Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Bankruptcy
by
In this case, Fieldwood Energy LLC, and its affiliates, who were previously among the largest oil and gas exploration and production companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020 due to declining oil prices, the COVID–19 pandemic, and billions of dollars in decommissioning obligations. In the ensuing reorganization plan, some companies, referred to as the "Sureties", who had issued surety bonds to the debtors, were stripped of their subrogation rights. The Sureties appealed this loss in district court, which held their appeal to be statutorily and equitably moot. The Sureties appealed again to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, contending that a recent Supreme Court decision altered the landscape around statutory mootness and that the district court treated Section 363(m) as jurisdictional. However, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision, concluding that the Supreme Court’s recent decision did not change the application of Section 363(m) in this case, the district court did not treat the statute as jurisdictional, and the Sureties’ failure to obtain a stay was fatal to their challenge of the bankruptcy sale. The court also determined that the provisions stripping the Sureties of their subrogation rights were integral to the sale of the Debtors’ assets, making the challenge on appeal statutorily moot. View "Swiss Re Corporate Solutions America Insurance Co. v. Fieldwood Energy III, L.L.C." on Justia Law

by
In this case, Autumn Wind Lending, LLC (Autumn Wind) had lent money to Insight Terminal Solutions, LLC (Insight) under an agreement that Insight would not incur any further debt without Autumn Wind's consent. However, Insight defaulted on the loan and filed for bankruptcy, during which it was revealed that it had taken on additional debt from other parties, including John J. Siegel and three family enterprises. Autumn Wind, which had become the parent company of Insight, then filed a lawsuit against these parties, alleging fraud and tortious interference. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was asked to decide whether the doctrine of res judicata, which bars relitigation of a claim that has been adjudicated, prevented Autumn Wind from bringing these claims. The court held that the doctrine of res judicata did not bar Autumn Wind from bringing its claims. The court reasoned that the claims had not been "actually litigated" because they were dismissed by stipulation in the bankruptcy court, not decided on the merits. Furthermore, Autumn Wind could not have litigated these claims in the bankruptcy court because it was not a party to the bankruptcy proceedings. The court therefore reversed the district court's dismissal of Autumn Wind's claims and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Autumn Wind Lending, LLC v. Siegel" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit considered an appeal from a ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico concerning the restructuring of debts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's public power company (PREPA) under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA). The appellants, GoldenTree Asset Management and Syncora Guarantee (the "Bondholders"), held around $1 billion of PREPA's roughly $8 billion in bonds and sought relief from the automatic stay on actions against PREPA's estate, hoping to appoint a receiver for PREPA.The Bondholders argued that the automatic stay lifted by operation of law, because the district court denied their latest motion for relief without first noticing and holding a hearing within the timeframe prescribed by 11 U.S.C. § 362(e)(1). However, the appellate court held that the Bondholders waived their right to a prompt notice and hearing on that motion for relief. The court reasoned that the Bondholders accepted a litigation schedule that postponed any hearing on their request for leave to seek the appointment of a receiver until after a parallel proceeding about whether—and to what extent—the Bondholders had any collateral to protect in the first place. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the Title III court. View "GoldenTree Asset Management LP v. Financial Oversight and Management Board" on Justia Law

