United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
JAMES A. YOCUM, JR., Plaintiff,
NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE, LLC, et al., Defendants.
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
G. CORNELIUS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the undersigned on the motion for sanctions
filed by Nationstar Mortgage, LLC (“Nationstar”),
on May 23, 2017. (Doc. 68). In its motion, Nationstar asserts
this action is due to be dismissed because Plaintiff has
repeatedly made false statements to the court.
(Id.). Nationstar also seeks attorneys' fees and
costs. (Id.). The motion is fully briefed and ripe
for review. (Docs. 72, 73). For the reasons discussed below,
the undersigned recommends dismissal without prejudice as an
appropriate sanction and further recommends the court retain
jurisdiction to determine whether costs, including
attorneys' fees and expenses, should be taxed to
Plaintiff James A. Yocum, Jr.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
First Amended Complaint
James Yocum initiated this action pro se by filing a
verified complaint in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County,
Alabama, on April 18, 2014. (Doc. 1-1 at 2). Nationstar
removed this case to federal court on May 23, 2014. (Doc. 1).
On May 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint
(the “FAC”). (Doc. 5). In the FAC, Plaintiff
asserted claims against Nationstar and Renasant Bank
(“Renasant”) pursuant to the Real Estate
Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et
seq. (“RESPA”), the Truth in Lending Act, 15
U.S.C. §§ 1601 et seq.
(“TILA”), and the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq.
(“FDCPA”). (Id.). Mr. Yocum also sought
a declaratory judgment that he has a right to undisturbed
possession of the subject property (the
“Property”) and asserted a state law claim to
quiet title against Nationstar and Renasant pursuant to Ala.
Code § 6-6-560 et seq. (Id.).
January 15, 2016, the undersigned entered a report
recommending all claims be dismissed without prejudice and
that Plaintiff be permitted to file a final complaint
“satisfactorily address[ing] the deficiencies” in
his FAC. (Doc. 33 at 21). After objections were received,
U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala entered a memorandum
opinion and order. (Doc. 39). The order adopted the findings
and recommendations in the report, with the exception that
Mr. Yocum's quiet title action was found to state a claim
upon which relief could be granted against Renasant Bank.
(Id. at 5-6).
Plaintiff objected to the undersigned's recommendation
that he be limited to one final amendment, the court
overruled his objection and found that “[g]iven Mr.
Yocum's extensive litigation in Yocum v. BAC Home
Loans Servicing LP, 2:10-cv-02574-AKK and the bankruptcy
actions,  and his previous amendment in this action,
justice and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) do not
require more than one additional opportunity to amend.”
(Id. at 12). The court dismissed without prejudice
the remaining claims in Mr. Yocum's complaint, stating,
“Mr. Yocum may replead those claims in accordance with
the guidance provided in the magistrate judge's report
and recommendation and this memorandum opinion and
Second Amended Complaint
October 11, 2016, Plaintiff, through counsel, filed a second
amended complaint (the “SAC”). (Doc. 51). In the
SAC, which consists of 213 pages, Plaintiff added several
parties and claims, contrary to the instructions of the
report and recommendation and the district judge's
memorandum opinion and order. Specifically, Plaintiff added
defendants Bank of America, N.A.; Sirote & Permutt, PC;
Ginny Rutledge; and Andy Saag. He also added various claims,
including claims under sections of the FDCPA which had not
been raised in the FAC. In a report and recommendation entered
following a hearing held with the parties, the undersigned
expressed the view that the SAC went well beyond the scope
permitted by the district judge's memorandum opinion and
order. (Doc. 64). The undersigned recommended the SAC be
struck to the extent it exceeded the court's instructions
and that only those claims asserted in the FAC, as repleaded
in the second amended complaint, be permitted to proceed.
(Id. at 2). The report and recommendation as to the
SAC remains pending.
Plaintiff's False Allegations And Related Facts
Plaintiff's statements and omissions in the instant
SAC, Plaintiff alleges he “has superior title to the
subject real property in fee simple title, by virtue of a
Statutory Warranty Deed granted to him by Patricia Morris
Yocum on November 7, 2000…” (Doc. 51 at
This deed was granted to Plaintiff by virtue of a final
divorce judgment recorded in Jefferson County on November 15,
2000. (Id. at 4). No party disputes this transfer
occurred and was valid.
further alleges he executed a mortgage and note in favor of
Renasant Bank in 2005. (Id.). Following several
transfers of the mortgage, which Plaintiff contends were
fraudulent or otherwise defective, Nationstar eventually
became involved as a servicer of the note. (See,
e.g., Doc. 51 at 24-27). Yocum's remaining
allegations and claims are directed at the conduct of the
defendants, including the individual attorney defendants, as
they corresponded with Plaintiff and took other actions
toward foreclosing on the mortgage and forcing a sale of the
Property. Generally speaking, Plaintiff alleges the
defendants' representations in their correspondence and
legal process were false, misleading, or fraudulent because
they misrepresented the defendants' status and interest
in the debt and the Property or because they failed to follow
the proper procedures in seeking to enforce whatever interest
they rightfully had. These allegations are offered in support
of Plaintiff's FDCPA, RESPA, and TILA claims; his quiet
title and declaratory judgment claims seek to have the court
establish Plaintiff's ownership of the Property.
motion for sanctions, Nationstar asserts Plaintiff conveyed
the Property in fee simple to the 3417 Danner Circle Trust
(the “Danner Circle Trust”) by executing a
statutory warranty deed on March 24, 2010. (Doc. 68-1 at 1).
