Justia Bankruptcy Opinion Summaries

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order affirming the bankruptcy court's denial of debtor's request to discharge her educational loans pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8). On appeal, debtor argues that she was deprived of due process because the bankruptcy court accepted the joint pretrial memorandum as agreed to and approved by all parties on July 31, 2018 and ultimately adopted it as the bankruptcy court's Pretrial Order, while declining to adopt other versions of the pretrial memorandum submitted unilaterally by debtor in the interim.The court held that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in basing its Pretrial Order on the joint pretrial memorandum edited by both parties; it was not an abuse of discretion to disallow debtor from unilaterally modifying that joint pretrial memorandum, as the interests of justice in this case did not so require; and debtor failed to make the factual showing to establish "undue hardship" under Brunner v. N.Y. State Higher Educ. Servs. Corp., 831 F.2d 395, 396 (2d Cir. 1987), in order to discharge her educational loans. View "Tingling v. Educational Credit Management Corp." on Justia Law

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After debtor voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court determined that he was transferring assets and defrauding creditors. The bankruptcy court removed him as the debtor-in-possession and appointed a trustee to administer the estate. Debtor appealed, arguing that the trustee's appointment violated his Thirteenth Amendment right to be free from "involuntary servitude"—because, he said, under the trustee's direction, all of his post-petition earnings would be put into the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of his creditors. The bankruptcy court dismissed debtor's Thirteenth Amendment claim as unripe, and the district court similarly held that debtor could not show an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing.The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that debtor's loss of authority and control over his estate, which he suffered as a result of his removal as the debtor-in-possession, constitutes an Article III-qualifying injury-in-fact that is both traceable to the bankruptcy court's appointment of the trustee and redressable by an order vacating that appointment. Therefore, debtor has standing to pursue his Thirteenth Amendment claim. The court left it to the district court on remand to consider the merits of debtor's arguments. View "Breland v. United States" on Justia Law

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After the bankruptcy court awarded fees to the bankruptcy debtor's counsel for work performed prior to the appointment of a trustee, creditors appealed the fee award to the district court. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's vacatur of the fee award, concluding that the district court improperly assessed the benefit of counsel's services to the estate from hindsight, rather than assessing the reasonableness and likely benefit from the time the services were rendered. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to reinstate the bankruptcy court's fee award; denied the motion to dismiss the trustee from the appeal for lack of standing; denied the motion to dismiss as moot; and denied as moot the alternative motion to vacate the district court's judgment. View "Edwards Family Partnership, LP v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this appeal arising out of the Title III debt-restructuring proceedings commenced by the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico on behalf of the Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corporation (COFINA) under the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), 48 U.S.C. 2101-2241, holding that the appeal was equitably moot.After Title III proceedings were initiated several Puerto Rican credit unions (Credit Unions) filed an adversary proceeding against several defendants, including the Commonwealth and COFINA. Thereafter, the Board proposed a plan (Plan) of adjustment restructuring COFINA's debt. The Plan as approved called for the dismissal with prejudice of all litigation against COFINA that arose before the effective date of the Plan. The Credit Unions sought to strike the provision releasing the claims they asserted against COFINA in their adversary proceeding. The Title III court denied the motion. This appeal followed. At the time of this opinion the Plan had been fully implemented for over two years. The First Circuit dismissed the appeal, holding that it was equitably moot. View "Cooperativa de Ahorro y Credito de Rincon v. Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel's judgment affirming the bankruptcy court's determination that a debtor was entitled to a homestead exemption under Washington law. The panel adopted in full the BAP's well-reasoned opinion on March 23, 2020 and attached it as an appendix. The BAP concluded that the debtor, who occupied the homestead on the petition date, was entitled to her homestead exemption despite the fact that she moved out shortly thereafter and neither re-occupied the property nor filed a declaration of non-abandonment within six months of moving out. View "Klein v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Appellant Victor Kearney was the lifetime income beneficiary of two spendthrift trusts when he filed for bankruptcy in 2017. The United States Trustee’s office appointed an unsecured creditors committee (“UCC”) which proposed a reorganization plan contemplating a one-time trust distribution to pay off appellant's debts. After a New Mexico state court modified the trusts to authorize the distribution, the bankruptcy court approved the plan. Appellant appealed. The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (“BAP”) of the Tenth Circuit concluded that the bankruptcy court did not deny appellant due process, made no errors in its findings of fact, and did not abuse its discretion in settling appellant's claims. On appeal of that decision, appellant argued that using spendthrift trust assets to fund the reorganization plan violated the trusts’ spendthrift provision and the law, and that approving the settlement of his claims amounted to an abuse of the bankruptcy court’s discretion. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the BAP. View "Kearney v. Unsecured Creditors Committee" on Justia Law

