Justia Bankruptcy Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Mains v. Citibank, N.A.
Mains executed a mortgage on his home with WAMU in 2006 and made timely payments for about two years. WAMU failed in 2008; the FDIC became its receiver. Chase purchased Mains’s mortgage. Mains fell behind on his payments. He requested loan modifications from Chase three times and discontinued making payments in March 2009. Chase sent Mains a default and acceleration notice in June. In April 2010, Citibank (Chase’s successor) filed for foreclosure in Clark County, Indiana. That court granted Citibank summary judgment in 2013. Mains unsuccessfully appealed, contending that Citibank had committed fraud because it was not the real party in interest but instructed its employees fraudulently to sign documents. In 2015, Mains filed a “rambling, 90‐page” federal court complaint, alleging that he had discovered new evidence that he could not have presented to the state court—undisclosed consent judgments, parties in interest, and evidence of robo‐signing. He claimed to have rescinded his mortgage. He alleged state law claims and violations of: the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. 2601; the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. 1631; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692; and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961. The district court found that a decision for Mains would effectively nullify the state‐court judgment and dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker‐Feldman doctrine. The Seventh Circuit agreed, but modified so that the dismissal was without prejudice. View "Mains v. Citibank, N.A." on Justia Law
Netzer v. Office of Lawyer Regulation
Netzer, a debtor in bankruptcy, asked the court to discharge a $9,200 debt to Wisconsin’s Office of Lawyer Regulation, imposed as costs in a disciplinary proceeding. The bankruptcy court concluded that the debt is a “fine, penalty, or forfeiture” under 11 U.S.C. 2 and not dischargeable. Netzer had 14 days to appeal, but 41 days later he asked the district judge to excuse his tardiness, contending that until a few days earlier he had not known of the bankruptcy court’s decision. The district court dismissed the appeal as untimely, reasoning that the 14-day period is jurisdictional and that there cannot be equitable exceptions to jurisdictional rules. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that whether or not a given rule is “jurisdictional” it is still a rule and must be enforced. Courts lack an “equitable” power to contradict the bankruptcy statutes and rules. Litigants need only check the court’s electronic docket once a month in order to protect their interests. View "Netzer v. Office of Lawyer Regulation" on Justia Law
Cox v. Nostaw, Inc.
Cox, the trustee in the Central Illinois Energy Cooperative bankruptcy, appealed a bankruptcy court ruling after it was affirmed by the district court. In the meantime, the parties mediated a settlement and the bankruptcy court stated that it would approve that settlement, subject to the disposition of any objection filed by a creditor or Cox. Cox then moved for dismissal of the appeal. The Seventh Circuit denied the motion. When, as in this case, an appeal is from the district court’s affirmance of a bankruptcy court order, a remand to the bankruptcy court for approval of settlement requires coordination between three courts. Rules 12.1 and 57 both authorize relief only after the district court has said that it is inclined to grant a motion barred by the pending appeal. Although the parties obtained an indicative ruling from the bankruptcy court, there is no record that they sought or obtained an indicative ruling from the district court. The proper procedure is to obtain an indicative ruling from both courts that will need to act. View "Cox v. Nostaw, Inc." on Justia Law
Christofalos v. Grcic
