Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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The doctrine of equitable mootness, which permits courts sitting in bankruptcy appeals to dismiss challenges when effective relief would be impossible, applies in the Chapter 9 context. The Eleventh Circuit held that it would be appropriate to note federalism concerns when deciding whether the doctrine should bar an appeal in a particular bankruptcy case. In this case, equitable mootness barred the ratepayers' appeal because they have never asked any court to stay the implementation of the plan that the bankruptcy court confirmed and thus no court has ever stayed the implementation of the plan. Furthermore, the County and others have taken significant and largely irreversible steps in reliance on the unstayed plan confirmed by the bankruptcy court. Finally, after considering notions of fairness by looking at the merits and the public interest, the court held that dismissing the ratepayers' appeal was appropriate. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's order and remanded for dismissal of the ratepayers' appeal from the plan confirmed by the bankruptcy court. View "Bennett v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law

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After debtor filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, the trustee filed an adversary proceeding against Blue Bell to recover from Blue Bell more than $500,000 in a series of payments that Blue Bell had received from debtor during the 90-day period preceding debtor's bankruptcy filing. Blue Bell acknowledged that the payments it received from debtor constituted preferences under 11 U.S.C. 547(b), but that it had a new-value defense. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the bankruptcy court's judgment and held that the language in Charisma Investment Company, N.V. v. Airport Systems, Inc. (In re Jet Florida System, Inc.), 841 F.2d 1082 (11th Cir. 1988), relied on by the bankruptcy court was dictum and, as such, it did not bind the court. The court construed section 547(c)(4) anew, and held that it did not require new value to remain unpaid. Therefore, the court remanded for a new calculation of Blue Bell's preference liability. View "Kaye v. Blue Bell Creameries, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's denial of debtors' motion to convert their Chapter 7 case to a Chapter 11 proceeding and approving a compromise agreement between the trustee and a judgment creditor (72 Partners, LLC). The court held that the bankruptcy court properly denied the request to convert to Chapter 11 because cause existed to either dismiss the case or convert it back to a Chapter 7, based on substantial or continuing loss to or diminution of the estate and the absence of a reasonable likelihood of rehabilitation under 11 U.S.C. 1112(b)(4)(A). Furthermore, other section 1112(b)(4) causes for denying conversion to Chapter 11 existed, such as failure to comply with an order of the court, failure timely to provide information or attend meetings reasonably requested by the United States trustee, and inability to effectuate substantial consummation of a confirmed plan. Another cause not listed in the statute was debtors' lack of good faith. View "Daughtrey v. Rivera" on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal, plaintiff alleged that the district court abused its discretion by dismissing his two lawsuits based on the doctrine of judicial estoppel as a result of his failure to disclose them in his bankruptcy proceeding. Applying a two-part test to guide district courts in applying judicial estoppel, the court held that plaintiff took an inconsistent position under oath in a separate proceeding and the inconsistent positions were calculated to make a mockery of the judicial system. In this case, plaintiff not only failed to include the two lawsuits in his initial bankruptcy filings but he also failed to include them in any of the six separate amendments that he made to his schedules and filings during the bankruptcy proceeding. Plaintiff only disclosed the lawsuits after defendants had relied on plaintiff's failure to disclose as grounds for dismissal. View "Weakley v. Eagle Logistics" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed an employment discrimination case against US Steel, she filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition that did not disclose the employment-discrimination claims. The Chapter 7 Trustee was treating the bankruptcy as a “no asset” case. U.S. Steel moved the district court for dismissal. An Eleventh Circuit panel initially affirmed the district court in holding that judicial estoppel required dismissal of the bankruptcy case. Upon rehearing en banc, the Eleventh Circuit overruled precedent “that permitted the inference that a plaintiff intended to make a mockery of the judicial system simply because he failed to disclose a civil claim” and remanded for a determination of whether a plaintiff’s inconsistent statements were calculated to make a mockery of the judicial system. When the plaintiff’s inconsistent statement is an omission in bankruptcy disclosures, the court may consider such factors as the plaintiff’s level of sophistication, whether and under what circumstances the plaintiff corrected the disclosures, whether the