United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S PROPOSED
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
JUDITH C. HERRERA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the Proposed Findings and
Recommended Disposition (“PFRD”) of Magistrate
Judge Jerry H. Ritter, Doc. 63, filed January 11,
2019, and the objections of the Plaintiff, Stephen Ullrich,
filed January 22, 2019. Doc. 64. The Court, having
conducted a de novo review of Mr. Ullrich's
objections, hereby overrules them and adopts the PFRD for the
reasons set forth below.
Standard of Review
of the magistrate judge's ruling is required by the
district court when a party timely files written objections
to that ruling.” Hutchinson v. Pfeil, 105 F.3d
562, 566 (10th Cir. 1997). Specifically, “[d]e novo
review is required when a party files timely written
objections to the magistrate judge's
recommendation.” In re Griego, 64 F.3d 580,
583-84 (10th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). “De novo
review requires the district court to consider relevant
evidence of record and not merely review the magistrate
judge's recommendation.” Id.
“However, neither 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) nor
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) requires the district court to make any
specific findings; the district court must merely conduct a
de novo review of the record.” Garcia v. City of
Albuquerque, 232 F.3d 760, 766 (10th Cir. 2000).
filing of objections to a magistrate's report enables the
district judge to focus attention on those issues -- factual
and legal -- that are at the heart of the parties'
dispute.'” United States v. One Parcel of Real
Prop., with Bldgs., Appurtenances, Improvements, and
Contents, 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996) (quoting
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985)). “[A]
party's objections to the magistrate judge's report
and recommendations must be both timely and specific to
preserve an issue for de novo review by the district court or
for appellate review.” United States v. One
Parcel, 73 F.3d at 1060. “A judge of the court may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge
may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to
the magistrate judge with instructions.” 28 U.S.C.
Ullrich does not object to Judge Ritter's discussion of
the background of this case, and this Court will not repeat
those facts here except where essential to the analysis. Most
basically, Mr. Ullrich's Complaint asserts that
Defendants improperly disposed of his personal property and
the property of his parents' estate. See Doc.
10. He does not state specific claims against
Defendants, but seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as
well as unspecified damages. Id. at 8.
filed a motion for summary judgment, Doc. 32, and
memorandum in support, Doc. 33, arguing inter
alia that Mr. Ullrich's claims fail as a matter of
law based on the doctrines of collateral estoppel and/or res
judicata. Doc. 33 at 5. Defendants explain that,
after his parents' deaths, Mr. Ullrich filed a Petition
for Probate Writ in New Mexico state court seeking an
inventory of his parents' assets and asking the court to
establish oversight over their estate(s). Id. at 6.
The state court entered a final order dismissing Mr.
Ullrich's Petition on March 19, 2013. Id. Mr.
Ullrich appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, which
summarily disposed of his appeal on September 23, 2016.
Id. Defendants therefore argued that Mr.
Ullrich's claims in this case must be dismissed.
Judge Ritter entered his PFRD on January 11, 2019. See
generally Doc. 63. Pertinent here, Judge Ritter agreed
that Mr. Ullrich's claims in this case are barred by the
doctrine of collateral estoppel, by virtue of the findings of
the state district court and New Mexico Court of Appeals.
See Id. at 6. Specifically, Judge Ritter reasoned
that, because the Court of Appeals found that Mr.
Ullrich's parents' estates had no assets to
distribute and that, even if they did, Mr. Ullrich was not
entitled to any assets as he had been disinherited in his
parents' wills, his claims asserting the negligent
administration of his parents' estates were barred.
Id. at 8.
Ullrich timely objected to Judge Ritter's PFRD on January
22, 2019. See generally Doc. 64. In his objections
Mr. Ullrich admits that he brought a case before the New
Mexico probate court and that a challenge to any such
proceedings would be barred from review by this Court under
the doctrine of collateral estoppel. Id. at 1.
However, Mr. Ullrich argues that Judge Ritter misunderstood
the nature of his claims, which, he argues, sound in contract
rather than probate. Id. at 2. Mr. Ullrich refers to
a contract that arose before his parents' 1994 will and
2005 amended will, and asks this Court to “review the
contract issues; existing prior to any probate-state matters;
and outside of the state probate issues.” Id.
Ullrich poses no specific objection to Judge Ritter's
rationale that his claims based on the administration of his
parents' estate are barred by the doctrine of collateral
estoppel. In fact, he appears to agree with this proposition.
As such, the Court finds that any claims based on the
administration of Mr. Ullrich's parents' estate are
barred based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel.
to Mr. Ullrich's purported “contract claims”
the Court finds that they are barred. Mr. Ullrich does not
articulate contract claims in his Complaint, see
generally Doc. 10, but alleges that they arise from
contracts (not proven to be in writing) between himself and
his parents. Upon their deaths in 2009 and 2011, any
unperformed obligations would have become claims against the
parents' estate to ...