In the first case in “a long‐running and acrimonious business dispute,” Lardas claimed fraudulent inducement and breach of contract, arising from a settlement agreement, which Lardas argued was intended to deprive her nephew (Christofalos) of his ownership interest in Wauconda Shopping Center (WSC). The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of Lardas’s case without prejudice, finding that Lardas lacked standing. Lardas had transferred her ownership in a predecessor entity to Christofalos. The second case involves Christofalos’s bankruptcy, in which the court authorized the sale of his interest in WSC (11 U.S.C. 363(b)). The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal as moot because the sale has been consummated and third parties have acted in reliance. Christofalos also challenged the denial of a discharge, based on a bankruptcy court finding under 11 U.S.C. 727(a)(4)(A), which authorizes denial of discharge where the debtor has “knowingly and fraudulently … made a false oath or account.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Christofalos made a “host of false statements and omissions.” The court also affirmed denial of Christofalos’s “Motion to Reopen Case and Assign a Receiver” in Lardas’s case. View "Christofalos v. Grcic" on Justia Law
Farley v. Kempff
Margaret’s husband, Bart, was general counsel for a Chicago-area real estate developer. He embezzled $1.2 million from his employer while the two were married. To evade detection, he attempted to replenish the stolen funds, borrowing $400,000 from his friend Farley on the ruse that the money would be used for a real-estate development. Bart gave Farley a third-priority lien on the couple’s home, forging Margaret’s signature on the note and mortgage. Bart’s employer discovered the embezzlement. Bart was convicted of felony theft. Margaret divorced him; the couple’s home went into foreclosure. Farley filed a cross-claim, seeking to enforce his lien, but the sale of the home did not yield nearly enough to cover even the first mortgage. Margaret filed for bankruptcy while the foreclosure was pending, which stayed Farley’s claim. Farley then filed an adversary complaint challenging Margaret’s eligibility for a Chapter 7 discharge. He claimed that she made a fraudulent transfer after filing her bankruptcy petition and made multiple false statements in her bankruptcy schedules. Margaret testified at trial that these were innocent mistakes. The bankruptcy judge credited her testimony and rejected each of Farley’s contentions. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, describing Farley’s as “ill-considered” and noting that credibility determinations are almost never disturbed on appeal. View "Farley v. Kempff" on Justia Law
McGarry & McGarry, LLC v. Rabobank, N.A.
BMS provides administrative services to bankruptcy trustees. It uses Rabobank as the depositary for banking services that BMS provides through its software. Crane, the trustee in the Integrated bankruptcy, hired BMS; the contract required Crane to hire Rabobank for banking services in the proceeding. In a separate contract, Crane authorized Rabobank to withdraw its monthly fee. The plaintiff, a law firm, was a creditor of Integrated and filed a bankruptcy claim, ultimately receiving a distribution of $12,472.55. It would have received $12,666.90, but for its part of Rabobank’s fee, and more had Rabobank paid interest on the estate’s deposits. Plaintiff sued under the Bank Holding Company Act, 12 U.S.C. 1972(1)(E), which states that a bank shall not "extend credit, lease or sell property of any kind, or furnish any service, or fix or vary the consideration for any of the foregoing, on the condition … that the customer shall not obtain some other credit, property, or service from a competitor of such bank … other than a condition … to assure the soundness of the credit.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. Had Rabobank conditioned its provision of services on the trustee never hiring any other bank in any bankruptcy proceeding, it would constitute exclusive dealing. No one forced Crane to deal with BMS and Rabobank and there was no argument that the fee was exorbitant, or would have been lower with a different bank. View "McGarry & McGarry, LLC v. Rabobank, N.A." on Justia Law
Smith v. Capital One Bank (USA), N.A.
