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
Appeals, Automatic Stay, Relief from Stay     07/23/2021     Victor P. Kearney     

Debtor filed a motion for an order instructing the New Mexico Court of Appeals that the automatic stay does not prevent it from resolving pending appeals from a state district court order. The automatic stay was previously modified to allow the state district court to rule on the matters at issue in the pending appeals. When the Court modified the automatic stay to allow the state district court to rule, it did not intend to deny any party the right to appeal an adverse ruling. Although the stay modification order was silent on this point, the order implicitly and necessarily included the right to appeal. The Court granted Debtor’s motion accordingly.

Judge David T. Thuma
Chapter 11, Contract Interpretation, Sales of Assets     07/19/2021     Sandia Tobacco Manufacturers, Inc.     

Debtor, a non-participating tobacco product manufacturer (“NPM”) under the Master Settlement Agreement between various settling states and major tobacco product manufacturers,  sought to sell its rights to receive the interest earned and residual amounts remaining twenty-five years after deposit in qualified escrow accounts established under state escrow statutes applicable to NPMs. The Court denied the motion and the related motions to approve auction procedures and to assume and assign escrow agreements concluding that Debtor had already assigned the rights at issue under a Supply Agreement for the manufacture of tobacco products for distribution and sale by another tobacco business. Debtor’s rejection of the Supply Agreement had no effect on the rights already assigned through allocation under the Supply Agreement.  

 

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
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
Chapter 11, Contract Interpretation, Executory Contract     07/12/2021     S-Tek 1, LLC     

Debtor sought to reject a pre-petition settlement agreement as an executory contract. The Court determined that the release provisions in the settlement agreement were effective upon payment of the settlement amount to Debtor and that rejection of the settlement agreement would not  undo the releases to allow Debtor to resume its claims against the settling party. The Court deferred its determination of whether the settlement agreement remains executory based on mutual non-disparagement provisions. The Court did not need to decide whether a provision in the settlement agreement rendered the entire agreement unenforceable as against public policy because the settlement agreement contained a severability provision.

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
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

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