Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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Under 11 U.S.C. 1126(e), a bankruptcy court may not designate claims for bad faith simply because (1) a creditor offers to purchase only a subset of available claims in order to block a plan of reorganization, and/or (2) blocking the plan will adversely impact the remaining creditors. At a minimum, there must be some evidence that a creditor is seeking "to secure some untoward advantage over other creditors for some ulterior motive." In this case, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order affirming the bankruptcy court and vacated the bankruptcy court's order granting a chapter 11 debtor's motion to designate claims for bad faith and preclude the claims from being voted against a plan of reorganization. The panel held that the bankruptcy court erred when it refused to analyze whether Pacific Western acted under an "ulterior motive," beyond its "mere enlightened self interest" in protecting its secured claim. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Pacific Western Bank v. Fagerdala USA" on Justia Law

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An appellant's failure to attend and object at a bankruptcy court hearing has no bearing on the question of whether that appellant has standing to appeal a bankruptcy court order. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an appeal from the bankruptcy court's order authorizing a Chapter 7 trustee to assume the operating agreement of an LLC whose interests were implicated in the bankruptcy proceedings. The district court dismissed the appeal on the ground that appellants lacked standing to challenge the bankruptcy court order. The panel held that appellants' attendance and objection were not prerequisites for satisfying the "person aggrieved" requirement for prudential standing. Therefore, the panel remanded to the district court. View "In re Point Center Financial, Inc." on Justia Law

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The trustee's adversary complaint contesting the basis for debtor's exemptions qualified as an objection to those exemptions under Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure 4003. The Ninth Circuit affirmed a bankruptcy court's turnover order denying debtor's claimed exemptions. In this case, before filing a petition in bankruptcy, debtor transferred his interests in two properties into a tenancy-by-the-entirety estate, and subsequently claimed an exemption for those interests under 11 U.S.C. 522(b)(3). The panel rejected debtor's argument that the trustee had failed to make a timely objection to his claimed exemptions, and therefore the exemptions were valid notwithstanding the avoidance of the transfer. View "Lee v. Field" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel's opinion reversing the bankruptcy court's order entering contempt sanctions against creditors for knowingly violating the discharge injunction in the Chapter 7 case. The panel held that creditors did not knowingly violate the discharge injunction because they had a subjective good faith belief that the discharge injunction did not apply to their state-court claim for post-petition attorneys' fees. The panel explained that creditors' subjective good faith belief, even if unreasonable, insulated them from a finding of contempt. View "In re Taggert" on Justia Law

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Gilman filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. Phillips was a creditor. Gilman identified properties in Van Nuys and Northridge, describing the Northridge property as “in escrow” and claiming a household exemption for the Van Nuys property, and stating “Debtor has Cancer and has not been able to work.” He did not list any contracts relating to the sale of the Van Nuys property. Gilman would later admit that escrow was open on that property when he filed for bankruptcy. Phillips filed an adversary proceeding, alleging fraud, and objected to Gilman’s homestead exemption. Gilman did not oppose the objection and did not appear at the hearing. The bankruptcy court sustained Phillips’ objections. Gilman filed an amended Schedule C, claiming a reduced exemption and obtained Rule 60(b) relief, based on his counsel’s mistaken failure to oppose Phillips’ objections. The bankruptcy court held that escrow did not eliminate Gilman’s right to a homestead exemption. The Ninth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to review the district court’s order affirming the grant of the homestead exemption; that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in granting Rule 60(b) relief from judgment on the ground of excusable neglect; and that the bankruptcy court erred in concluding that the debtor established his claim to a homestead exemption under California law without determining whether the debtor intended to continue to reside in the property. View "Phillips v. Gilman" on Justia Law

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An election under 11 U.S.C. 1111(b)(2) does not require that a due-on-sale clause be included in a reorganization plan. 11 U.S.C. 1129(a)(10), which requires that at least one impaired class accept a cramdown plan, applies on a per plan basis, rather than a per debtor basis. In this case, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's order that approved the Chapter 11 cramdown reorganization plan of five related entities (debtors). View "In the Matter of Transwest Resort Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under Gibbs v. Legrand, post-discovery delay does not preclude equitable tolling but is still relevant to assessing a party's "overall diligence." The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel's decision reversing the bankruptcy court's dismissal as time-barred of a bankruptcy estate's claims seeking avoidance of fraudulent transfers and affirming the bankruptcy court's dismissal of other claims based on transfers not made by debtor. The panel held that neither court correctly applied the law on equitable tolling. In this case, the estate's overall diligence, combined with the extraordinary circumstances preventing earlier discovery of the subject transfers, warranted equitable tolling. View "Milby v. Templeton" on Justia Law

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A housing loan, made by an employer to an employee as a key part of a compensation package, qualified as a non-consumer debt. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's denial of creditor's motion to dismiss debtor's Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition for abuse under 11 U.S.C. 707(b)(1). As a preliminary matter, the panel held that the bankruptcy court's order denying creditor's motion to dismiss under section 707(b) was final and appealable. On the merits, the panel held that the bankruptcy court did not err by finding that the housing loan was a non-consumer debt. The panel agreed with the bankruptcy court that debtor incurred the housing loan primarily for a non-consumer purpose connected to furthering his career. View "Aspen Skiing Co. v. Cherrett" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's reversal of the bankruptcy court's grant of summary judgments for defendants in two adversary proceedings seeking recovery of fraudulent transfers. The panel applied the dominion test and held that defendants were initial transferees under 11 U.S.C. 550(a)(1) and thus not entitled to the safe harbor under section 550(b)(1) for subsequent transferees. Therefore, the Committee could recover the funds from both the corporate cheat and those parties to whom he first made payments from the corporate account. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of WallDesign" on Justia Law

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11 U.S.C. 502(b)(4) acts as a federal cap on a fee already determined pursuant to state law. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's reversal of the bankruptcy court's decision reducing a claim for pre-petition attorneys' fees under section 502(b)(4). Section 502(b)(4) limits claims for services rendered by the debtor's attorney to the extent that such claims exceed the reasonable value of such services. The panel explained that the proper mode of analysis was: (1) an acknowledgment or determination that the fee contract was breached; (2) an assessment of the damages for the breach under state law; (3) a determination under section 502(b)(4) of reasonableness of the damages claim afforded by state law; and (4) a reduction of the claim by whatever extent, if any, it is deemed excessive. The panel also held that the section 502(b)(4) cap limits fees for services already performed. The Full Faith and Credit Act requires, in the circumstances of this case, that the judgment of the state court confirming the arbitration award be given full faith and credit in the bankruptcy proceeding. View "McProud v. Siller" on Justia Law