U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION v. POBLETE et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding the plaintiff's 63 Motion for Civil Contempt. Signed by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on October 19, 2017. (lcbah1)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION,
Civil Action No. 15-00312 (BAH)
Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell
LUIS IVAN POBLETE, et al.,
The defendant, Luis Ivan Poblete, lost his title to commercial real property located at
1921 Rosedale Street N.E., Washington, D.C. (the “Property”), through a foreclosure action in
2010 by the plaintiff, U.S. Bank National Association, but Poblete has continued to engage in
actions designed to cloud title to his former property, in violation of a clear and unambiguous
order entered in this case to cease such activity. See Order, dated Feb. 14, 2017, at 2, ECF No.
51 (“Feb. 2017 Order”) (enjoining “Poblete and any persons or entities acting at his behest”
from, inter alia, “(1) recording or attempting to record any documents relating to the real
property located at 1921 Rosedale Street N.E., Washington, D.C. (the ‘Property’) with the
District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds or any other governmental body that would accept such
documents, (2) making any claim whatsoever to any right, title or interest in the Property,
including any claim to possession, (3) entering the Property, and (4) interfering with the right of
the plaintiff and/or its successors in interest to quiet enjoyment of the Property”). The plaintiff
now moves to hold Poblete in civil contempt, Pl.’s Mot. Civ. Contempt (“Mot. Contempt”), ECF
No. 63, which sanction is expressly authorized for a “disobedient party” under Rule 70(e) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon consideration of the plaintiff’s motion and
accompanying exhibits, Poblete’s persistent history over a period of years of challenging
plaintiff’s title to the Property, see U.S. Bank N.A. v. Poblete, No. 15-cv-312 (BAH), 2016 WL
1089217, at **1–4 (D.D.C. Mar. 18, 2016) (describing Poblete’s actions prompting multiple
lawsuits to clear title to the Property), as well as the Poblete’s obfuscating response to the instant
motion, and the record as a whole, the motion is granted.
The factual and procedural background of Poblete’s efforts to retain title to the Property
has been exhaustively summarized in prior decisions and will not be repeated here. See
generally U.S. Bank N.A. v. Poblete, No. 15-cv-312 (BAH), 2017 WL 598471 (D.D.C. Feb. 14,
2017); Poblete, 2016 WL 1089217. Pertinent to the instant motion, the order entered on
February 14, 2017, against all defendants became final on April 6, 2017. See Order, dated Apr.
6, 2017, ECF No. 58. As noted, this February 2017 Order enjoined the defendants from
recording documents with the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds relating to the Property or
from making a claim of any interest in the Property. Feb. 2017 Order at 2.
Notwithstanding the Court’s February 2017 Order, on April 12, 2017, Poblete caused a
document styled as a “UCC Financing Statement” bearing “Doc. # 2017040352” to be recorded
with the Recorder of Deeds. Mot. Contempt, Ex. 1, UCC Financing Statement (“Financing
Statement”), ECF No. 63-1. The Financing Statement purported to provide “public notice by
Grantor [that] he is the FREE and CLEAR owner and holder of all rights, title, [and] interest” in
the property, identifying the “Grantor” as a “he” and asserting that “LUIS IVAN POBLETE
TRUST EIN#98-6084XX has COLLATERAL INVERSTMENT [sic] OF $300,000.00” in the
property and was a secured creditor with respect to the property. Id. at 1.
On April 13, 2017, the plaintiff’s counsel, Aaron D. Neal, contacted Poblete via mail and
email to remind Poblete of his obligations under the February 2017 Order and demand that
Poblete terminate the Financing Statement. Mot. Contempt, Ex. 2, Letter from Plaintiff’s
Counsel to Poblete (Apr. 13, 2017) at 1, ECF No. 63-2; Mot. Contempt, Ex. 3, Email Exchange
Between Plaintiff’s Counsel and Poblete at 2-3, ECF No. 63-3. On May 16, 2017, the plaintiff’s
counsel contacted Poblete by email once again to demand that Poblete terminate the Financing
Statement. Id. at 1. The plaintiff’s counsel received a response, sent from Poblete’s email
address, from a person purporting to be Poblete’s assistant, indicating that Poblete would
respond by certified mail. Id.
