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 Post subject: FT - Runez v. Seaton (8/29/2005)
PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:58 pm 

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Fildres Runez v. Guy Roland Seaton III,
No. A106501 (Cal.App. 08/29/2005)



2005 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7731

August 29, 2005, Filed


PRIOR HISTORY: Alameda County Super. Ct. No. H206508-7.

JUDGES: Sepulveda, J.; Kay, P.J., Reardon, J. concurred.

OPINIONBY: Sepulveda

OPINION: Respondent Fildres Runez has a money judgment against appellant Guy Roland Seaton III arising out of Seaton's family-owned company's default on a commercial lease for residential care facilities. In previous proceedings in this case, the trial court found that Seaton fraudulently conveyed the family residence to his wife to evade payment of the judgment. The trial court voided the transfer, and deemed the family residence community property for purposes of satisfying the judgment. We affirmed that ruling. (Seaton v. Runez(June 30, 2004, A103681) [nonpub. opn.].) This appeal concerns the trial court's subsequent order directing the sale of Seaton's family residence to satisfy the money judgment against him. ( [*2] Code Civ. Proc., § 704.740 et seq.) Seaton's primary claim on appeal is that the residence is not community property, and thus only his interest in the property may be sold. We reject Seaton's claim and affirm the order.


This appeal is the latest in a long line of appeals arising out of the default on financial obligations by Seaton and his family-owned companies, and related controversies. n1 In this case, Runez applied to the trial court for an order directing the sale of Seaton's Hayward family residence to satisfy a 1999 monetary judgment against Seaton. (Code Civ. Proc., § 704.750.) Following a hearing, the court granted the application in April 2004. The court found the fair market value of the house to be $ 1,025,000, and ordered it sold and the bulk of the proceeds distributed to identified lienholders. (Code Civ. Proc., § 704.850.) The court awarded Seaton and his wife, Jacqueline Seaton, a homestead exemption of $ 125,000 from the sale proceeds. (Code Civ. Proc., § 704.720.) The balance of the sale proceeds were ordered held until [*3] Runez, the judgment creditor, established the status of claims by other lienholders. Seaton appealed the court's order in May 2004, and the parties completed briefing in June 2005.

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n1 Seaton v. Hand (Sept. 15, 2004, A106378) [nonpub. opn.]; Seaton v. Runez (Aug. 20, 2004, A104302) [nonpub. opn.]; Runez v. Seaton (July 28, 2004, A104668) [nonpub. opn.]; Seaton v. Runez, supra, A103681; Fremont Bank v. Subacute Medical Services (July 28, 2003, A100711) [nonpub. opn.]; Runez v. Cedar Village, Inc. (Sept. 9, 2002, A095450) [nonpub. opn.]; VGM Leasing, Inc. v. St. Luke's Subacute Hospital and Nursing Centre, Inc. (June 10, 2002, A095984) [nonpub. opn.]; Runez v. Grover (Aug. 31, 2000, A087232) [nonpub. opn.].

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Generally, a judgment against either spouse is enforceable against the couple's community property assets, and thus the entire community interest may be ordered sold to satisfy a judgment against one spouse. (Code Civ. Proc., § 695.020 [*4] ; Fam. Code, §§ 902, 910.) Community property assets differ from property owned by a married couple as joint tenants or tenants in common, where only the judgment debtor's interest may be sold. (Schoenfeld v. Norberg (1970) 11 Cal. App. 3d 755, 764, 90 Cal. Rptr. 47; see Socol v. King (1950) 36 Cal.2d 342, 345-346 [spouses may hold property as joint tenants]; Code Civ. Proc., § 704.820.) Seaton argues that he and his wife own their Hayward residence as tenants in common, and thus the trial court erred in ordering the entire property sold. Seaton relies upon the fact that the couple took title as tenants in common, as established by a 1991 grant deed of the property.

However, "it is well settled in this state that the form of the instrument under which a husband and wife hold title is not conclusive as to the status of the property and that property acquired under a joint tenancy deed may be shown to be actually community property or the separate property of one spouse according to the intention, understanding or agreement of the parties." (Socal, supra, 36 Cal.2d at p. 345.) [*5] Here, the Hayward residence was shown to be community property. In the trial court's judgment voiding Seaton's fraudulent transfer of the residence, the court ruled that the residence "is deemed owned by Guy Roland Seaton III and Jacqueline Seaton as community property. As a judgment creditor, Runez may levy upon said residence."

