Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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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

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's affirmance of the bankruptcy court's order enforcing a stipulated agreement in adversary proceedings seeking to debar an attorney from submitting claims to asbestos trusts. The trusts were created through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings of entities exposed to significant asbestos liability. In Golden v. California Emergency Physicians Medical Group, 782 F.3d 1083 (9th Cir. 2015), the panel held that assessing the validity of a settlement agreement is a question of state contract law. In this case, the district court never addressed whether federal law governed this case, and it was unclear whether the district court was even aware that the trusts contended that federal law controlled its decision. Furthermore, the district court also did not apply Golden to the settlement at issue. Accordingly, the court remanded so that the district court can decide whether federal or state law governs (including whether the federal law argument has been waived), and what impact, if any, Golden has on this case. View "Mandelbrot v. J.T. Thorpe Settlement Trust" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit held that 11 U.S.C. 363(f), authorizing a trustee to sell a debtor's assets free and clear of third-party interests, applied in this case, and did not conflict with section 365(h), which protects the rights of lessees, because the trustee did not "reject" the leases. The panel affirmed the district court's judgment affirming the bankruptcy court's decision that a bankruptcy trustee's sale of a debtor's property was free and clear of unexpired leases. Therefore, section 363(f)(1) authorized the sale of SHP's property free and clear of the Pinnacle and Opticom leases. Since the trustee did not reject the leases, section 365 was not implicated. View "Pinnacle Restaurant at Big Sky LLC v. CH SP Acquisitions, LLC" on Justia Law

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11 U.S.C. 106(a)(1)'s abrogation of sovereign immunity "with respect to" 18 U.S.C. 544(b)(1) extends to the derivative “applicable law.” In this case, the Trustee invoked Idaho's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA) as the "applicable law" to bring an 11 U.S.C. 544(b)(1) adversary action to avoid $17 million in tax payments that debtor fraudulently transferred to the IRS. The panel held that the government could not rely on sovereign immunity to prevent the avoidance of the tax payments at issue. The panel addressed the Trustee's cross-appeal in a concurrently filed memorandum disposition. View "In re DBSI, Inc." on Justia Law

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DZ Bank filed an adversary action against the Meyers in bankruptcy court, alleging that the Meyers had fraudulently transferred assets in order to place them out of the bank's reach. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision affirming the bankruptcy court's judgment in favor of the bank. The panel held that, although the bankruptcy court correctly found that the Meyers engaged in fraudulent transfers under the Washington Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act and thus committed fraud to the bank's detriment, the bankruptcy court erred by limiting relief to the amount of the collateralized debt. The panel explained that the bankruptcy court should have granted relief for the full $385,000 that the bank would have recovered. View "DZ Bank AG Deutsche Zentral-Genossenschaft Bank v. Meyer" on Justia Law

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Debtors appealed the district court's order vacating the bankruptcy court's confirmation of their chapter 13 plan. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that, under Bullard v. Blue Hills Bank, 135 S. Ct. 1686 (2015), the district court's order vacating confirmation was not a final appealable order because the district court did not finally dispose of a discrete dispute. The panel also held that debtors had other opportunities to seek circuit court review pursuant to the certification methodologies in the general interlocutory appeals statute, 28 U.S.C. 1292(b), and the bankruptcy-specific certification procedures, 28 U.S.C. 158(d)(2). View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Watt" on Justia Law

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A bankruptcy estate is entitled to the full amount of spendthrift trust distributions due to be paid as of the petition date. But the estate may not access any portion of that money the beneficiary needs for his support or education, as long as the trust instrument specifies that the funds are for that purpose. The estate may also reach 25 percent of expected future payments from the spendthrift trust, reduced by the amount the beneficiary needs to support himself and his dependents. In this case, the Ninth Circuit reversed the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel's decision after the California Supreme Court's answer to a certified question regarding whether the creditors of the beneficiary of a spendthrift trust may reach the trust distributions. The panel remanded so that the bankruptcy court could apply the teachings of Carmack v. Reynolds, 391 P.3d 625, 628 (Cal. 2017). View "Frealy v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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The County of Los Angeles may not enforce a lien on the personal property of a Chapter 11 debtor in possession when the County has failed to perfect the lien as against a bona fide purchaser. In this case, the Ninth Circuit rejected Mainline's argument that this appeal was mooted by the disbursal of Mainline's bankruptcy estate and dismissal of the Chapter 11 case; 11 U.S.C. 545(2) allows a Chapter 11 debtor in possession to set aside liens against its estate; under section 545(2), Mainline may avoid the County's liens; and Cty. of Humboldt v. Grover (In re Cummins), 656 F.2d 1262 (9th Cir. 1981), remained good law. View "Los Angeles County Treasurer & Tax Collector v. Mainline Equipment, Inc." on Justia Law