Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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This case arose out of a dispute between two sets of lawyers who provided legal work for a mutual client. Thomas Tufts and the Tufts Law Firm, PLLC appealed the district court's order granting a motion to dismiss on grounds of subject matter jurisdiction. Edward Hay and Pitts, Hay & Hugenschmidt, P.A. also filed a second motion to dismiss Tufts's action against them on the additional ground that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. After the district court found personal jurisdiction, Hay and his firm cross appealed.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred by dismissing the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Barton Doctrine. In this case, Tufts counsel initiated their action against Hay—court-approved counsel—and Tufts did not obtain leave of the bankruptcy court before doing so. The court held that the Barton doctrine has no application when jurisdiction over a matter no longer exists in the bankruptcy court. Thus, the bankruptcy court was properly vested with jurisdiction to consider this action if it could conceivably have an effect on the client's bankruptcy estate. Here, the action could not conceivably have an effect on the client's bankruptcy estate and thus the Barton doctrine does not apply. The court also held that the district court properly exercised personal jurisdiction over Hay. The court reversed the district court's ruling on subject matter jurisdiction and remanded. View "Tufts v. Hay" on Justia Law

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SEPH brought an adversary proceeding in debtor's Chapter 7 bankruptcy, requesting that the bankruptcy court declare the debt to SEPH exempt from discharge under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(2)(A) and (a)(6) because debtor fraudulently conveyed his property, thwarting SEPH's efforts to collect the debt. The bankruptcy court rejected SEPH's claims, granted debtor's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and dismissed the adversary proceeding. The district court affirmed the bankruptcy court's dismissal.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the Water's Edge judgment debt is not exempt from discharge under section 523(a)(2)(A), because the debt existed long before debtor began transferring his assets and that debt is an ordinary contract debt that did not arise from fraud of any kind. Furthermore, SEPH presents no binding authority that supports its assertion that a debtor's fraudulent conveyance of assets in an attempt to avoid collection of a preexisting debt renders that preexisting debt exempt from discharge under section 523(a)(2)(A). The court also held that the Water's Edge debt is not exempt from discharge under section 523(a)(6), because the debt was not "for willful and malicious injury" to SEPH or its property. Finally, the court held that the bankruptcy court correctly denied leave to amend because of the futility of SEPH's proposed amendment under the Alabama Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. View "SE Property Holdings, LLC v. Gaddy" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit dismissed bankruptcy appeals filed by attorney Breuer of Moffa & Breuer, who purported to represent the Trust. The bankruptcy court disqualified attorney Moffa and Moffa & Breuer from representing the Trust. Because the Trust was a 50 percent shareholder of the debtor created to ensure that Moffa & Breuer would collect its legal fees, the bankruptcy court concluded that Moffa & Breuer’s representation of a shareholder in which it had a business interest conflicted with its simultaneous representation of the debtor. Moffa & Breuer repeatedly ignored the disqualification order. Moffa, purportedly pro se in his capacity as trustee of the Trust and as an attorney for related entities, filed a competing plan of reorganization that would have released the debtor’s claims against his firm and made him president of the reorganized debtor.There has been no indication of an intent to appeal from any qualified agent of the Trust, only from disqualified attorneys. Moffa had no authority to act pro se in the bankruptcy court, so his filings do not suggest that the Trust intended to appeal. There is no justification for excusing these defective notices of appeal. When an appeal is taken on behalf of an artificial entity by someone without legal authority to do so, the appeal should be dismissed. View "J.J. Rissell, Allentown PA, Trust v. Kapila" on Justia Law

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The trustee objected to the modification of debtor's Chapter 13 modification plan, arguing that the doctrine of res judicata barred debtor's modification. The bankruptcy court confirmed the modified plan, finding that 11 U.S.C. 1329 creates an exception to the finality of confirmed Chapter 13 plans, and that debtor's modified plan satisfied the express requirements of section 1329.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and held that section 1329 does not impose a change-of-circumstances requirement on debtors. Therefore, debtor need not make any threshold showing of a change in circumstances before proposing a modification to a confirmed plan under section 1329. View "Whaley v. Guillen" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's finding that UpRight, a debt relief agency that represented assisted persons, violated several applicable provisions and rules, and upheld the bankruptcy court's imposition of sanctions against it.The court held that the bankruptcy court had subject matter jurisdiction to impose sanctions; because adequate notice came from both the bankruptcy administrator and the bankruptcy court, and UpRight had a reasonable opportunity to respond both orally and in writing, the fundamental fairness of due process was met; UpRight's contention that the bankruptcy court applied the wrong legal standard in imposing the suspensions pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 105 is moot; the totality of the circumstances support a finding of a "clear and consistent pattern or practice" under 11 U.S.C. 526(c)(5); and the monetary sanctions that were imposed were not grossly excessive and did not fall outside the reasonable "range of choice" that was available to the bankruptcy court. View "Law Solutions of Chicago, LLC v. Corbett" on Justia Law

