Wells Fargo lawsuit against city of Richmond dismissed

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Waiting for Wells Fargo
Photo by Brittany M. Powell
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin calls Wells Fargo CEO during a protest outside of Wells Fargo's downtown headquarters.

Richmond, 1, Wells Fargo, zip. 

In the first round of what may become a long and protracted legal battle, US Distict Judge Charles Breyer dismissed Wells Fargo's lawsuit against the city of Richmond today, and the reason for dismissal was clear: nothing has happened yet. 

Wells Fargo's suit attacked the constintutionality of Richmond's plan to use eminent domain to seize about 600 mortgage loans, a controversial program meant to save residents from losing their homes. The judge pointed out that not only had Richmond not yet enacted the plan, but it hadn't even been voted on by the Richmond City Council. 

In legalese, the case is not "yet ripe for adjudication." Translation? You can't sue someone for something that hasn't happened, or may not ever happen, Breyer wrote in his decision. He also explained why he dismissed the case, rather than putting it in abeyance (a kind of "pause button" for cases).

"The Court further concludes that it must dismiss the case rather than hold it in abeyance," he wrote. "Ripeness of these claims does not rest on contingent future events certain to occur, but rather on future events that may never occur. Because there is no point at which it will be determined that Plaintiffs’ claims are not ripe and will never become ripe, the matter could linger in abeyance for an indefinite period of time. Under these circumstances, a stay is not appropriate."

Wells Fargo declined to comment on the decision, and a spokesperson referred us to legal counsel representing investors in the mortgage market (of which Wells Fargo is a trustee). Mayor Gayle McLaughlin also was unavailable for comment as she is out of the country on a business trip.

protesters march outside of Wells Fargo

Speaking to the Guardian a few weeks ago about her eminent domain plan, McLaughlin said she would be willing to battle Wells Fargo "all the way to the Supreme Court," to defend the community of Richmond. And she may have to, as Wells Fargo does have the opportunity to appeal to a higher court. 

For clarification, Breyer did indicate in the hearing last week that he would seek abeyance or dismissal in the case, but did not issue his final decision until today.  

For our coverage of Richmond's city council meeting where the plan was almost voted down by city councilmember Nathaniel Bates, click here. Look out for our full coverage of the newest in Richmond's battle for homeowners in our September 18 issue, this Wednesday.  

 

Below is the full text of Breyer's decision.

Comments

Because the initiative is premature and probably stillborn. No need to rule on it yet.

So why is SFBG reporting on something that isn't even vaguely close to ever happening?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 11:38 pm

invalidate the argument that Richmond's plan is constitutional and is not a taking.

Eminent Domain was envisaged as taking physical assets within a jurisdiction, not financial assets. So Richmond can buy the homes but not the loans. If they did that, then banks would probably allow this.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 17, 2013 @ 6:03 am

Sounds like the courts are taking a dim view of the banks' challenge. Hopefully it survives -it's a beautiful, creative, innovative solution. I love innovation. This is what good government is all about!

Posted by Greg on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

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