Law Debenture Trust Company of New York v. WMC Mortgage, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM AND NOTICE OF HEARING (see attached) addressing certain evidentiary matters and notifying counsel that final statements, summations and arguments will be heard by the Court on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at 10:00 am, in the Courtro om on the 17th Floor of the Connecticut Financial Building, 157 Church Street, New Haven, Connecticut. ALL PERSONS ENTERING THE COURTHOUSE MUST PRESENT PHOTO IDENTIFICATION. Signed by Judge Charles S. Haight, Jr. on February 13, 2018. (Pskowski, R.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
TMI TRUST COMPANY, solely in its
capacity as Separate Trustee of the
Securitized Asset Backed Receivables LLC
Civil Action No.
February 13, 2018
WMC MORTGAGE, LLC f/k/a WMC
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HAIGHT, Senior District Judge:
A bench trial of this RMBS case began on January 16, 2018 and was concluded on February
5, 2018. This Memorandum and Order memorializes scheduling directions, and discusses certain
By separate text order, the Court has endorsed times for submissions negotiated and proposed
by counsel for the parties. Letter, Doc. 295. Specifically: Opening post-trial briefs and proposed
findings of fact and conclusions of law will be exchanged on March 22, 2018. Reply briefs and
responses to the other party's proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law will be exchanged on
May 7, 2018.
These submissions will then be filed with the Court, with additional copies delivered to
Chambers. Neither party will seek an extension of these times, absent a showing of good cause.
The case will be called for final statements, summations and arguments on May 22, 2018,
at 10:00 a.m., in the 17th Floor Courtroom at 157 Church Street, New Haven, CT (a venue now
familiar to counsel). Counsel for Defendant will be heard first; then counsel for Plaintiff; the Court
will hear supplemental arguments if asked to do so, provided that the last word will go, in keeping
with tradition, to counsel for Plaintiff. The Court imposes no time limits in respect of these
The case will then be ripe for decision.
Toward the end of the trial, a number of objections were made by counsel for Plaintiff or for
Defendant to evidence offered by the other party. Those objections, which addressed the testimony
of witnesses (fact and expert) or the proffering of exhibits, purported for the most part to challenge
the relevance of the evidence in question. I say "purported" because while counsel frequently cast
their objections on the ground that the evidence was irrelevant, their unstated concern was that the
evidence was contrary to the objecting party's theory of the case: the perception of Plaintiff, to give
an example, that the Defendant's prevailing culture brought about a pervasive creation and
concealment of borrowers' breaches of representations and warranties. The Defendant's vigorous
rejection of that institutional vice, and its protestation of institutional virtue, set the stage for a wide
variety of related but separate factual issues.
The parties' assertions of irrelevance may be analyzed by considering what the Federal Rules
of Evidence say about relevance. Rule 402 states, with a brevity of expression not often found in
legal writing: "Relevant evidence is admissible," and "Irrelevant evidence is not admissible." Rule
401 contains a"Test for Relevant Evidence" which provides:
Evidence is relevant if:
(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than
it would be without the evidence; and
(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.
The test for determining whether particular evidence is relevant is not a stringent or
demanding one. The drafters of the Rules did not intend it to be. The Advisory Committee
published an extended Note to Rule 401 which I will quote at some length (omitting the citations):
Problems of relevancy call for an answer to the question whether
an item of evidence, when tested by the processes of legal reasoning,
possesses sufficient value to justify receiving it in evidence. . . .
Relevancy is not an inherent characteristic of any item of evidence
but exists only as a relation between an item of evidence and a matter
properly provable in the case. Does the item of evidence tend to
prove the matter sought to be proved? Whether the relationship
exists depends upon principles evolved by experience or science,
applied logically to the situation at hand. The rule summarizes this
relationship as a "tendency to make the existence" of the fact to be
proved "more probable or less probable." . . .
The standard of probability under the rule is "more . . . probable
than it would be without the evidence." Any more stringent
requirement is unworkable and unrealistic. . . . "A brick is not a wall."