Seaton appealed that judgment to this court and argued, as he does now, that the trial court erred in deeming the Seatons' home to be community property because the evidence showed that the property was owned as tenancy in common prior to the fraudulent transfer. (Seaton v. Runez, supra, A103681 at p. 11.) Then, as now, Seaton relied upon the 1991 grant deed. (Ibid.) We noted that the issue was a disputed issue of fact that had been resolved against Seaton. (Ibid.) Evidence refuting the form of title set out in the 1991 deed included the Seatons' "own transmutation agreement, signed four years after the grant deed was recorded, [which] asserts that the home was held as community property." (Ibid.) We found that the trial court had jurisdiction to determine the status of the property, and affirmed its finding that the residence was community [*6] property upon concluding that the finding was supported by substantial evidence. (Ibid.)

In the absence of a retrial on materially different evidence, "an appellate court's decision on the sufficiency of the evidence becomes the law of the case, binding on a subsequent appeal . . . . " (Gibson v. State of California (1962) 208 Cal. App. 2d 458, 462, 25 Cal. Rptr. 284.) Here, there was no retrial but only a postjudgment enforcement proceeding upon substantially the same evidence presented earlier. Seaton's renewed challenge to the ownership status of the Hayward residence is therefore not cognizable on this appeal because the property's status was previously adjudicated and affirmed.

Seaton argues that we did not actually resolve the property's ownership status in the earlier appeal because we "did not address the merits." Seaton relies upon our statement, in that earlier appeal, that "lacking a complete record, and absent reference to any other evidence in support of defendant's claim [apart from the 1991 grant deed], we find that the trial court's finding was supported by substantial evidence." (Seaton v. Runez, supra, A103681 at p. 11.) Seaton asks us [*7] to undertake a new review because the record is now complete, and contains other evidence supporting his position. The time to review the court's determination on the ownership status of the property was on the appeal from that determination, not now. An appellant who has failed to provide a complete record and provide evidentiary support for his position is not entitled to renew his failed claims on a subsequent appeal. The doctrine of law of the case precludes such repetitive litigation.

Even were we to depart from the doctrine of law of the case and revisit the sufficiency of the evidence, we would conclude that substantial evidence supports the trial court's determination that Seaton's Hayward residence is community property. Having previously reviewed the evidence on this point, we need not belabor it. However, we will note that, in addition to the evidence previously described, there is also Seaton's own admission in his verified answer to the complaint in this case, in which Seaton states that he owned the Hayward property "as community property" before transferring the property to his wife in 1995. n2

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n2 Respondent Runez additionally argues that property acquired by spouses in joint title form is presumptively community property. However, that presumption applies expressly "for the purpose of division of property on dissolution," and Runez fails to provide any precedent for applying that presumption for purposes of a third party's enforcement of a judgment against a debtor spouse. (Fam. Code, § 2581.) Given our resolution of the appeal on other grounds, we need not consider whether the Family Code presumption is applicable here.

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Finally, Seaton argues that the trial court erred in ordering a sale because it was not established that the equity in the property exceeds all liens. Seaton relies upon the statutory provision that a dwelling may not be sold to enforce a judgment unless the sale price is sufficient to pay the homestead exemption plus "all liens and encumbrances." (Code Civ. Proc., § 704.800, subd. (a).) However, Seaton fails to acknowledge the cases that have consistently held that "the phrase 'all liens and encumbrances' refers to those that are senior to the executing judgment creditor . . . . " (Bratcher v. Buckner (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 1177, 1189; Rourke v. Troy (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 880, 882-886.) The trial court thus properly ordered the residence sold, and adopted statutorily authorized means for satisfying the senior liens and resolving any conflicting claims to the remaining sale proceeds. (Code Civ. Proc., § 701.830.)


The order is affirmed.

Sepulveda, J.

We concur:

Kay, P.J.

Reardon, J.

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