This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Default Judgment of PHI
Henry Hagel, as Assignee of
PHI Financial Services,
Filed May 28, 2002
Lyon County District Court
File No. C996895
Robert C. Lindig, 209 East Maple, Mora, MN 55051-1398 (for respondent)
David Griese, P.O. Box 111, Ogilvie, MN 56358 (pro se appellant)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Pro se appellant challenges a district court order denying as untimely his motion to vacate a default judgment and related orders against him and for a new trial. He argues that the default judgment is void because, under Minn. Stat. § 542.02 (2000), the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter a default judgment against him and because the judgment was entered without the signature of a district court judge. Because we conclude that the district court did not err when it denied appellant’s motion as untimely, we affirm.
PHI Financial Services, Inc. (PHI), provided appellant David Griese with services that he failed to pay for as agreed. In September 1996, PHI brought a complaint in district court in Lyon County against Griese, a resident of Kanabec County, for the amount due, plus interest and attorney fees. A Kanabec County deputy sheriff certified that he personally served Griese with the complaint. But Griese did not answer the complaint, and the district court entered a default judgment against him in November 1996.
After the district court had entered the default judgment, PHI filed an affidavit with the district court stating that the sheriff of Kanabec County had returned the execution of judgment wholly unsatisfied. Based on the affidavit, the district court ordered Griese to appear in December 1997 for examination and discovery regarding his assets. He failed to appear. The district court issued an order for Griese to appear in February 1998 to show cause why the district court should not grant PHI’s motion to hold him in constructive civil contempt. Again, he failed to appear. The district court then issued an order for Griese to, among other things, pay PHI the attorney fees it had incurred because he failed to appear at the December 1997 hearing. The district court also issued a warrant for Griese’s arrest, stayed for 30 days to provide him with an opportunity to comply with the order. Griese paid the attorney fees. Later, he satisfied part of the judgment, involuntarily, from crop proceeds.
In August 1999, PHI assigned its interest in the judgment to respondent Henry J. Hagel. In September 2001, Griese filed a motion in Lyon County district court to vacate the 1996 judgment and related orders and for a new trial in Kanabec County, arguing that the default judgment is void because, under Minn. Stat. § 542.02 (2000), PHI should have brought its complaint against him in Kanabec County, where Griese’s real estate was located, rather than Lyon County, and because the default judgment was entered without the signature of a district court judge. The district court denied Griese’s motion as untimely. This appeal follows.
In reviewing the denial of a motion to vacate a default judgment, this court determines whether the district court abused its discretion. Foerster v. Folland, 498 N.W.2d 459, 460 (Minn. 1993). But a motion to vacate a default judgment based on lack of jurisdiction asserts that the judgment is void and therefore involves no question of discretion. Hengel v. Hyatt, 312 Minn. 317, 318, 252 N.W.2d 105, 106 (1977). A judgment that is void for lack of jurisdiction must be set aside regardless of whether a meritorious defense exists. Id. This court reviews jurisdictional issues de novo. Bode v. Minn. Dep’t of Natural Res., 612 N.W.2d 862, 866 (Minn. 2000).
Griese contends that under Minn. Stat. § 542.02 (2000) the Lyon County district court had no jurisdiction to enter a default judgment against him. Minn. Stat. § 542.02 provides:
Actions for the recovery of real estate, the foreclosure of a mortgage or other lien thereon, the partition thereof, the determination in any form of an estate or interest therein, and for injuries to lands within this state, shall be tried in the county where such real estate * * * is situated * * * . If the county designated in the complaint is not the proper county, the court therein shall have no jurisdiction of the action.
Hagel counters that the complaint against Griese was for breach of contract, seeking only a money judgment, and therefore Minn. Stat. § 542.02 does not apply.
Griese brought his motion to vacate judgment under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02(d). Rule 60.02(d) provides that a court may relieve a party from final judgment if the judgment is void and if the party brings the motion to vacate the judgment within a reasonable time. Traditionally, there has been no time limit for challenging a judgment on the basis that it is void for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Bode, 612 N.W.2d at 866. Before Bode, the supreme court adhered to that traditional rule by not applying the reasonable-time requirement of rule 60.02 to a rule 60.02 attack on a judgment based on a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. at 869.
But a “modern rule” has developed that recognizes that the right to question a judgment’s validity must sometimes yield to the principle of finality. Id. at 867; see Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 12 (1982) (precluding post-judgment attack for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction except under certain circumstances). In Bode, the supreme court concluded that, given the competing principles involved, applying the reasonable-time requirement of rule 60.02 to motions brought under the rule to vacate a judgment for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction achieves a better balance between those principles than the traditional rule. 612 N.W.2d at 870. Thus, the reasonable-time requirement of rule 60.02 now applies to rule 60.02 motions to vacate a judgment as void for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id.
Under rule 60.02, what constitutes a “reasonable time” varies from case to case. Id. We consider
all attendant circumstances such as: intervening rights, loss of proof by or prejudice to the adverse party, the commanding equities of the case, the general desirability that judgments be final and other relevant factors.
Id. (quotation omitted).
In Bode, the supreme court rejected an attack on a judgment under rule 60.02 as void for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because the plaintiffs waited several years to bring their rule 60.02 motion, they did not offer satisfactory reasons for why they delayed, and another party had made significant restorative improvements to the property at issue. Id. Here, Griese did not file his motion to vacate the 1996 default judgment until September 2001, and he offered no reason for his delay. PHI has since assigned its interest in the judgment to Hagel for consideration. Under the circumstances, Griese failed to bring his motion within a reasonable time, as required by rule 60.02. Because we conclude that the district court did not err when it denied Griese’s motion as untimely, we do not reach Griese’s arguments that the default judgment is void.