plaintiff told his bankruptcy attorney about the civil claims before filing the bankruptcy disclosures, whether the trustee or creditors were aware of the claims before the plaintiff amended the disclosures, whether the plaintiff identified other lawsuits to which he was party, any findings or actions by the bankruptcy court after the omission was discovered, and any other fact relevant to the intent inquiry.” View "Slater v. United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff filed an employment discrimination case against US Steel, she filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition that did not disclose the employment-discrimination claims. The Chapter 7 Trustee was treating the bankruptcy as a “no asset” case. U.S. Steel moved the district court for dismissal. An Eleventh Circuit panel initially affirmed the district court in holding that judicial estoppel required dismissal of the bankruptcy case. Upon rehearing en banc, the Eleventh Circuit overruled precedent “that permitted the inference that a plaintiff intended to make a mockery of the judicial system simply because he failed to disclose a civil claim” and remanded for a determination of whether a plaintiff’s inconsistent statements were calculated to make a mockery of the judicial system. When the plaintiff’s inconsistent statement is an omission in bankruptcy disclosures, the court may consider such factors as the plaintiff’s level of sophistication, whether and under what circumstances the plaintiff corrected the disclosures, whether the plaintiff told his bankruptcy attorney about the civil claims before filing the bankruptcy disclosures, whether the trustee or creditors were aware of the claims before the plaintiff amended the disclosures, whether the plaintiff identified other lawsuits to which he was party, any findings or actions by the bankruptcy court after the omission was discovered, and any other fact relevant to the intent inquiry.” View "Slater v. United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of First National's deficiency claims and remanded for the district court to consider, in the first instance, whether the dismissal of defendant's Chapter 11 case without a discharge had any effect on First National's ability to pursue its deficiency claims. After the parties had filed their briefs in this appeal, defendant moved the bankruptcy court to dismiss his Chapter 11 case and the bankruptcy court granted the motion to dismiss. The court explained that, given the dismissal of defendant's underlying bankruptcy petition, none of defendant's debts or liabilities were discharged and the automatic stay was terminated. View "First National Bank of Oneida, N.A. v. Brandt" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a provision in the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, 11 U.S.C. 526(a)(4), —on advice to incur debt to pay for a lawyer's bankruptcy-related representation—likewise entailed an invalid purpose requirement. The Eleventh Circuit held that a debt-relief agency (including a law firm) violates section 526(a)(4) if it advises a client to incur additional debt to pay for bankruptcy-related legal representation, without respect to whether the advice was given for some independently "invalid purpose"; plaintiff's allegation, in this case, that defendant law firm instructed him to pay his bankruptcy-related legal bills by credit card stated a viable claim under section 526(a)(4); and none of the constitutional arguments that the firm presented to the court warranted invalidating the statute on First Amendment grounds. View "Cadwell v. Kaufman, Englett & Lynd, PLLC" on Justia Law

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The Bankruptcy Code did not forestall the automatic operation of Georgia's pawn statute. In this case, debtor entered into a pawn transaction in which he pledged his car in exchange for a loan, defaulted on the loan, and then, shortly before the expiration of the redemption period—during which he could pay off his debt (with interest) and thereby regain title to his car—filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. The Eleventh Circuit held that the car dropped out of the bankruptcy estate and vested in the pawnbroker when the prescribed redemption period lapsed. Accordingly, with respect to the car, 11 U.S.C. 1322(b)(2) had no field of operation. The court explained that following the expiration of the grace period, the pawnbroker did not have a mere "claim" on debtor's car, but rather had the car itself. View "Title Max v. Northington" on Justia Law

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Section 362(k)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code specifically departs from the American Rule and authorizes costs and attorneys' fees incurred by the debtor in ending a willful violation of an automatic stay, prosecuting a damages violation, and defending those judgments on appeal. In this case, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order awarding defendants attorneys' fees and costs that they incurred because of plaintiff's unsuccessful appeal of the damages award to defendants for her violation of the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay provision. The court also granted defendants' motion for attorneys' fees incurred in this appeal. View "Mantiply v. Horne" on Justia Law