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The Chapter 7 trustee for the bankruptcy estates of Atherotech Inc. and Atherotech Holdings, appeals the dismissal of his complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. After removal from Alabama state court, the district court applied the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction articulated in Lambert Run Coal Co. v. Baltimore & O.R. Co., 258 U.S. 377, 382 (1922), and ruled that because the state court did not have personal jurisdiction over defendants under Alabama's long-arm statute, it too lacked personal jurisdiction. The district court concluded that the trustee could not rely on Bankruptcy Rule 7004(d) (which looks to a defendant's national contacts and permits nationwide service of process) to establish personal jurisdiction. The district court also denied as futile the trustee's motion to transfer the case.The Eleventh Circuit reversed and concluded that the trustee did not waive his right to appeal the district court's dismissal of MidCap for lack of personal jurisdiction by failing to name MidCap in the amended complaint because amendment would have been futile. Under the circumstances of this case, the trustee did not waive his right to appeal the district court's dismissal of Mid Cap from the original complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.The court also concluded that the doctrine of derivative jurisdiction does not apply to removed cases in which the state court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The court explained that the district court could exercise jurisdiction following removal notwithstanding the state court's lack of personal jurisdiction over defendants under Alabama's long-arm statute. The court reasoned that the district court could look to Bankruptcy Rule 7004(d) to decide whether personal jurisdiction existed. Furthermore, the district court could consider the trustee's alternative request for a transfer to the Southern District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1406 even if there was no personal jurisdiction over defendants under Alabama's long-arm statute. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Reynolds v. Behrman Capital IV L.P." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decision of the bankruptcy court declaring a foreclosure void and awarding Appellant damages but denying relief on her remaining claims, holding that Appellant's challenges on appeal were either waived or otherwise unavailing.After two attempts to foreclose the mortgage on a condominium that Appellant purchased she filed a six-count adversary complaint in the bankruptcy court naming five defendants, the financial institutions and law firms connected with the foreclosure. The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment as to one count in favor of Appellant, voiding one of the foreclosures, but denied the remaining claims. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellant's challenges were either waived or baseless. View "Jackson v. ING Bank, FSB" on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed suit alleging that, after she filed for bankruptcy, Wells Fargo violated the automatic bankruptcy stay by continuing with foreclosure proceedings against her in the Florida state courts. Furthermore, Wells Fargo and the state courts acted contrary to federal law governing removal by continuing with the same state court proceedings after petitioner sought to remove the state case to the bankruptcy court. Petitioner filed a petition for a writ under the All Writs Act in the district court, seeking an order declaring that certain actions of the state courts were void and granting her damages against Wells Fargo and its counsel.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, finding that this case is not the kind of case in which an order under the Act could properly be issued because there is no underlying proceeding over which the district court has jurisdiction and the integrity of which the district court would be in an appropriate position to protect by making such an order. In this case, dismissal was proper because the Act does not empower the district court to issue the order sought by the petition. View "Rohe v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a bankruptcy filing by Thomas Crow, who owned substantial property and investment accounts in Wyoming. His bankruptcy petition sought an exemption for approximately $2 million contained in a Fidelity account, which he claimed was jointly held with his wife (who did not file for bankruptcy) and therefore was shielded from creditors under Wyoming law. The Trustee and a creditor, Radiance Capital Receivables Nineteen, L.L.C., objected to the claimed exemption. After a hearing, the bankruptcy court upheld the exemption, and a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP) affirmed. On appeal, Radiance appealed the BAP’s affirmance. Crow argued the Tenth Circuit lacked jurisdiction over this appeal because the BAP’s affirmance of the bankruptcy court’s ruling on the claimed exemption was not “final” within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 158(d)(1). Radiance also challenged the BAP’s affirmance of the bankruptcy court’s ruling that an adversary proceeding was required to determine the amount of joint debt held by the Crows before any portion of the Fidelity account must be turned over to the Trustee. Finding it had jurisdiction, and deciding on the merits, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Applying Wyoming law, Court concluded the Crows jointly held the Fidelity account with a right of survivorship (“tenancy by the entirety” at common law) and was therefore exempt from the bankrupt estate. Furthermore, the tenancy by the entirety was not severed by the Crows’ subsequent conduct. The Court determined Radiance lacked standing to challenge that portion of the BAP’s ruling with regard to the adversary proceeding, and therefore dismissed that aspect of its appeal. View "Radiance Capital v. Crow" on Justia Law