The mailing address for the Danner Circle Trust is listed on
the statutory warranty deed as “PMB 364, 1919 Oxmoor
Road, Birmingham, AL 35209.” (Id. at 2). The
statutory warranty deed was recorded in Jefferson County on
March 25, 2010. (Id. at 3).
5, 2010, Plaintiff executed a quitclaim deed, conveying any
remaining interest in the Property from Plaintiff to the
Danner Circle Trust. (Doc. 68-1 at 4). The quitclaim deed
lists the Danner Circle Trust's address as 3417 Danner
Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243. (Id.). This deed
describes the trust as a “private contract trust”
and identifies the trustee as Cynthia G. Beeckman.
(Id.). No further details about the nature of the
trust or its terms are listed. (Id.). The quitclaim
deed includes language which purports to
“Mortgagee(s), Successor Mortgagee(s), Substituted
Mortgagee, Agent(s), Servicer(s), Assign(s), Transfer(s),
known and unknown.” (Id. at 5). This language
specifically mentions Renasant Bank, Bank of America, N.A.,
Capital South Bank, Iberia Bank, and MERS. (Id.).
The quitclaim deed was recorded in Jefferson County on May 6,
2010. (Id. at 4).
did not disclose these facts in his pleadings. At the time
the motion for sanctions was filed, there had been no further
conveyances of the Property since 2010, and it appeared the
Trust was still the owner of the Property. (Doc. 68 at 7).
Nevertheless, Plaintiff stated in his initial verified
complaint that he “was and is the owner of the
property” and he had never sold or intended to
irrevocably grant or convey the Property to any party. (Doc.
1-1 at ¶¶ 7, 13-14). Yocum made identical
allegations as to his ownership of the Property in the FAC.
(Doc. 5). Because the documents creating the Danner Circle
Trust are not before the court, the undersigned cannot
evaluate whether Plaintiff could be considered the owner of
the property. However, it is clear from the conveyance by
statutory warranty deed, and later by quitclaim deed, that
Plaintiff did intend to convey the Property to another party
- i.e., the Danner Circle Trust or its trustee, Cynthia
light of the district judge's order that he would be
permitted one final opportunity to amend, Plaintiff was
granted several extensions of time to obtain counsel and
amend his complaint. (Docs. 43, 47, 49). On October 11, 2016,
Plaintiff filed the SAC and alleged the same facts regarding
ownership and conveyance of the Property as he made in the
initial complaint and FAC. Specifically, he stated:
Plaintiff, is at all times herein mentioned the
owner and/or entitled to possession of the property
located at 3417 Danner Circle, Birmingham, AL 35243…
Plaintiff is, and has been, in continuous possession of the
Property. … Plaintiff does not have a landlord-tenant
relationship with any person. Plaintiff has never
sold the Property, and has never intended to irrevocably
grant or convey the Property to any party.
(Doc. 51 at 198) (emphasis added). Plaintiff also stated the
The Plaintiff herein claims he has superior title to the
subject real property in fee simple title, by virtue of a
Statutory Warranty Deed granted to him by Patricia Morris
Yocum on November 7, 2000 ….
(Doc. 51 at 3).
Plaintiff's statements and omissions in other
Nationstar points out in its motion for sanctions, Plaintiff
has made similar statements about the Property in the course
of litigation in other venues. Shortly following the 2010
conveyances to the Danner Circle Trust, Plaintiff filed for
bankruptcy in the Northern District of Alabama
(“Bankruptcy I”). In re: James
Albert Yocum, Jr., No. 10-04284-BGC-13 (Bankr. N.D. Ala.
filed Jul. 15, 2010). On July 30, 2010, Plaintiff
filed a schedule in which he listed the Property as his
homestead and stated his interest in it was worth $400, 000.
Bankruptcy I at Doc. 23, p. 3; see also
(Doc. 68-4). In his statement of financial affairs filed the
same day, Plaintiff stated he had made no “other
transfers” besides those listed, which did not include
the transfers of the Property. (Doc. 68-4 at 20). He stated
he had not transferred any other property “either
absolutely or as security within two years immediately
preceding” the commencement of the 2010 bankruptcy
case. (Id.). Notably, in that same section,
Plaintiff further stated he had not transferred any property
within the last ten years to any “self-settled trust or
similar device of which [he] is a beneficiary.”
two months after filing Bankruptcy I, Plaintiff,
proceeding pro se, filed a civil action in this
court (“Yocum I”), centered on the same
Property at issue here. Yocum v. BAC Home Loans
Servicing, LP, 2:10-cv-02574-AKK (N.D. Ala.
filed September 22, 2010). On March 9, 2011, another
judge in this district struck Plaintiff's amended
complaint and warned him about his failure to comply
with the rules of pleading. Id. at Doc. 13. He was
specifically admonished to pay heed to Rule 11's standard
regarding factual allegations. Id. at 5.
2011, Plaintiff filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy again
(“Bankruptcy II”). In re: James
Albert Yocum, Jr., No. 11-01997-BGC-13 (Bankr. N.D. Ala.
filed Apr. 8, 2011). On April 8, 2011, Plaintiff
filed a Schedule A in which he stated, as he had done in
Bankruptcy I, that his interest in the Property was
valued at $400, 000. Id. at Doc. 2, p. 3; see
also (Doc. 68-5).
2012, Plaintiff filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy
(“Bankruptcy III”). In re: James
Albert Yocum, Jr., No. 12-00008-BGC-7 (Bankr. N.D. Ala.
filed Jan. 3, 2012). Plaintiff made similar statements
in this petition as he made in his previous bankruptcy
filings. (Doc. 68-6). On March 20, 2013, Bankruptcy
III was closed without discharge upon the court's
finding that Plaintiff had “concealed records,
if there were ...