United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court in this interpleader action is a Motion for
Summary Judgment filed by Interpleader Defendant Jericho
Baptist Church Ministries, Inc. (DC) (“Jericho
DC”) against its co-Interpleader Defendant Jericho
Baptist Church Ministries, Inc. (Maryland) (“Jericho
MD”). ECF No. 45. The matter has been fully briefed.
For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and
DENIES IN PART Jerhico DC's Motion for Summary Judgment,
and will hold a hearing to determine outstanding matters as
laid out in this Memorandum Opinion and Order.
DC and Jericho MD share a contentious history of litigation
regarding the administrative control of Jericho Baptist
Church Ministries, Inc. The facts and circumstances of those
previous cases, relevant here, are laid out in the
Court's opinion in Bank of America, N.A. v. Jericho
Baptist Church Ministries, Inc., No. 15-02953, 2016 WL
4721257, at *1 (D. Md. September 9, 2016) (hereinafter the
“Bank of America matter”). In this interpleader
action filed by Citibank on May 27, 2016, Citibank seeks
Court determination of whether Jericho DC or Jericho MD is
the rightful owner of the funds held in nine Citibank
accounts totaling $2, 177, 637.09. See generally ECF
October 14, 2011, Jericho MD opened the first of the Citibank
accounts at issue and with $1, 700, 000 transferred by check
from Jericho DC's Bank of America account. ECF No. 1
¶ 23; ECF No. 45-1 at 58. While Jericho MD opened the
Citibank account in its own name, it used Jericho DC's
tax identification number (“EIN”). See
ECF No. 1 ¶ 27; ECF No. 50-1 at 4-6. Jericho MD
thereafter transferred to the Citibank account an additional
$2.5 million from a bank account held at PNC Bank.
See ECF No. 50-3 at 4; ECF No. 57; ECF No. 57-1.
November 1, 2016, after years of Jericho MD transacting
business using the Citibank accounts, Citibank deposited the
balance of the account funds in the Court's registry in
connection with this interpleader action. See ECF
Nos. 22, 26. Jericho DC moved for summary judgment in its
favor, arguing that the outcome in George v.
Jackson, No. 2013 CA 007115 B (Sup. Ct. D.C. July 7,
2015) (hereinafter “George v. Jackson”),
and this Court's opinion in the Bank of America matter,
demand that the Court rule in Jericho DC's favor here.
ECF No. 45 at 7-8. Jericho MD opposed the motion, arguing
that genuine disputes of material fact as to which entity
controls the accounts, and commingling of account funds,
preclude summary judgment. See generally ECF No.
50-1. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and
denies in part Jericho DC's motion for summary judgment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing predecessor to current Rule
56(a)). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the
absence of any genuine dispute of material fact. Adickes
v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970).
“mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in
support” of the party opposing summary judgment is
insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252
(1986). The nonmoving party may not rest upon mere
allegations or denials but instead must, by affidavit or
other evidence, set out specific facts in the record showing
a genuine dispute for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(c)(1). The facts themselves, and the inferences to be
drawn from the underlying facts, must be viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Iko v.
Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008). The party
opposing summary judgment “cannot create a genuine
issue of material fact through mere speculation or the
building of one inference upon another.” Othentec
Ltd. v. Phelan, 526 F.3d 135, 140 (4th Cir. 2008)
(quoting Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir.
1985)). Where a party's statement of a fact is
“blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no
reasonable jury could believe it, ” the Court will
credit the record over the averred fact. See Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
Collateral Estoppel and Funds Transferred from Jericho
DC's Bank of America Account
doctrine of collateral estoppel “is concerned with the
issue implications of the earlier litigation of a different
case.” Colandrea v. Wilde Lake Community Ass'n,
Inc., 361 Md. 371, 390 (2000). Where an issue has been
fully and finally litigated in a prior matter involving the
identical parties or their privies, the parties are estopped
from relitigating the same matter. Id. at 387
(collecting cases). In determining whether collateral
estoppel, or issue preclusion, applies, the Court must
ascertain whether: 1) the issue in question is identical to
the one previously decided, 2) there was a final judgment on
the merits, 3) the parties are the same or in privity to the
parties of the prior adjudication, and 4) the parties had a
fair opportunity to be heard on the issue. Id. at
391; see Davis v. Davis, 663 A.2d 499, 501 (D.C.
1995) (under D.C. law, collateral estoppel requires an issue
be actually litigated, determined by a valid, final judgment
on the merits, after a full and fair opportunity for
litigation by the parties or their privies, and the
determination must have been essential to the judgment).
undisputed that on October 14, 2011, Denise Killen, a
purported Jericho MD board member, transferred $1.7 million
from Jericho DC's Bank of America account to the Citibank
account. See ECF No. 45-1 at 58. That transaction
occurred after March 15, 2009. This Court, relying on the
findings of George v. Jackson, which had determined
that “actions taken by [Jericho MD] after March 15,
2009, acting as the purported Board of Trustees of Jericho DC
. . . are invalid, ” ECF No. 45-1 at 20; see
Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc., 2016 WL 4721257
at *4-5, *10, has already determined that Jericho DC had
lawful control over the Bank of America funds as of March 15,
2009, and all subsequent Jericho MD transactions on that
account were invalid. By extension, therefore, the Court
already has determined that the funds transferred from the
Bank of America account to the Citibank account were and are
properly controlled by Jericho DC. Because this question of
control has been determined, the first prong of the
collateral estoppel test is satisfied. See Jericho
Baptist Church Ministries, Inc., 2016 WL 4721257, at
the remaining three elements of collateral estoppel cut in
Jericho DC's favor as to the $1.7 million transferred
from the Bank of America Account. Both George v.
Jackson and this Court's prior opinion were final
judgments on the merits. Both matters involved Jericho DC and
Jericho MD or their privies. Finally, the parties certainly
had a fair chance to be heard on the issue central to this
case-to wit, which entity lawfully controlled the Church. In
the Bank of America matter, the Court discussed at length why
both Jericho MD and Jericho DC's interests were
represented in the George v. Jackson case.
Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc., 2016 ...