Opinions

 

All court opinions may be accessed at no charge via PACER through the "Written Opinions" link on the Reports page. You must, however, have an account to access the report via CM/ECF or PACER.

Access to opinions from 1997 to present, that are PDF searchable, unrestricted & unsealed, are also available through the Government Printing Office using the Advanced Search for Government Publications. There is no login required and publications are available free of charge.


Court's Web Site Opinions Database

The court's web site provides free access of some opinions, at the discretion of the judges, for the years 1998 to present. The results shown below are automatically displayed for all years, all judges, and all keywords/topics.

A search may be performed using the Search box above, or filtering by year, judge, and/or keyword/topic. To search for more than one judge and/or keywords/topics simultaneously, hold down the Ctrl key (or Command key) and select each item.

Keywords/Topic Date Title Description Judge
Adversary, Avoidance Actions, Fraudulent Transfers, Preference, Property of the Estate     07/16/2021     Philip J. Montoya v. Paula Goldstein et al     

Trustee sought to avoid payments made on a promissory note to Debtor’s principal’s mother as preferential and/or fraudulent. After a trial on the merits, the Court finds in favor of defendants on all counts because the defendants put much more money into Debtor than they took out and because some of the funds were earmarked by guarantors to pay the mother specifically, and so therefore were not property of the estate.

Judge David T. Thuma
Adversary, Dismissal, Divorce/Separation, Nondischargeability     07/02/2021     Barry J. Byrnes v. Sylvia Marie Byrnes     

Plaintiff, the estranged husband of Defendant/Debtor filed an adversary proceeding seeking a determination that certain alleged support obligations are nondischargeable in Debtor’s chapter 7 bankruptcy. The parties are married. Though they are living separately, they are not legally separated nor has either filed for divorce. In Count Two of his amended complaint, Plaintiff sought an order from this Court (1) determining Debtor’s domestic support obligations to him, and (2) declaring  those obligations nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. Section 523(a)(5), (6), (7), and (15). Debtor moved to dismiss Count Two for failure to state a claim. The Court holds that that marital support obligations are the exclusive province of the state court. Without a court-issued marital settlement agreement, domestic support order,  separation agreement, etc.,  Plaintiff cannot state a claim under Section 523(a)(5) or (a)(15). Nor do the allegations in Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint state a viable claim under 523(a)(6) or (a)(7). Debtor’s motion to dismiss is granted.

Judge David T. Thuma
Chapter 13, Confirmation, Valuation     06/29/2021     Kathryn D. Lovato     

The Court denied debtor’s motion to strike creditor’s motion to value property as duplicative and set the motion to value property together with plan confirmation. Even though Debtor’s plan included a motion to value property, nothing in the Code prohibits a creditor from filing a separate motion to value property. The Court’s local bankruptcy rules require debtors to include all pre-confirmation motions in the plan and contemplate that valuation issues be determined at confirmation. If the creditor does not object to confirmation or does not file a separate motion to value property in time to be heard at the same time as confirmation, the creditor risks that confirmation will have preclusive effect on the motion to value property or render the motion to value property moot. 

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Attorneys Fees, Chapter 13     06/23/2021     Elizabheth A. Griego     

Debtor objected to the third fee application of her chapter 13 counsel. The fees requested in the application accrued post-confirmation for legal work to resolve persistent issues with debtor’s mortgage servicer and her homeowner’s insurance company. The work performed was necessary and beneficial to debtor. With the exception of excessive time billed for some email correspondence, the fees sought in the application were reasonable. Reducing the bill by $180, the Court allows $1,000 in fees and costs of $77.49 to be paid through debtor’s chapter 13 plan.    

Judge David T. Thuma
Dismissal, Good Faith, Motion to Sell, Settlement     06/17/2021     Sean Huntley Starkweather and Faith Lynn Starkweather     

 

The case trustee moved for approval of a settlement with Debtors that would allow Debtors to buy their house from the estate and allow a substantial distribution to unsecured creditors. The motion was opposed by a credit union that had its security interest in Debtors’ house avoided because it failed to record its mortgages in the correct county records. The Court, finding that the trustee has satisfied the elements for settlement under Fed R. Bankr. P. 9019 and the elements for sale of estate property under 11 U.S.C. § 363, grants the motion.

Judge David T. Thuma
Adversary, Preference, Standing, Summary Judgment     06/11/2021     U.S. Glove, Inc. vs. Michael J. Jacobs     

Debtor Plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment, seeking to avoid a security interest that Defendant, a director of Debtor, perfected within the preference period. While Plaintiff met the statutory requirements to avoid the transfer under § 547(b), fact issues remain as to whether avoidance would benefit the estate and whether Plaintiff therefore has standing to bring the avoidance act; these fact issues preclude granting the motion for partial summary judgment.