Smith’s husband obtained a Capital One credit card that he used for family consumer debts. Smith subsequently filed for bankruptcy. Smith’s husband did not join Smith’s petition and was not listed as a co‐debtor. The bankruptcy court conﬁrmed Smith’s Chapter 13 plan. During Smith’s repayment period, Capital One, through attorney Kohn, sued Smith’s husband and obtained a Wisconsin state court judgment for amounts owed on his credit card; it has not attempted to enforce the judgment. Smith initiated a successful bankruptcy court adversary proceeding, arguing that Smith’s husband’s credit card debt was covered by the co‐debtor stay due under Wisconsin marital law and alleging violations of the co‐debtor stay, 11 U.S.C. 1301(a); the Wisconsin Consumer Act; and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692(d)(e). The district court reversed, holding that “consumer debt of the debtor” does not include a debt for which the debtor is not personally liable but that may be satisﬁed from the debtor’s interest in marital property. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Smith’s suggested expansion of the co‐debtor stay is contrary to its plain meaning and purpose, which is to prevent undue pressure that creditors could otherwise exert by threatening action against third-parties who have co‐signed the debtor’s debts. View "Smith v. Capital One Bank (USA), N.A." on Justia Law
Loventhal v. Edelson
Mrs. Edelson filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. She and her husband, who did not join her petition or file his own, held their Chicago home as “tenants by the entirety,” until seven months before the petition, when they conveyed it to the husband’s living trust. The conveyance states that “the beneficial interest” in the trust is held by the Edelsons, “husband and wife, as tenant[s] by the entirety.” The bankruptcy petition named Loventhal, Mrs. Edelson’s former husband, as an unsecured creditor for $92,000. Mrs. Edelson proposed a payment plan that would give Loventhal $16,000 over five years and designated the residence as exempt. Loventhal argued that the transfer to the husband’s trust eliminated the tenancy by the entirety. The bankruptcy judge, district court, and Seventh Circuit rejected his argument, citing 11 U.S.C. 522(b)(3)(B): “any interest in property in which the debtor had, immediately before the commencement of the case, an interest as a tenant by the entirety” is exempted “to the extent that such interest … is exempt from process under applicable nonbankruptcy law,” and Illinois law, which exempts tenancies by the entirety from process to satisfy judgment “against only one of the tenants.” While the trust instrument includes provisions inconsistent with tenancy by the entirety, the Joint Tenancy Act forbids any construction that would sever the tenancy by the entirety. View "Loventhal v. Edelson" on Justia Law
Trentadue v. Gay
In 2010, Trentadue’s ex‐wife sought to modify placement and child support, related to one of their six children. A three-year legal dispute over custody, placement, health insurance, and child support followed, involving substantial motion practice, requests for contempt findings, engagement of experts, and evidentiary hearings. The Wisconsin state court overseeing the litigation determined that Trentadue’s conduct resulted in excessive trial time to resolve the case and awarded Trentadue’s ex‐wife $25,000 in attorney’s fees for “overtrial,” to be paid to attorney Gay. Trentadue never paid Gay. Instead, he filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. Gay countered by filing a $25,000 claim for the unpaid overtrial award and classified it as a nondischargeable, domestic support obligation entitled to priority. Trentadue objected that the obligation was imposed as a punishment, not a domestic support obligation. The bankruptcy court overruled his objection. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting the restorative nature of the award. which “furthers two objectives, providing compensation to the overtrial victim for fees unnecessarily incurred and deterring unnecessary use of judicial resources.” The court also noted that Trentadue’s finances are “not so bleak,” including monthly income of six to seven thousand dollars. View "Trentadue v. Gay" on Justia Law
Ferguson v. West Central FS, Inc.
The Fergusons proposed to repay their farm debts under Bankruptcy Code Chapter 12, including a $300,000 loan from First Community Bank, secured by a mortgage plus a lien on farm equipment and crops, and a $176,000 loan from FS, secured by a junior lien on equipment and crops. The bankruptcy judge approved a sale of equipment and crops, which yielded $238,000. The Bank, as senior creditor, demanded those proceeds. FS argued that the Bank should be required to recoup through the mortgage, allowing FS to be repaid from the equipment sale; "marshaling" is not mentioned in the Code, but available under state law. The Fergusons wanted reorganization, to keep their farm. The judge awarded the Bank $238,000. The parties could not agree on a repayment plan. The judge converted the case to a Chapter 7 liquidation. The trustee sold the farm for $411,000, paying the Bank the balance of its claim. About $261,000 remains. FS wanted to be treated as a secured creditor and repeated its request for marshaling. The equipment sale generated federal and state tax bills, with priority among unsecured creditors, 11 U.S.C. 507(a)(8). FS’s status—as a secured creditor with marshaling, or a general unsecured creditor without it—determines whether the taxes will be paid during the bankruptcy. Tax debts are not dischargeable; the Fergusons opposed marshaling. The bankruptcy judge approved FS’s request, stating that he would have approved the original request had he known that the farm would be sold. The district court remanded, stating that marshaling is proper only if two funds exist simultaneously. One fund (equipment and crop proceeds) is gone, only the land sale fund still exists. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction; the remand was not a final order. View "Ferguson v. West Central FS, Inc." on Justia Law