On May 23, 2017, the plaintiff moved for an order to show cause why the defendants
should not be held in civil contempt, Mot. Contempt, which motion was granted on June 1, 2017,
Minute Order, dated June 1, 2017 (“Show-Cause Order”). On June 12, 2017, Poblete filed a
“Response to Order Dated 1 June 2017,” stating the following two sentences: “COMES NOW,
Poblete, Luis Ivan, a Private American National citizen of the united [sic] States of America who
privately resides in a privately domicile outside of a Federal District in a non-military private
estate located outside a Federal District not subject to the jurisdiction of the ‘United States’. I
am an American and not a Corporation.” Defs.’ Resp. Show-Cause Order at 1 (“Defs.’ Resp.”),
ECF No. 64. This filing had two attachments purporting to be a claim against the plaintiff’s
counsel for “Denial of Rights Under Color of Law,” id., Ex. A, ECF No. 64, and a “Sworn
Affidavit of Fact Conditional Acceptance of Proof of Claim,” id., Ex. B, ECF No. 64, neither of
which addressed the Show-Cause Order. 1
Poblete subsequently submitted another unintelligible document to the Court on October 11, 2017, in which
he purported to be “writing as the Beneficiary/Owner of LUIS IVAN POBLETE” and requesting that plaintiff’s
counsel be ordered “to pay all taxes due as a result of the case,” which the Court denied leave to file. See Order,
dated Oct. 11, 2017, ECF No. 67.
To enforce a judgment for a specific act, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 70(e) provides
that a court may hold a disobedient party in contempt. FED. R. CIV. P. 70(e). “In addition to
sanctions contemplated by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, courts have an inherent power
at common law . . . to ‘protect their institutional integrity and to guard against abuses of the
judicial process with contempt citations, fines, awards of attorneys’ fees, and such other orders
and sanctions as they find necessary, including even dismissals and default judgments.’” Parsi
v. Daioleslam, 778 F.3d 116, 130 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting Shepherd v. Am. Broadcasting Cos.,
Inc., 62 F.3d 1469, 1472 (D.C. Cir. 1995) and citing Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44
(1991)); see also Armstrong v. Exec. Office of the President, Office of Admin., 1 F.3d 1274, 1289
(D.C. Cir. 1993) (“[C]ourts have inherent power to enforce compliance with their lawful orders
through civil contempt.” (quoting Shillitani v. United States, 384 U.S. 364, 370 (1966))).
“Civil contempt will lie only if the putative contemnor has violated an order that is clear
and unambiguous, and the violation must be proved by clear and convincing evidence.”
Broderick v. Donaldson, 437 F.3d 1226, 1234 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Armstrong, 1 F.3d at
1289) (alterations omitted); Salazar v. District of Columbia, 602 F.3d 431, 442 (D.C. Cir. 2010)
(noting that “‘judicial contempt power is a potent weapon’” and, consequently, “[c]ivil contempt
may be imposed only when the underlying order is clear and unambiguous.” (quoting Int’l
Longshoremen’s Ass’n v. Phila. Marine Trade Ass’n, 389 U.S. 64, 76 (1967))). “In the context
of civil contempt, the clear and convincing standard requires a quantum of proof adequate to
demonstrate a ‘reasonable certainty’ that a violation occurred.” Breen v. Tucker, 821 F. Supp. 2d
375, 383 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting SEC v. Bilzerian, 729 F. Supp. 2d 1, 4 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting
Levin v. Tiber Holding Corp., 277 F.3d 243, 250 (2d Cir. 2002))). The “party seeking to hold
another in contempt faces a heavy burden . . . .” United States v. Volvo Powertrain Corp., 758
F.3d 330, 338 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quotations and citations omitted).
To carry the burden of showing that the defendants should be held in contempt, the
plaintiff must show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defendants violated an order that
was clear and unambiguous. The plaintiff here has met this burden.
