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Jackson v. Sey

Supreme Court of Alaska

December 27, 2013

Willie K. JACKSON, Appellant,
v.
Amie SEY, Appellee.

Page 675

Willie Jackson, Seagoville, Texas, pro se.

No appearance by Appellee.

Before: FABE, Chief Justice, WINFREE, STOWERS, MAASSEN, and BOLGER, Justices.

OPINION

MAASSEN, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

In 2008 the superior court granted a default divorce to Amie Sey after her husband Willie Jackson, who was incarcerated at the time, failed to appear telephonically at a hearing. Jackson filed a motion for relief from judgment under Alaska Civil Rule 60(b), arguing that Sey had made misrepresentations and withheld information about marital property. The court allowed Jackson to conduct discovery in support of the motion, but it later dismissed the motion for lack of prosecution under Alaska Civil Rule 41(e). The court also determined that the time to appeal or to request Rule 60(b) relief was long past. Jackson appeals this dismissal and raises several challenges to the underlying divorce decree. We reverse the dismissal of Jackson's Rule 60(b) motion and remand for consideration of its merits.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Willie Jackson was incarcerated soon after he and Amie Sey married in 2003. Sey filed for divorce in February 2008.[1] In his answer, Jackson contested Sey's description of the marital property, and he asserted that she had " probably obscured" property that should have been part of the marital estate. He also informed the superior court that he was incarcerated in federal prison in California.

After Jackson failed to appear telephonically at a trial-setting conference, the court scheduled another hearing for May 29, 2008. Although the court sent notice, Jackson alleges on appeal that he did not receive it, and he did not appear at that hearing either. The calendaring order had described the hearing as a settlement conference, but the court heard testimony from Sey and then granted a default divorce. The court interpreted Jackson's answer to the complaint as indicating that he did not disagree with Sey's description of the marital property, and the judge informed Sey that Jackson could take action later if he wished to contest the property's disposition.

The day after the hearing, on May 30, the court received two motions from Jackson dated three days before. The first motion was a request that Jackson be allowed to participate telephonically in any future hearings. The second was a request that the court compel disclosure of information about a Key Bank account that Jackson believed Sey held, as well as her employment information and tax returns. A court clerk found the filings deficient and returned them both to Jackson.

The court issued its written divorce decree on June 9, 2008. The decree stated that " [b]ecause Mr. Jackson did not ... make arrangements to appear telephonically, or for a continuance, the court defaulted him and heard the matter." The court established the date of separation as " sometime after Mr. Jackson was arrested" and found there was no marital property to be divided.

On June 18, 2008, Jackson requested an extension of time to file the motions that had been returned due to procedural deficiencies. The court denied the request for extension on grounds that the divorce had already been granted. The court notified Jackson, however, that " [i]f the defendant believes that the property division ...


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