. . . "[I]t is not to be supposed that every witness can make a home
run." Dealing with probability in the language of the rule has the
added virtue of avoiding confusion between questions of admissibility
and questions of the sufficiency of the evidence.
The rule uses the phrase "fact that is of consequence to the
determination of the action" to describe the kind of fact to which
proof may properly be directed. . . . The fact to be proved may be
ultimate, intermediate, or evidentiary; it matters not, so long as it is
of consequence in the determination of the action. . . .
The fact to which the evidence is directed need not be in dispute.
While situations well arise which call for the exclusion of evidence
offered to prove a point conceded by the opponent, the ruling should
be made on the basis of such considerations as waste of time and
undue prejudice . . . . Evidence which is essentially background in
nature can scarcely be said to involve disputed matter, yet it is
universally offered and admitted as an aid to understanding. Charts,
photographs, views of real estate, murder weapons, and many other
items of evidence fall in this category. A rule limiting admissibility
to evidence directed to a controversial point would invite the
exclusion of this helpful evidence, or at least the raising of endless
questions over its admission.
This quotation is taken from the Advisory Committee Notes to the 1972 Proposed Rules, which
became effective in 1975. The language from Rule 401 itself, which I have also quoted, is from an
amended Rule published in 2011. The Advisory Committee's Notes on the 2011 Amendment say
that "The language of Rule 401 has been amended as part of the restyling of the Evidence Rules to
make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout these
rules," and the changes "are intended to be stylistic only" with "no intent to change any result in any
ruling on evidence admissibility." In consequence, the Advisory Committee's Notes on the 1972
wording of Rule 401 is fully instructive and enlightening with respect to the 2011 version of the Rule
in effect at the trial.
Those Advisory Committee Notes inform this Court's trial rulings on the relevance of certain
evidence offered by one party or the other. Rule 401 poses the question whether the proffered
evidence addresses a fact which is "of consequence in determining the action." The Rule defines that
concept broadly: The Notes tell us that the particular fact "to be proved may be ultimate,
intermediate, or evidentiary," so long as it "is of consequence in the determination of the action," and
"the fact to which the evidence is directed need not be in dispute." The breadth of that definition of
relevance is reflected by the breadth of the issues the Court must resolve in determining this action.
The Plaintiff Trust, suing on behalf of certificateholder investors, launches a broad-form attack upon
the conduct of the Defendant WMC, the originator of the more than 5,000 mortgage loans bundled
into the trust corpus. The two-count complaint, asserting contract claims against WMC for failure
to repurchase mortgages whose representations and warranties had been breached, and failure to
notify the Trust of such breaches, calls into question the full range of mortgage-related acts of
omission and commission on the part of WMC, loan servicers, and other participants in the drama.
The four-week bench trial presented a detailed study of the existence and progress of this residential
mortgage securitized trust, from confident beginning to severe losses. The Court heard testimony
from fact witnesses employed by the several entities involved, and from experts who, on the basis
of the factual evidence, expressed opinions in the disciplines of statistics, servicing and damages.
Counsel for each party objected more than once to evidence offered by the other party on the
ground that the evidence was irrelevant. Standing objections were preserved on the record, by Court
leave, on several occasions. I overruled objections based on asserted irrelevance when the proffered
evidence furnished background to or proof of a fact that will be of consequence in the determination
of one of the myriad issues in the action. Such evidence is accordingly relevant under Rule 401, and
admissible under Rule 402. While I endeavored in evidentiary rulings during the trial to express that
reasoning, I think it useful to add this discussion. Rulings on the admissibility of evidence rest
within the discretion of a trial judge, and are reviewed for abuse. There is something to be said for
the trial judge's stating his or her reasons in detail. That is not always feasible during a trial, when
evidentiary rulings must be made in real time, as the world continues to revolve with unabated speed.
With respect to scheduling matters, the foregoing is SO ORDERED.
Dated: New Haven, Connecticut
February 13, 2018
/s/Charles S. Haight, Jr.
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR.
Senior United States District Judge
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