Justia Bankruptcy Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Kelley v. Stevanovich
Capital held tens of millions of dollars for a sole investor, with Stevanovich as its sole director. Capital invested in the multi-billion-dollar Petters Ponzi scheme, getting out before the scheme collapsed in 2008. Some investors lost everything[ Capital earned tens of millions. The Petters bankruptcy court entered a $578,366,822 default judgment against Capital in 2015, but it had dissolved. In 2018, the Trustee filed a post-judgment supplementary proceeding in the Northern District of Illinois against Stevanovich, an Illinois resident. Under Illinois law, a judgment creditor may recover assets from a third party if the judgment debtor has an Illinois state law claim of embezzlement against the third party. In his turnover motion, the Trustee argued that Stevanovich embezzled Capital’s funds to purchase high-end wine for his personal use and transferred the goods to Stevanovich’s personal wine cellar in Switzerland. The Trustee submitted ample evidence to support his claim for $1,948,670.79. The district court granted the turnover order without conducting an evidentiary hearing and found that Stevanovich embezzled the funds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Stevanovich’s claims that the wine purchases were an investment strategy for Capital and that the five-year statute of limitations for embezzlement applied, accruing from the dates of the wine purchases. The court applied the seven-year statute of limitations for supplementary proceedings accruing from the date of the bankruptcy court judgment. Stevanovich failed to present any evidence creating an issue of fact that necessitated a hearing. View "Kelley v. Stevanovich" on Justia Law
Jane Doe JJ v. USA Gymnastics
During a decade as a member of USA Gymnastics, J.J. was one of the hundreds of gymnasts sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, the organization’s physician. In response to the claims based on Nassar’s conduct, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court set a deadline for filing proofs of claim. USA Gymnastics mailed notices to all known survivors who had filed or threatened to file lawsuits, had reported abuse, had entered into a settlement agreement, or had received payment as a result of an allegation of abuse--more than 1,300 individuals. USA Gymnastics also emailed copies of the notice to more than 360,000 current and former USA Gymnastics members, and placed information about the bar date on its website, social media pages, in USA Today, and in gymnastics journals, podcasts, and websites J.J. did not receive actual notice and filed her proof of claim five months late.The bankruptcy court treated her claim as untimely. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed. J.J. argued that she was entitled to actual notice; she claimed USA Gymnastics should have known that she was a potential claimant because it needed to retain medical records under Michigan law and should have known that she had seen Nassar for medical care. The court found no evidence that USA Gymnastics had these records; J.J.’s argument that Michigan law required retention of any relevant documents “is dubious.” View "Jane Doe JJ v. USA Gymnastics" on Justia Law
State of Wisconsin Department of Children and Families v. Terrell
After filing for bankruptcy, the Terrells proposed a plan that classified about $30,000 they owed to Wisconsin as a “priority debt,” 11 U.S.C. 507(a)(1)(B) based on an overpayment of public assistance. The existence of a priority debt meant that the Chapter 13 plan had to continue for 60 months, after which unpaid debts would be discharged. After the plan was confirmed, the Seventh Circuit held that public assistance debts are not entitled to priority status, which raised the possibility of cutting the duration of the Terrell plan to 36 months and reducing the amount they paid. The bankruptcy court eventually amended the plan accordingly.The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that the Terrells waited almost two years after the confirmation of their plan to seek a modification. A bankruptcy court needs authority from a statute, a rule, or the litigants’ consent to modify a confirmed plan. The Terrells acted too late to use Rule 60(b), the best and possibly the only source of authority for the relief they sought. View "State of Wisconsin Department of Children and Families v. Terrell" on Justia Law
Wheeler Financial, Inc. v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.
JPMorgan loaned the debtors $1.3 million on the security of a Cook County restaurant. After the debtors stopped paying real estate taxes, Wheeler paid on their behalf and received the right to a tax deed once a redemption period expired. JPMorgan did not pay the taxes or redeem from Wheeler. The debtors filed a bankruptcy petition. They listed some tax debts but did not identify Cook County or Wheeler as creditors. Neither was served with notice or a summons. JPMorgan knew about the unpaid taxes but failed to ensure that the County or Wheeler was served. The bankruptcy judge approved a plan of reorganization. The debtors did not pay; Wheeler got the judge to lift the automatic stay in order to get a tax deed. A state judge issued the requested deed. The federal district court held that the stay should have been left in place because the confirmed plan superseded Wheeler’s unpaid lien. On remand, the bankruptcy court declared the tax deed “void” and approved a revised plan of reorganization, calling for JPMorgan to pay Wheeler $65,000.In a second appeal, the district court concluded that the order approving the revised plan and knocking out Wheeler’s lien was valid. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Wheeler is a party, the plan has been confirmed, and Wheeler has bypassed its principal opportunities to contest the plan. View "Wheeler Financial, Inc. v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
City of Chicago v. Mance
Outstanding debt for Chicago traffic tickets surpassed $1.8 billion last year. Under a 2016 Chicago ordinance, when a driver incurs the needed number of outstanding tickets and final liability determinations, Chicago is authorized to impound her vehicle and to attach a possessory lien. Many drivers cannot afford to pay their outstanding tickets and fees, let alone the liens imposed on their cars through this process. Mance incurred several unpaid parking tickets; her car was impounded and subject to a possessory lien of $12,245, more than four times her car’s value. With a monthly income of $197 in food stamps, Mance filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and sought to avoid the lien under 11 U.S.C 522(f). When a vehicle owner files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, she can avoid a lien under 522(f) if the lien qualifies as judicial and its value exceeds the value of her exempt property (the car). If the lien is statutory, it is not avoidable under the same provision.The bankruptcy and district courts and the Seventh Circuit concluded that the lien was judicial and avoidable. The lien was tied inextricably to the prior adjudications of Mance’s parking and other infractions, so it did not arise solely by statute, as the Bankruptcy Code requires for a statutory lien. View "City of Chicago v. Mance" on Justia Law
Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. v. Country Visions Cooperative
In 2007, Olsen granted Country Visions a 10-year right of first refusal on Wisconsin land. The right was recorded in local property records. Olsen subsequently dissolved and, in 2010, its former partners filed for bankruptcy. Country Visions was not notified and was not listed in the bankruptcy proceedings. Under an agreed plan, ADM became the owner of the Wisconsin land. Country Visions was not given an opportunity to exercise its right of first refusal. In 2015, ADM arranged to resell the property. Country Vision sought compensation in state court.ADM asked the bankruptcy court to enforce the “free and clear” sale and prohibit the state court litigation, citing 11 U.S.C. 363(m). The bankruptcy court and district court denied ADM’s request. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Good-faith purchasers are protected by section 363(m) but ADM was not a good-faith purchaser and must defend the state court litigation. ADM had actual notice of the right, in a title report, but did not notify the bankruptcy court; as a non-party, Country Visions could not be expected to appeal the order approving the sale. View "Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. v. Country Visions Cooperative" on Justia Law
Harshaw v. Harshaw
Anne and Donald divorced in 1996 after 25 years of marriage. They later reconciled but did not re‐marry, then separated again. Because divorce laws no longer applied, Anne sued Donald in Indiana state court under equitable theories to seek redress for her contributions to the relationship during their second period together. They agreed to binding arbitration. The arbitrator awarded Anne $435,000, half the increase in value of Donald’s retirement savings during their unmarried cohabitation. Donald declared bankruptcy and sought to discharge the arbitrator’s award as a money judgment. Anne argued that the arbitrator had awarded her an interest in specific property so that the award could not be discharged in Donald’s bankruptcy.The bankruptcy court sided with Anne. The district court reversed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in favor of Donald. Anne was awarded a money judgment, not a property interest. The award does not identify a required source of funds or manner of payment but only lists options for satisfying the obligation. The payment of cash would suffice; the award provided for post-judgment interest. The arbitrator’s award said that “this judgment should not be dischargeable in bankruptcy” but that language is not controlling. View "Harshaw v. Harshaw" on Justia Law
Osicka v. Office of Lawyer Regulation
The Seventh Circuit upheld the bankruptcy court's ruling that the costs of plaintiff's attorney disciplinary proceedings imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court were not dischargeable under a provision of the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(7). The court explained that, although there are several types of proceedings in which the Wisconsin Supreme Court may order costs, see Wis. S.C.R. 22.24(1), attorney discipline uniquely requires a "finding of misconduct" as a precondition for doing so. The court stated that the structure of Rule 22.24(1m) unambiguously singles out attorney discipline as a penal endeavor, and that conclusion has a statutory consequence under section 523(a)(7). Furthermore, the cost order amounts to compensation for actual pecuniary loss under section 523(a)(7). Finally, the court's conclusion that plaintiff's disciplinary costs are nondischaregable under section 523(a)(7) finds firm support in Supreme Court precedent and the court's own case law. View "Osicka v. Office of Lawyer Regulation" on Justia Law
Persinger v. Southwest Credit Systems, L.P.
In 2017, a bankruptcy court discharged Persinger’s debts, under 11 U.S.C. 727. A few months later, Southwest Credit began collection efforts on a pre‐petition debt of Persinger’s, including by acquiring a type of credit information called her “propensity‐to‐pay score.” Alleging that this information had been secured without a permissible purpose, Persinger sued Southwest under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681.The district court granted Southwest summary judgment, holding that Southwest’s compliance procedures were reasonable and met FCRA’s requirements. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first holding that Persinger has standing to sue. Southwest invaded her privacy when it reviewed her credit information but no reasonable juror could conclude that the inquiry into Persinger’s propensity‐to‐pay score resulted in actual damages. If a plaintiff cannot prove actual damages, she may still recover statutory or punitive damages by proving that the defendant willfully violated FCRA. Viewed as a whole, Southwest’s procedures for handling bankruptcy notifications and for ordering bankruptcy scrubs from LexisNexis were reasonable compliance efforts, not willful violations of the FCRA. At the time Southwest ordered the credit score, it was unaware that the debt at issue had been discharged. View "Persinger v. Southwest Credit Systems, L.P." on Justia Law
Davis v. CitiMortgage, Inc.
The Davises took out a mortgage on their residence in 2005. After they defaulted on the loan and filed for bankruptcy, Jerome Davis, a licensed attorney who represented himself, received a bankruptcy discharge. The bankruptcy court later held that the discharge did not extend to the debt Davis owed CitiMortgage. Rather than appeal, Davis first attempted to remove CitiMortgage’s foreclosure action to federal court, alleging that CitiMortgage’s efforts to obtain a personal deficiency judgment contravened his bankruptcy discharge. He then filed a separate suit alleging unfair debt collection practices against CitiMortgage. Davis lost in each of those proceedings. CitiMortgage was awarded attorney fees and costs, 28 U.S.C. 1447(c) when the court remanded the foreclosure proceeding for lack of federal question jurisdiction.The Seventh Circuit dismissed Davis’s appeal, stating that it lacked jurisdiction to review the remand order. Davis waived his arguments challenging the attorney fees and costs award. The court upheld the dismissal of Davis’s suit against CitiMortgage; all of Davis’s claims center on his contention that the debt owed CitiMortgage was subject to his 2018 discharge. The court took judicial notice that the bankruptcy court had held the opposite in Davis’s adversary proceeding. View "Davis v. CitiMortgage, Inc." on Justia Law