My pro se Stewart Title Lawsuit

I am alleging Stewart Title Guaranty Company (STG) committed fraud because they guaranteed the title as clean for some investment land I bought with my IRA money in 2001. I found out years later that another party held a deed for exactly the same piece of property and we have both been paying taxes on the same piece of land for years - a good deal for the county. In the business, it's called a 'double assessment'.

The cause of the error that STG didn't find is possibly a mistake somebody (maybe the Valencia County clerk?) made probably in the 1950's if not the 1930's or even before, according to the Valencia County Taxation Department. However, given what a mess the records are before they were computerized, it would be very expensive to determine which owner legally owns the land. And then the person who is found to not legally own the land would lose their entire investment. I submitted a claim (twice!) to Stewart Title but they denied it on a (to me) irrelevant technicality, thus the suit against them to hold them accountable. STG claims that I have no interest in the land owned by my IRA which violates common sense as well as precedent cases.

However, paying a lawyer to represent me in the lawsuit would probably exceed the worth of the land, so I decided to do the lawsuit myself (pro se) to see if being right is sufficient to get justice, or whether we have a court system wherein the one willing to spend the most money on fees wins. I made good use of the free legal clinics that the courts held once a month.

There also appears to be no precedent for this case, so the case is important for others as well, because it would serve as a precedent for other similar cases. I've heard a lot of land in that area (near Belen NM) has title problems, so this case could be important for them if they have title insurance and the title company attempts to deny a claim.

The District Court Judge (Judge Mercer) in Los Lunas ruled against me by granting STG's Summary Judgment Motion which requires no facts to be in dispute, but I think she made several legal errors, all in Stewart's favor, so I'm appealing. I am awaiting a decision by the Appellate Court to rule on whether Judge Mercer's decisions were erroneous and should be overturned. There are lots of issues that are facts in dispute thereby rendering the granting of the summary judgment motion inappropriate. She also failed to explain her legal reasoning as required by court rules.

Oct 21, 2019

I submitted my Docketing Statement to the Appellate Court. This is the first step in filing an appeal. It's kind of a summary of why I think the Appellate Court should consider my case.

Dec 11, 2020

I completed my submission of documents (as did STG as well) to the Appellate Court. There are of course a lot more files submitted to the District Court for the earlier District Court hearing, but the appellate ones will give you enough details to understand the suit. Here are the files:

Oct 7, 2021

The case was submitted to the panel of Appellate Court judges who will rule on the case. But this part of the process can take many months, there's no way to tell when they will actually look at the case. The Court took about 8 months to decide that they would even accept the appeal, and then another 10 months for the case to be submitted to the panel of judges so things take awhile.

June 21, 2022

The Appellate Court finally ruled on my appeal after about 18 months, see their Opinion. They affirmed the breach of contract portion of the suit, and overturned the fraud portion of the suit. In affirming the breach of contract, they completely ignored the point that all insurance policies are either claims-made (which means claims must be made while the policy is in force) vs occurrence (claims can be made after termination of the policy). And if the insurance policy doesn't say, the policy is required to be interpreted in my favor where ambiguous.

The Appellate Court also failed to say anything about my request to order Judge Mercer to explain her legal reasoning as required by rules, and also failed to mention my request to hold the STG's attorney accountable for his ethics violations.

However, at least they reversed the fraud part of my case and remanded the fraud allegation back to the District Court so that's good.

Here's the Conclusion: "For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the grant of summary judgment on Kinzelman's breach of contract claim. We, however, reverse the grant of summary judgment on his fraud claim and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

July 12, 2022

I was all set to file my Motion for Rehearing, asking the Appellate Court to revisit what I think are a number of errors and misunderstandings in their Opinion, but the window to file that motion is only 15 days after the date of the Opinion, and for some reason, I had June 28 stuck in my mind, and so I missed the window. But at least they bounced the fraud charge back to the District Court for further adjudication. I'm posting the Motion here for you to see the errors that the Appellate Court made but will not be revisiting. The next window closure is July 21 (30 days) during which time either party can appeal to the Supreme Court. I'm not going to do that, and hopefully Stewart won't either. Then they wait another 30 days (so about Aug 20 or so), and then send the case back to the District Court for further processing. I don't know the procedure after that.

Sept 27, 2022

The attorney for Stewart mailed me an offer to settle. But not only was the suggested amount insultingly low ($5K when the original claim for damages was for $25K), but the letter contained two false statements. I didn't even bother to reply with a counter-offer. The first false statement stated that the scheduling conference was two days before it actually was, but this could be due to a simple clerical error. After all, stating that the meeting was earlier than it really was wouldn't risk me missing the meeting if I believed what the letter stated. The second false statement is more problematic. He stated that the scheduling conference was "presumably to discuss the status of the remaining claim in this case that was not considered on the appeal". I believe this was a deliberately false statement, because the entire basis for the Appellate Court overturning the verdict was based on the complaint of fraud, so that issue was obviously considered by the Appellate Court. What's more strange is I can't figure out what he thought he would gain by making the false statement.

Nov 28, 2022

The attorney for Stewart accepted Jay Harris as the mediator for the case.

Dec 7, 2022

The attorney for Stewart submitted the scheduling order to the Court, agreed upon by both of us.