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The language of 11 U.S.C. 365(p)(1) is crystal clear: "If a lease of personal property is rejected or not timely assumed by the trustee . . . the leased property is no longer property of the estate."The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding the bankruptcy court's denial of Microf's claim for administrative-expense priority. Where, as here, it is undisputed that the trustee did not assume the Microf lease, section 365(p)(1) means that the Microf lease dropped out of the bankruptcy estate upon confirmation of debtor's Chapter 13 plan. Because Microf has not otherwise shown that the lease confers a benefit on the estate, the court held that its claim of administrative-expense priority was properly denied. View "Microf LLC v. Cumbess" on Justia Law

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The court-appointed receiver filed suit against JPMC, seeking to recover funds that were fraudulently diverted from the Receivership Entities' bank accounts in connection with a Ponzi scheme. The complaint sought to avoid the fraudulent transfers and recover the diverted funds on behalf of the Receivership Entities under the Florida Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (FUFTA), and to collect damages from JPMC for JPMC's alleged aiding and abetting of three torts: breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and fraud.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the receiver failed to state a claim under FUFTA because he failed to allege an applicable conveyance or fraudulent transfer. The court also held that the receiver lacked standing to assert, on behalf of the Receivership Entities, claims against JPMC for allegedly aiding and abetting the Ponzi schemers' breach of fiduciary duties, conversion, and fraud. Finally, the court noted that the district court did not abuse its discretion in staying discovery pending resolution of JPMC's motion to dismiss. View "Isaiah v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that DISH violated the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) in its attempts to collect debt it knew had been discharged in bankruptcy and in its direct contacts with plaintiff knowing she was represented by counsel. Plaintiff also alleged that DISH violated the Telephone Consumer Practices Act (TCPA) by contacting plaintiff about the debt with an automated dialing system after she revoked her consent to receive such calls.The Eleventh Circuit first determined that DISH's claim for the Pause debt was discharged. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the FCCPA claims. In this case, DISH attempted to collect debt it had no legal right to collect because the debt had been discharged in bankruptcy, and DISH directly contacted plaintiff after having received notice that she was represented by counsel. Accordingly, the court remanded on the FCCPA claims for the district court to consider whether DISH actually knew that the Pause charges were invalid and that plaintiff was represented by counsel with regard to the debt it was attempting to collect, and if so, whether such errors were unintentional and the result of bona fide error.The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the TCPA claim, holding that the TCPA does not allow unilateral revocation of consent given in a bargained-for contract. The court reasoned that, by permitting plaintiff to unilaterally revoke a mutually-agreed-upon term in a contract would run counter to black-letter contract law in effect at the time Congress enacted the TCPA. View "Medley v. Dish Network, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Bay Point in state court and added DCT as a plaintiff in an amended complaint, alleging that Bay Point's foreclosure of two properties caused him to lose the collateral's value exceeding the debt balance, and to suffer mental anguish. After Bay Point removed to bankruptcy court, the district court affirmed the bankruptcy court's order in favor of Bay Point. Plaintiff and DCT appealed, but then the district court granted DCT's motion to dismiss.The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff lacked Article III standing, because he failed to allege a particularized, actual injury. Furthermore, plaintiff was not a person aggrieved. Therefore, plaintiff may not appeal the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's order. View "Thakkar v. Bay Point Capital Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the Chapter 7 Trustee's request to use his powers under the bankruptcy code to avoid Wells Fargo's security interest in debtor's real property. The court rejected the Trustee's argument that, under Georgia law, security deeds in land were required to be attested at least by two witnesses. Rather, the court stated that the deed (1) must be attested by or acknowledged before an officer and (2) must also be attested or acknowledged by one additional witness. The court explained that the use of the word "or" in "attested or acknowledged" plainly contemplates these two acts as alternative methods of authenticating a security deed.In this case, where the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, the court stated that judicial construction was not only unnecessary but forbidden. Furthermore, this common-sense reading of the statute was reflected in Supreme Court of Georgia precedent. View "Gordon v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA" on Justia Law