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
Attorneys Fees, Claim Objection     02/09/2021     Marilyn B. Cavanaugh     

The Court sustained, in part, Debtor’s objection to mortgage-creditor’s claim for pre-petition attorneys’ fees and costs, finding that mortgage-creditor failed to satisfy its ultimate burden of proof. The redactions in the invoices and lack of other evidence resulted in disallowance of about 60% of the amount claimed.  Mortgage-creditor’s heavily redacted attorney fee invoices prevented the Court from evaluating the reasonableness of fees and costs under applicable nonbankruptcy law by reviewing the invoices. Mortgage-creditor did not offer any evidence of customary flat fee foreclosure arrangements nor explain what work was performed to earn the requested fees. 

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Automatic Stay, Claim Preclusion, Issue Preclusion, Relief from Stay, Rooker-Feldman     02/04/2021     Michael Jacques Jacobs     

Issue preclusion, but not claim preclusion or Rooker-Feldman, prevented Debtor from relitigating whether mortgage creditor had standing to seek relief from the automatic stay. Creditor obtained a final judgment against debtor following a trial on the merits in state court determining that it was the holder of the note and mortgage and ordering foreclosure. Notwithstanding debtor’s appeal of the state court judgment, the judgment remained a final order entitled to preclusive effect.

 

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Appeals, Avoidance Actions, Costs of Litigation, Standing     02/04/2021     Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe     

 

Debtor and its parishes moved for a stay pending the appeal to the 10th Circuit BAP of the Court’s previous ruling granting derivative standing to the UCC to pursue avoidance actions against the parishes. Because movants were unable to show a likelihood of success on interlocutory appeal, because the cost of litigation did not constitute irreparable harm to the movants, and because a stay would likely harm non-moving litigants, the motion is denied.

 

Judge David T. Thuma
Valuation     01/29/2021     Twin Pines, LLC     

The Court concluded that the Debtor’s assets should be valued as of the confirmation date and considered the expert testimony of two appraisers who relied on the cost, sales comparison, and income approaches to value the Debtor’s real property, improvements, and equipment. Both appraisers assumed in their reports that the Debtor, which operates a car wash in Ruidoso, NM, was operating two fully functional automatic drive-through car wash bays where, in fact, only one bay was operational as a drive-through car wash bay during some of the years for which data was provided to the appraisers. Hence, the Court adjusted the cost and income approach values to reflect the status of the car wash bays. The Court also concluded that, to the extent new equipment installed in the car wash was a fixture, § 552(b)(1) cut off the creditor’s interest in the equipment. The lengthy opinion examines in detail both appraisers’ cost, sales comparison, and income approach analyses in their expert reports.

 

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Adversary     01/29/2021     Edward Mazel et al v. Las Cruces Abstract and Title Company et al     

Sixteen months after filing their original complaint, six months after the close of discovery, and with eleven fully-briefed motions for partial summary judgment pending before the Court, Plaintiffs in this heavily litigated adversary proceeding filed a motion to amend their complaint seeking to add a negligence claim  (having originally pleaded professional negligence), drop a civil conspiracy claim, add three plaintiffs, and amend the factual allegations. Defendants objected. The Court, having addressed Plaintiffs’ negligence claim in its opinion granting summary judgment to defendants on professional negligence, and noting that Plaintiffs offered no explanation for the delay in seeking to add a new claim, held that the request was untimely and futile. Plaintiffs request to add new plaintiffs was untimely made, and would otherwise be futile—the additional plaintiffs lacked standing, they did not suffer damages attributable to Defendants’ conduct, and they were strangers to the underlying transaction. Amending the factual allegations would also be futile considering the advanced stage of proceedings.  On these grounds, and to avoid undue prejudice to the Defendants, the motion is denied except to  the extent that Plaintiffs seek to drop the civil conspiracy claim.

