CORSICA — First Dakota National Bank asked Friday for permission to sell land currently owned by the Corsica couple involved in a multi-million-dollar foreclosure case.
If approved, the motion would allow the bank to sell Robert and Becky Blom's land to three people by the end of the month for a total of $1.6 million. The bank's initial complaint against the Bloms stated they owed a principle amount of more than $6.7 million, in addition to accruing interest, and 74 total parties have claimed to date that the Bloms owe them money.
During a recess in a Feb. 13 hearing, according to the motion, First Dakota notified attorneys present that the bank would propose the sale once a new judge was appointed to preside over the case, as judge Bruce Anderson recused himself that day. All counsel present reportedly told First Dakota's attorneys that none of the parties with interest in the case had interest in the land itself and that there would be no objection to the sale.
The Bloms, court-appointed receiver Lewis Dirks and the three people who have agreed to purchase the land — listed as Eric VandenHoek, Josh Bialas and Marion Blom — have all signed a commercial/agricultural real estate purchase agreement to close on or before March 31. The land, divided into three parcels, consists of the Blom feedlot, the home place south of the feedlot and the location of B&B Washout, the Bloms' company which is also named as a defendant in the foreclosure.
Based on a decision reached with other attorneys during that same break in the February hearing, attorney Bill Taylor, whose firm is representing three of the case's 74 interested parties, wrote a letter to South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson and First Circuit Presiding Judge Cheryle Gering on Feb. 14, asking for appointment of a judge to replace Anderson, who recused himself on the basis of not having enough time to handle the case alongside his circuit court docket, which has been filled with an increasing number of cases involving methamphetamine.
While Anderson recommended hiring a retired judge as a referee with a $150 hourly fee to be split among the interested parties and paid through the receivership account maintained by Dirks, Taylor asked instead for the appointment of a retired judge, to whom expenses would be paid by the Unified Judicial System.
Though interested parties believed they had contracts for as much as 33,000 head of cattle with the Bloms, Dirks' investigation found that because Blom had sold the same cattle several times over, only about 6,000 head of cattle actually existed. Those cattle have now been sold, with the approximately $8 million generated from those sales placed in the receivership account.
"There was little appetite to pay for a referee in a case in which the parties may go home with nothing or at best a small fraction of their investment," Taylor wrote.
Gilbertson responded in a Feb. 18 letter that the UJS wouldn't be able to cover the expense of appointing a retired judge at the current rate of $63.31 per hour for a single case in which an estimated 1,000-2,000 hours would be required. In the current fiscal year, Gilbertson wrote, UJS budgeted $135,000 to compensate retired circuit judges and had already spent $144,886 with four months remaining in the fiscal year.
"It appears to both Judge Gering and myself that the efficacious course of action would be to continue with the original plan of a replacement circuit judge assisted by a referee to be funded by receivership assets," Gilbertson wrote, adding that those costs must be paid out of the receivership fund before any remaining funds could be distributed to the other parties.
Gering appointed First Circuit Judge Tami Bern to take Anderson's place on Feb. 24. As of Monday, no date had been set to discuss First Dakota's motion, and no documents had been filed in response.