De Leon v. Marcos, et al

Plaintiff Ferdinand De Leon appealed a district court’s judgment entered in favor of Defendant Denman Investment Corporation, Inc. Plaintiff represents a class of over 9500 people who brought human rights claims against the former president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. In 1995, the class obtained a $2 billion judgment in the federal district court of Hawai'i. Several years later, the class registered the judgment in the federal district court in Illinois in an attempt to enforce it. The judgment was revived in 2008 and remains in effect until 2017 under Illinois law. Plaintiff then registered the Illinois revival in federal district court in Colorado. While ancillary lawsuits proceeded, Plaintiff filed a putative class action in 2009, seeking to enforce the Illinois judgment in Colorado against property that Defendant owned nominally for the benefit of the Marcos estate. Defendant moved to dismiss the Colorado suit, contending that, among other things, the Illinois judgement was unenforceable in Colorado. The Colorado court denied Defendant's motion, denied a motion to certify the class, and dismissed the sole claim against the Marcoses. But while that motion to dismiss was pending, Plaintiff filed an "advice of settlement" indicating that the parties reached a settlement-in-principle in this suit and the ancillary suit. Later that year, the district court entered its orders. Of import here was the court's finding that the Illinois judgment could not be re-registered in Colorado, and therefore, Plaintiff lacked standing to enforce the judgment. Plaintiff moved to vacate or modify the court's decision in light of the advice of settlement. Defendant responded by filing a notice of its intent not to participate in the appeal, stating that it had settled all claims with the class members. Upon careful consideration of the legal authority and the lengthy court record of this case, the Tenth Circuit concluded that language in the settlement stipulating that once the settlement agreement was executed the parties would dismiss their pending lawsuit controlled in this case. The Court concluded that the district court should have "treated the stipulation as a self-executing dismissal;" Accordingly, the district court's granting of Defendant's motion to dismiss on the merits was void because it was issued after the stipulation was filed and therefore in the absence of jurisdiction." The Court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded the case with directions to the lower court to dismiss the entire action with prejudice.