First, the February 2017 Order was clear and unambiguous. This order expressly
enjoined “Poblete . . . from (1) recording or attempting to record any documents relating to [the
Property] with the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds or any other governmental body that
would accept such documents, (2) making any claim whatsoever to any right, title or interest in
the Property, including any claim to possession.” Feb. 2017 Order at 2. Second, the plaintiff has
presented clear and convincing evidence that Poblete violated this order by recording the
Financing Statement, which identified the “Luis Ivan Poblete Trust” as secured party with
respect to the Property, Financing Statement at 1, with the District of Columbia Recorder of
When given an opportunity and ample time to explain this violation of and
noncompliance with the February 2017 Order, Poblete provided no excuse or justification but
instead chose to obfuscate. See SEC v. Bilzerian, 112 F. Supp. 2d 12, 16 (D.D.C. 2000) (“Once
the [movant] has made a prima facie showing that [the contemnor] did not comply with the
Court’s orders, the burden shifts to [the contemnor] to produce evidence justifying
his noncompliance.”). Poblete thus acted in blatant contempt of the February 2017 Order,
thereby compounding his actions over the past seven years to cloud title to the Property and
warranting the imposition of civil contempt sanctions. 2 See Broderick, 437 F.3d at 1234.
Having determined that the defendants are in civil contempt, the only remaining question
is the appropriate sanction to impose. The plaintiff observes that Poblete’s other property
appears to be in foreclosure, and that Poblete likely lacks sufficient assets to pay a monetary
sanction. Mot. Contempt. ¶ 11 & n.1 (citing Poblete’s effort to remove a judicial foreclosure
proceeding from D.C. Superior Court to this Court in Residential Credit Opportunities Tr. v.
Poblete, No. 16-cv-00561-BAH). In these circumstances, the plaintiff forbears from seeking
monetary or further injunctive relief as “unlikely to deter future misconduct.” Id. ¶ 11. Instead,
the plaintiff seeks to void the Financing Statement and a declaration “that any further recordings
made by [d]efendants with respect to the Property shall be void and of no force or effect.” Id. ¶
12. In addition, the plaintiff seeks appointment of plaintiff’s counsel, Aaron D. Neal, as trustee
for Poblete, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 70(a), “with authority to execute and
record releases, termination statements, and any other instrument necessary to confirm that
[d]efendants have no interest in the Property.” Id.
In evaluating the propriety of the plaintiff’s requested release, the Court is mindful that
civil contempt sanctions are “calibrated to coerce compliance or compensate a complainant for
losses sustained,” not to “be punitive.” In re Fannie Mae Sec. Litig., 552 F.3d 814, 823 (D.C.
Cir. 2009). “[A] primary aspect of” a district court’s “discretion is the ability to fashion an
No separate evidentiary hearing has been held with respect to Poblete’s civil contempt citation. Unlike a
criminal contempt charge, which triggers the full panoply of a criminal defendant’s constitutional protections, a civil
contempt citation requires only notice and an opportunity to be heard. Int’l Union, United Mine Workers of Am. v.
Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821, 827 (1994). In a civil contempt proceeding, an opportunity to be heard does not require a
separate evidentiary hearing where a defendant asserts no genuine issue of material fact. Food Lion, Inc. v. United
Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union, AFL-CIO-CLC, 103 F.3d 1007, 1019–20 (D.C. Cir. 1997); see also SEC
v. Bilzerian, 613 F. Supp. 2d 66, 73 (D.D.C. 2009) (determining that a defendant had been given “an opportunity to
be heard” notwithstanding the fact that he had not received an evidentiary hearing). Poblete thus may be held in
civil contempt even though no evidentiary hearing has been held.
appropriate sanction for conduct which abuses the judicial process.” Shepherd, 62 F.3d at 1478;
see also United States v. Latney’s Funeral Home, Inc., 41 F. Supp. 3d 24, 36 (D.D.C. 2014)
(“Courts have wide discretion in fashioning remedial sanctions for civil contempt.” (internal
quotation marks and alterations omitted)); In re Dickinson, 763 F.2d 84, 87 (2d Cir. 1985)
(recognizing that district courts enjoy “wide discretion . . . in fashioning a remedy for civil
contempt”); SEC v. Wencke, 622 F.2d 1363, 1371 (9th Cir. 1980) (“The Supreme Court has
repeatedly emphasized the broad equitable powers of the federal courts to shape equitable
remedies to the necessities of particular cases.”).
