United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
pending and ready for resolution is the motion to reopen case
and renew judgment lien filed by Plaintiff United States
(“Plaintiff” or “Government”), (ECF
No. 49). The issues have been briefed, and the court now
rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6.
For the following reasons, the motion to reopen and renew
judgment will be granted.
November 7, 1997, a judgment was entered in favor of
Plaintiff and against Defendant Dominick LaRosa and Defendant
Catherine LaRosa (“Defendants”) for $1, 520,
885.58 plus statutorily accrued interest since April 11,
1994. An abstract of judgment was filed with the Clerk of the
Circuit Court for Montgomery County on January 9, 1998. The
judgment remains unsatisfied. (ECF No. 49-1).
August 4, 2017, Plaintiff moved to renew the judgment lien.
(ECF No. 49). Defendants responded and opposed the motion.
(ECF No. 55). Plaintiff replied, and Defendants responded to
the reply. (ECF Nos. 56, 57).
Motion to Renew Judgment Lien
brings this motion under 28 U.S.C. § 3201(c). (ECF No.
49). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 3201(a), the judgment in
this case, when appropriately filed, “create[d] a lien
on all real property of” Defendants. The lien is
effective for 20 years and can be renewed for “one
additional period of 20 years” if the “the notice
of renewal is filed before the expiration of the 20-year
period” and “the court approves the renewal of
such lien[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 3201(c)(2), §
3201(c)(2)(A), § 3201(c)(2)(B).
do not dispute that the judgment has not been satisfied and
that the United States properly filed for renewal, but assert
that the court should refuse to approve the renewal of the
lien because renewal “would be completely
inequitable.” (ECF No. 55-1, at 4). Defendants argue
that the doctrine of laches bars the government from
receiving a renewed judgment lien. (Id. at 3). For
the reasons to be discussed, Defendants' arguments will
be rejected and the renewal will be approved.
Federal Debt Collection Procedure is codified in 28 U.S.C.
§ 3001, et seq. and provides the exclusive civil
procedures for the United States to recover on a debt.
Section 3201 provides that a judgment creates a lien on all
real property of a judgment debtor when a certified copy of
the abstract of the judgment is filed in the same manner in
which a notice of tax lien would be filed. Tax liens are
filed in one office within the county as designated by State
law. 26 U.S.C. § 6323(f). Maryland law designates the
clerk of the circuit court of the county in which the real
property is situated as the proper place to file notices of
federal liens. Md.Code Ann., Real Property § 3-401.
the statute provides that court approval is a necessary
prerequisite to the renewal of a lien, no conditions to the
renewal appear in the law and the parties do not cite to any
particular requirements. Even in other situations, such as
actions in state court, the defenses that may be interposed
in a revival proceeding are severely limited. Only defenses
that challenge the viability of the judgment itself, such as
it is void or was paid or otherwise discharged, may be
raised. 46 Am.Jur. 2d Judgments § 394 (2017). In this
federal proceeding, which is even more circumscribed, the
complaints raised by the LaRosas are unavailing. Their lament
that a proposed settlement offer many years ago went
unanswered says nothing about the validity of the judgment,
or whether it has been satisfied or discharged.
were equitable considerations such as laches pertinent, the
argument would fail. To establish a laches defense, a
defendant must prove a “(1) lack of diligence by the
party against whom the defense is asserted, and (2) prejudice
to the party asserting the defense.” Costello v.
U.S., 365 U.S. 265, 282 (1961). Contrary to
Defendants' assertion, Plaintiff did not sleep on its
rights. Even while the appeal was pending, the government
undertook discovery to ascertain the location of available
assets. Shortly after entry of the judgment, Plaintiff filed
an abstract of judgment in the appropriate government office
to impose a lien on Defendants' real property. Defendants
do not assert that Plaintiff could have forced a sale or used
another mechanism to recover more quickly. Thus, although the
judgment has gone unsatisfied, Plaintiff diligently pursued
its rights and laches does not apply.
for the purposes of laches, prejudice “is demonstrated
by a disadvantage on the part of the defendant in asserting
or establishing a claimed right or some other harm caused by
detrimental reliance on the plaintiff's conduct.”
White v. Daniel, 909 F.2d 99, 102 (4th
Cir. 1990). Here, Defendants do not assert any detrimental
reliance. Defendants also cannot demonstrate a disadvantage
in claiming or establishing their rights because they already
had an opportunity fully to litigate their rights. The only
evidence relevant to the motion to renew the judgment lien is
in the county and court records. Thus, Defendants have not
Defendant Dominick LaRosa's diminished condition and
Defendant Catherine LaRosa's lesser role in the
underlying tax controversy, Plaintiff has fully complied with
applicable law, and the request to approve renewal of the
judgment lien will be granted.