This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Mary Jo A. Jensen-Carter,
Trustee of the Bankruptcy Estate of Larry K. Alexander,
Larry K. Alexander, et al.,
Georgina Y. Stephens,
Filed June 24, 2003
Affirmed; motions denied
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C8014968
Valdis A. Silins, Stephenson & Sanford, 501 Marquette Avenue, Suite 1440, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
Georgina Y. Stephens, 875 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (pro se appellant)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, Anderson, Judge.
G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge
Appellant asserts several theories of error in her challenge to the district court’s ruling in this interlocutory appeal. Appellant argues the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, the eviction petition was reopened in an untimely manner, and that respondent did not have standing. Appellant has also filed a motion to strike portions of respondent’s brief and appendix and also moves this court to sanction respondent. We affirm the district court’s ruling and deny appellant’s motions.
This litigation centers on a St. Paul house owned by appellant Georgina Stephens and her former husband, Larry Alexander. Stephens asserts that in March 1998, Alexander conveyed his interest in the property, by way of an unrecorded deed, to Stephens and the parties’ children. In June 1998, Alexander began the process of dissolving his marriage to Stephens. One week later he filed for bankruptcy protection and sought to exempt this property as homestead.
Respondent Mary Jo Jensen-Carter was appointed trustee of Alexander’s estate and filed an objection to the homestead exemption on behalf of the estate. In June 1999, the bankruptcy court concluded that the property was not exempt and the Eighth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Court affirmed this decision in October 1999. In re Alexander, 239 B.R. 911, 916 (B.A.P. 8th Cir. 1999).
In August 1998, Stephens filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. Throughout Stephens’ bankruptcy proceedings, although she maintained that she lived in the house at issue here, she claimed no ownership interest in the property and for a time maintained she was a tenant and paying rent. In August 1999, during Stephens’ bankruptcy proceedings, forms were filed seeking a homestead exemption for the property. The bankruptcy court fully administered Stephens’ estate in November 1999. On June 6, 2001, Jensen-Carter brought an eviction petition against Alexander and Stephens in state district court. The matter was removed to federal district court and then remanded to state district court.
After experiencing difficulty getting the matter back on the district court docket, Jensen-Carter successfully moved to reopen the eviction action. Stephens made a timely answer and sought summary judgment. Stephens also sought to have the claim converted to an ejectment claim. The district court denied Stephens’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed her counterclaims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. This appeal followed. Because this matter is before us as an interlocutory appeal, the scope of our review is limited to Stephens’ claim that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.
Stephens challenges the district court’s determination it had subject matter jurisdiction and refusal to grant her motion for summary judgment. We ask two questions on an appeal from the district court’s decision to grant or deny “summary judgment, (1) whether there are any genuine issues of material fact, and (2) whether the lower courts erred in their application of the law.” State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990) (citation omitted). Likewise we review determinations of subject matter jurisdiction de novo. Indep. School Dist. v. Holm Bros. Plumbing and Heating, Inc., 660 N.W.2d 146, 149 (Minn. App. 2003).
Stephens argues that the district court erred in failing to grant summary judgment because the district courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction. She bases her jurisdictional argument on the federal bankruptcy code that allows a trustee only two years after a bankruptcy petition is filed to bring certain claims on behalf of the estate. 11 U.S.C. § 546, subd. (a)(1)(A) (2002). Stephens notes that Alexander filed for bankruptcy protection in June 1998. Thus, Stephens argues, the June 2001 eviction claim is time barred.
The earliest a possessory interest can be traced to Stephens is August 1999, when forms were filed in her bankruptcy proceedings seeking to exempt the property. Therefore, Jensen-Carter’s June 2001 eviction claim satisfied the statutory requirements. Moreover, because this action is essentially a “turnover” action, it is not subject to the § 546 requirements to bring a claim within two years. See 11 U.S.C. § 546 (statute’s two year limit only applies to claims brought under 11 U.S.C. § 544 (lien creditor) § 545 (statutory liens), § 547 (preferences), § 548 (fraudulent conveyances), and § 553 (set offs)).
Stephens next claims that Minnesota does not have subject-matter jurisdiction here because: (1) Minn. Stat. § 504B.341, (b) (2002) states that eviction matters can be continued for only three months; (2) Jensen-Carter, acting as trustee, stands in Alexander’s shoes and therefore cannot seek to evict Stephens from the house; and (3) the bankruptcy court’s decision to exempt the disputed property in Stephens’ bankruptcy proceeding has preclusive effect.
Whether the district court has subject matter jurisdiction is a matter this court reviews de novo. Odenthal v. Minn. Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, 649 N.W.2d 426, 434 (Minn. 2002). Stephens is correct that an eviction action can be continued for no more than three months. But it is important to point out that this matter was not continued. Stephens sought to remove the claim to federal district court, which rejected the case. There was no continuance.
We also reject Stephens’ challenge to Jensen-Carter’s authority as trustee of the Alexander estate. Stephens essentially argues that because one spouse cannot evict the other spouse from the family home, Jensen-Carter, standing in Alexander’s shoes, is also not able to evict her. Stephens’ argument ignores Jensen-Carter’s duty as trustee by maximizing the estate for liquidation for the benefit of creditors. McCuskey v. Cent. Trailer Serv., 37 F.3d 1329, 1331 (8th Cir. 1994). The trustee may fulfill this duty at the expense of petitioner’s spouse. See In re Greer, 242 B.R. 389, 397 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 1999) (any rights that vested in debtor’s wife upon entry of judgment of divorce were subject to administration by trustee).
Stephens’ claim that the federal district court remand order collaterally estops the eviction petition is without merit. The remand order did not address the merits of the underlying litigation and, thus, has no preclusive effect. Falgren v. State Bd. of Teaching, 545 N.W.2d 901, 905 (Minn. 1996).
Next, Stephens claims the district court erred by refusing to convert the eviction claim to an ejectment claim. The district court has broad discretion to grant or deny leave to amend a complaint, and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993). Because Stephens’ “mere assertion of error” is not supported by proper authority, Stephens waives this argument. Melina v. Chaplin, 327 N.W.2d 19, 20 (Minn. 1982).
Additionally, Stephens has moved to strike portions of Jensen-Carter’s brief and appendix, arguing that they contain material not reviewed by the district court. The challenged material was properly before the district court and we deny Stephens’ motion. See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.01 (defining the record on appeal as the papers filed in district court). In light of the result both in the district court and here, we deny Stephens’ unsupported and groundless motion for sanctions against Jensen-Carter.
Affirmed; motions denied.