Under Rule 70(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, when a “party fails to comply
within the time specified” with “a judgment requir[ing the] party . . . to perform any . . . specific
act, . . . the court may order the act to be done—at the disobedient party’s expense—by another
person appointed by the court.” FED. R. CIV. P. 70(a). “When done, [such] act has the same
effect as if done by the party.” Id. Rule 70(a) “specifically authorize[s]” a trustee’s appointment
“to address [a defendant’s] recalcitrance.” Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. v. Mangione
Enters. Of Turf Valley, L.P., 964 F. Supp. 199, 200, 204 (D. Md. 1996).
A district court may also appoint a receiver for a defendant who refuses to comply with
court orders pursuant to its inherent equitable authority. See Latney’s Funeral Home, Inc., 41 F.
Supp. 3d at 36 (“Along with the ability to impose coercive and compensatory fines, a federal
court’s equitable powers include the ability to appoint a receiver to enforce compliance with the
law.”); United States v. Bartle, 159 F. App’x 723, 725 (7th Cir. 2005) (“Appointment of a
receiver is authorized by the inherent equitable power of a federal court . . . . [T]he district court
did not abuse its discretion when it appointed a receiver.”); see also Morgan v. McDonough, 540
F.2d 527, 533 (1st Cir. 1976) (“[C]ontempt proceedings and further injunctions were plainly not
very promising, as they invited further confrontation and delay; and when the usual remedies are
inadequate, a court of equity is justified, particularly in aid of an outstanding injunction, in
turning to less common ones, such as a receivership, to get the job done.”); SEC v. Koenig, 469
F.2d 198, 202 (2d Cir. 1972) (affirming a district court’s appointment of a receiver to manage a
corporation where a defendant violated an injunction); SEC v. Levine, 671 F. Supp. 2d 14, 36
(D.D.C. 2009) (noting, in the context of an SEC enforcement action, that “when defendants
continue to violate court orders, and there is no one who is responsible, willing, and able to
manage a company in compliance with the federal securities laws, the appointment of a receiver
is necessary” (internal quotation marks omitted)); SEC v. Universal Express, Inc., No. 04-cv2322 (GEL), 2007 WL 2469452, at *12 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 31, 2007) (same).
Appointment of a trustee for Poblete and his associated entities and vesting such trustee
with authority to execute and record releases, termination statements, and other instruments
necessary to confirm that Poblete has no interest in the Property is appropriate under
circumstances such as these. See Bartle, 159 F. App’x at 725; Latney’s Funeral Home, Inc., 41
F. Supp. 3d at 36. Poblete has continued to file documents relating to the Property even after the
final judgment issued, and further injunctive or monetary relief likely would be futile. This
sanction imposes little hardship on Poblete, restraining him only from continuing to cloud title to
the Property—acts he already is enjoined from undertaking.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, the plaintiff’s Motion for Civil Contempt is
granted and the defendants are found to be in civil contempt of the February 2017 Order of this
Court. As a sanction for this contempt of court and to enforce the February 2017 Order, (1) the
document styled as “UCC Financing Statement” bearing “Doc. #: 2017040352” is VOID; (2) any
document that Poblete or his associated entities records with the District of Columbia Recorder
of Deeds regarding the Property is VOID and OF NO FORCE OR EFFECT; and (3) plaintiff’s
counsel, Aaron D. Neal, is appointed trustee for each of the defendants and any of the agents,
related entities or any person or entity claiming an interest by or under them with respect to the
Property, for the sole and limited purpose of executing and recording any termination statements,
releases, or other instruments necessary to confirm that the defendants have no interest in the
Property and to assure that any past, present or future documents recorded in the Land Records
by or on behalf of the defendants do not cloud title to the Property.
An order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion will be entered contemporaneously.
Date: October 19, 2017
BERYL A. HOWELL
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