank argues that the
law of the case doctrine precludes the court from considering
Jennifer's theory that her homestead right was not
extinguished by the divorce.
Law of the Case Doctrine
of the case doctrine "posits that when a court decides
upon a rule of law, that decision should continue to govern
the same issues in subsequent stages in the same case."
Harlow v. Children's Hosp., 432 F.3d 50, 55 (1st
Cir. 2005) . A district court, nevertheless, retains the
power to reconsider its interlocutory orders. Perez-Ruiz
v. Crespo-Guillen, 25 F.3d 40, 42 (1st Cir. 1994). For
that reason, the law of the case doctrine "'merely
expresses the practice of courts generally to refuse to
reopen what has been decided, not a limit to their
power.'" Harlow, ...