Dickinson et al v. SunTrust Mortgage Inc et al
ORDER granting 43 Plaintiffs' Motion to certify issues to the Arkansas Supreme Court; denying without prejudice 46 Motion for class certification. Signed by Chief Judge Brian S. Miller on 2/5/2014. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
ROBERT DICKINSON, and PAMELA
DICKINSON, on behalf of themselves and all
residents of Arkansas that are similarly Situated
CASE NO. 3:12CV00112 BSM
SUN TRUST MORTGAGE, INC. and
FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE
Plaintiffs’ motion to certify issues to the Arkansas Supreme Court [Doc. No. 43] is
granted. Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification [Doc. No. 46] is denied without prejudice.
A federal district court has discretion to certify a question of Arkansas law to the Arkansas
Supreme Court when there is no controlling Arkansas Supreme Court precedent on the issue.
Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 6-8; See Allstate Ins. Co. v. Steele, 74 F.3d 878, 881 (8th Cir. 1996). The
Supreme Court will accept questions certified to it when the facts material to the question are
undisputed, and the issue is of substantial importance or touches on public policy concerns.
See Longview Prod. Co. v. Dubberly, 352 Ark. 207, 210, 99 S.W.3d 427, 429 (2003).
Here, plaintiffs want the Supreme Court to interpret Ark. Code Ann. § 18-50-117 and
seek certification of the following question:
Whether the Federal National Mortgage Association satisfies the Statutory
Foreclosure Act’s authorized-to-do-business requirement, Ark. Code Ann. §
18-50-117, under 12 U.S.C. § 1716, et seq., or other federal laws, or must the
Federal National Mortgage Association satisfy Ark. Code Ann. § 18-50-117
by obtaining a certificate of authority in Arkansas prior to statutorily
foreclosing on property in Arkansas?
Certification of this question is granted because though there is precedent from the
Eighth Circuit, there is no controlling precedent in the decisions of the Arkansas Supreme
Court, see JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Johnson, 719 F.3d 1010, 1015 (8th Cir. 2013)
(determining that the issue of whether an entity seeking to use the Statutory Foreclosure Act
may be authorized to do business by federal law is one of first impression), and this district
has certified questions to the Arkansas Supreme Court in similar circumstances. See Larry
Hobbs Farm Equip., Inc. v. CNH Am., LLC, 2:08CV00049 JLH, No. 25, at *4 (E.D. Ark.
Sept. 2, 2008) certified questions answered, 375 Ark. 379, 291 S.W.3d 190 (2009) (noting
that the Eighth Circuit had already interpreted the meaning of a statute but that the Arkansas
Supreme Court had not decided on the issue). Second, this issue is determinative of this case.
Both parties’ arguments rest on whether defendant Federal National Mortgage Association
(“FNMA”) was authorized to do business in Arkansas, and therefore permitted to use the
non-judicial foreclosure procedures of the Statutory Foreclosure Act (“SFA”). Third, though
there are material facts in dispute generally, the issue of whether FNMA was authorized to
non-judicially foreclose is a purely legal question and it is undisputed that FNMA
commenced foreclose on plaintiffs’ property. Finally, the motion is granted because the issue
is one of substantial importance. Whether an entity may attain authorization to do business
under the SFA by federal law or state law alone affects many Arkansas citizens who have a
mortgage on their property.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 5th day of February 2014.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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