Judge David T. Thuma
Compromise, Equitable Remedies, Settlement     06/04/2021     Motiva Performance Engineering, LLC     

Chapter 7 trustee filed a motion seeking approval of a compromise with the estate’s largest creditor. The creditor maintained that he had a lien on all of the estate’s assets arising from a pre-petition judgment against Debtor (Motiva), followed by a writ of execution and an attempted levy of Motiva’s property. In the alternative, the creditor asserted that he had an equitable lien based on the inequitable conduct of Motiva’s owner, William Ferguson—who went to extreme measures to avoid paying the creditor’s judgment against his company. To avoid litigation about whether the creditor’s claim was secured, the trustee and the creditor reached a compromised settlement agreement. In exchange for conceding that his claim is unsecured, the creditor will receive an increase in what he would receive if litigation resulted in a determination that his claim was unsecured. Benefits to the estate include pooling of any recovery from the creditor’s claims against Ferguson and his affiliates, the creditor’s counsel’s representation of the estate in its claims against Ferguson and his affiliates, and saved litigation costs. Ferguson and his affiliates, who are unsecured creditors of the estate, objected.  Concluding that the compromise is fair, equitable, and in the best interests of creditors overall, the Court overruled the objections and approved the compromise.  

Judge David T. Thuma
Automatic Stay     05/24/2021     Michael Jacques Jacobs     

Creditor sought stay relief under §§ 362(d)(1), (2), and (4). The Court determined that Creditor did not meet its burden under §§ 362(d)(1) or (2) but established its entitlement to in rem stay relief under § 362(d)(4). The equity determination under § 362(d)(2) must be based on the value of the property at or near the final hearing on the motion for relief from stay, not the petition date, which was the date of Creditor’s appraisal. Debtor’s latest bankruptcy filing was part of a scheme to hinder, delay, or defraud Creditor from foreclosing its interest in the property. Debtor or his spouse filed seven bankruptcy cases, avoided making loan payments for nearly 10 years, and filed four cases to stop scheduled foreclosure sales. Five prior chapter 13 cases were dismissed for failure to prosecute the cases, and debtor had taken no meaningful steps toward reorganization in this latest chapter 11 case, having failed to file a plan for over 17 months since commencement of the case.  

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Adversary Proceedings - Procedural Matters, Recusal, Removal     05/21/2021     Barry J. Byrnes v. Sylvia Marie Byrnes     

Plaintiff pro se moved to disqualify the presiding judge under Bankruptcy Rule 5004(a) and 28 U.S.C. Section 455, on the ground that the judge exhibited bias and prejudice in the early stages of this adversary proceeding. “Bias” and “prejudice” requiring recusal under Section 455 typically derives from knowledge acquired by a judge outside judicial proceedings. Judicial rulings, which are appealable, almost never constitute a valid basis for a motion to disqualify. Plaintiff’s motion is based exclusively on his perception that the presiding judge treated him unfairly at two scheduling conferences. The motion is based on facts and assertions that do not demonstrate or even approach the bias, animosity, or partiality required for disqualification under Section 455. The motion is denied.  

Judge David T. Thuma
Adversary Proceedings - Procedural Matters, Discovery, Dismissal, Jurisdiction, Standing     05/18/2021     Cielo Vista Hospitality LLC, et al v. CPLG TX Properties, LLC     

 

Defendant CPLG TX Properties, LLC (as seller) and Hitendra Bhakta (as buyer) executed purchase agreements for the sale of three hotels and Mr. Bhakta wired a $300,000 deposit for each hotel to an escrow agent. The sales did not close. Plaintiffs, which are single purpose LLCs that Mr. Bhakta formed to buy the hotels, brought an adversary proceeding seeking return of the deposits. Each plaintiff is a debtor in a separate chapter 11 bankruptcy case. 

Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint including for lack of standing and jurisdiction, arguing that that Plaintiffs are not valid assignees of Mr. Bhakta’s rights under the Purchase Agreements. The Court ruled: 1) errors in the assignment documents might not be fatal to effective assignments, 2) the attack on jurisdiction was a factual not facial attack warranting discovery on jurisdictional facts, and 3) parties by contract can agree that an invalid attempted assignment is void, not voidable, meaning that a defective assignment cannot be made valid by ratification.   

The Court deferred ruling on the jurisdiction/standing issue pending completion of discovery and an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing.

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz

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