 

Judge David T. Thuma
Adversary, Discharge, Fraudulent Transfers, Settlement, Summary Judgment     01/22/2021     United States Trustee v. Pawankumar Jain     

Debtor, formerly a successful neurologist, filed chapter 7 bankruptcy after losing his medical license, being sued for wrongful death arising from prescription drug overdose deaths of two of his patients, and divorcing from his wife. Two wrongful death plaintiffs filed claims in the bankruptcy case. The UST filed this adversary proceeding objecting to Debtor’s discharge under various provisions of Section 727(a).  The chapter 7 trustee subsequently filed an adversary proceeding seeking to avoid alleged fraudulent transfers from Debtor to his wife and son. The chapter 7 trustee, the fraudulent transfer defendants, and the two claimants reached a settlement agreement resolving the chapter 7 trustee’s adversary proceeding, and leaving the estate with no unpaid creditors. Based on the settlement agreement, Debtor filed a motion for summary judgment asking the Court to grant his discharge as a matter of “discretion” and, in the alternative, seeking dismissal of the UST’s complaint as moot.  The Court held the UST’s complaint is not moot because discharge is a significant privilege reserved for honest debtors, and the UST is charged with protecting the integrity of the bankruptcy code. The Court also held that it does not have discretion to grant debtor a discharge if the UST can prove that Debtor’s conduct satisfies one of the enumerated exceptions to discharge stated in Section 707(a). Debtor’s motion for summary judgment is denied.

 

Judge David T. Thuma
Cause, Chapter 13, Standing, Statutory Construction, Valuation     12/23/2020     Sandra Joyce McGrath and Dale Allen Rogers     

Debtors’ mortgage holder moved for relief from the automatic stay, citing several ground for relief under § 362(d). The Court denied the motion and notably ruled that, because Debtors mortgage matured prior to bankruptcy, Debtors could potentially amend their plan to bifurcate and cramdown the movant’s claim and/or pay the claim via a balloon payment at the end of Debtors’ plan period.

 

Judge David T. Thuma
Automatic Stay, Chapter 11, Injunctions, Sanctions, Stay Violation     12/14/2020     Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe     

Debtor moved for sanctions and/or a finding of contempt against Debtor’s former employee for violation of the automatic stay. The Court found that Debtor’s structure as a corporation sole meant that employee’s post-petition suit against the Archbishop was stayed, but sanctions were inappropriate given the rarity of and the lack of authority on the issue.

 

Judge David T. Thuma
Adversary, Equitable Estoppel, Judicial Estoppel     12/11/2020     Celia Hougland v. Carlo Franco et al     

After a trial on the merits to determine the ownership of mineral rights as between the probate estates of a mother and son, the Court concluded that the disputed mineral rights are owned by the probate estate of the son.  In a 1996 deed, stating no reservations or exceptions of any mineral interests, Hipolito Franco’s parents conveyed 122 acres of property to him.  In 1998 Hipolito and his wife used the surface estate of property as collateral for a loan.  A survey of the property revealed an error in the metes and bounds description of the property in the 1996 deed.  The lender’s title commitment required a correction deed, which Hipolito’s mother (then widowed) signed.  The metes and bounds description in the correction deed was preceded by the phrase “surface estate only.” Relying on the “surface estate only” language in the correction deed and on other legally-ineffective documentation, Hipolito’s mother claimed ownership of the mineral rights for several years, while omitting them from her bankruptcy schedules in two chapter 7 cases.  A state court quiet title action pertaining to the mineral rights filed by Hipolito and his wife was removed to this court.  By the time a trial on the merits of ownership of the disputed mineral rights was held, Hipolito and his mother had died.  The Court held that the disputed mineral rights were conveyed to Hipolito in the 1996 deed.  The correction deed did not alter the nature of that conveyance.  Hipolito’s estate was not estopped from claiming ownership of the disputed minerals.  Principles of estoppel by deed and judicial estoppel would preclude his mother’s estate from claiming ownership of the disputed minerals.          

 

Judge David T. Thuma
Chapter 11     12/11/2020     S-Tek 1, LLC, a New Mexico Limited Liability Corporation     

The Court granted the debtor’s request for use of cash collateral on an emergency basis, pending a final hearing on use of cash collateral. Before the bankruptcy filing, the debtor filed a lawsuit in state court against Surv-Tek, Inc., the business entity from which the debtor purchased its business.  Surv-Tek, Inc. filed a counter-claim and obtained a judgment from the state court ordering the debtor and its principals to cease and desist competing with Surv-Tek, Inc. The Court determined that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which prevents a state court loser from seeking federal court review and rejection of the state court judgment, did not preclude the debtor from seeking an order for use of cash collateral in a subsequent bankruptcy case. In addition, the automatic stay precluded enforcement of the state court order. Surv-Tek, Inc. was granted adequate protection in the form of a replacement lien in property of the same time it had a lien on the petition date that the debtor acquired post-petition to the extent the combined value of the debtor’s accounts receivable, cash on hand, and other cash equivalents, was less at the end of the interim, emergency period, than the value of those assets on the petition date. 

 

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz

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