by
In this case heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the appellant, Kai Hansjurgens, contested the revival of a bankruptcy judgment against him in favor of Donald Bailey. More than a decade earlier, Bailey had obtained a bankruptcy judgment against Hansjurgens for tortious interference with a contract, which Hansjurgens had not paid. To prevent the judgment from expiring under Georgia law, Bailey filed a motion to revive the judgment, which was granted by the bankruptcy court. Hansjurgens argued that the revival proceedings violated his due process rights and did not strictly comply with Georgia's scire facias procedures, which are used to revive dormant judgments.The court found that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically Rule 69(a), only require the revival proceedings to "accord with" or substantially comply with state procedures, rather than strictly comply. The court further noted that the purpose of scire facias, providing notice to the party and an opportunity to present objections, had been served through mailed notices to Hansjurgens at several addresses. The court also observed that Georgia's scire facias procedures did not fit squarely within the federal court system, and requiring strict compliance would be impractical.Therefore, the court held that the bankruptcy court had properly revived the judgment and that the proceedings did not violate due process. It affirmed the district court's revival order. View "Hansjurgens v. Bailey" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered whether a debtor who successfully defended a motion to dismiss her bankruptcy petition filed by the United States Trustee was entitled to attorneys' fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). The debtor, Megan Teter, had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy due to nearly $100,000 in debt. The United States Trustee filed a motion to dismiss her petition, alleging that Teter was abusing the bankruptcy system. Teter successfully defended this motion and sought attorneys' fees from the Trustee under the EAJA. The bankruptcy court denied her request, with the district court affirming this decision. The Court of Appeals also affirmed these decisions. The Court held that Teter's defense against the Trustee's motion to dismiss did not constitute a "civil action" under the EAJA and as such, she was not entitled to attorneys' fees. The Court also expressed doubt that the EAJA applies in bankruptcy proceedings when a debtor successfully defends a motion to dismiss filed by the Trustee. The Court did not, however, make a definitive ruling on this matter. View "Teter v. Baumgart" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit dealt with the question of when an order finding contempt becomes a final, appealable order. The case arose from a dispute between Robert A. Sweetapple and Asset Enhancement, Inc., in which Sweetapple was found in contempt by a bankruptcy court for violating an automatic stay. The bankruptcy court awarded Asset Enhancement attorney's fees and costs for filing and prosecuting its motion for contempt, but did not specify the amount. The amount was later determined in a subsequent order. Sweetapple appealed the contempt order to the district court, but the district court dismissed his appeal as untimely, reasoning that the contempt order was a final, appealable order when it was issued, not when the amount of the attorney's fees was later determined. Sweetapple then appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.The Eleventh Circuit held that the contempt order did not become a final, appealable order until the bankruptcy court issued the later order setting the amount of attorney's fees to be awarded. The court reasoned that this rule avoided the risk of disrupting ongoing proceedings and was consistent with its precedent. Accordingly, since Sweetapple filed his appeal within fourteen days of the bankruptcy court's issuance of the later order, his appeal of the contempt order was timely and the district court had jurisdiction over the appeal. The court vacated the district court's dismissal of Sweetapple's appeal and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Sweetapple v. Asset Enhancement, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Alaska was tasked with determining whether a judgment against a self-represented litigant, Jon Buchholdt, was void due to improper service of process. Jeremy Nelson, Buchholdt's former client, had sued him for legal malpractice and won a judgment of $200,000, but Buchholdt argued that he was not properly served and therefore the court lacked personal jurisdiction over him.The main issue in this case was whether Buchholdt was properly served with the summons and complaint by certified, restricted mail sent to his law office, which was rerouted to his home and signed by his alleged agent, "Suz Miller." Buchholdt contended that he was not properly served as he never personally signed for the service, and therefore the court lacked personal jurisdiction over him.The court held that Buchholdt failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that the judgment was void. Despite his claims, Buchholdt did not provide any evidence to contradict Nelson's evidence of service or to show that Suz Miller was not authorized to receive service on his behalf. Additionally, Buchholdt had listed Nelson's lawsuit as a contingent liability when he filed for bankruptcy, indicating he had knowledge of the suit.Therefore, the court affirmed the denial of Buchholdt's motions to set aside the judgment and for reconsideration. The court did not find that the judgment was void due to a lack of personal jurisdiction resulting from improper service of process. View "Buchholdt v. Nelson" on Justia Law

by
Fliss, Wojciak, and Barr took out a $200,000 bank loan for their jointly owned companies. Each man personally guaranteed the loan. When the borrowers defaulted, the bank obtained a state court $208,639.95 consent judgment, holding the guarantors jointly and severally liable. Wojciak then entered into an agreement with the bank, through his company, Capital I, to purchase the promissory note and judgment debt for $240,000, then entered into a settlement agreement with the bank, agreeing to pay $240,000. Wojciak's other company, Capital II wired the bank $240,000. The state court substituted Capital I for the bank as the plaintiff. Wojciak moved to enforce the judgment: Capital I commenced a supplemental proceeding and sought property turnovers. Fliss and Barr unsuccessfully argued that the debt was extinguished when the Wojciaks paid $240,000 in exchange for settlement.Fliss filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. Wojciak had Capital I file a secured claim, seeking to enforce the judgment–$359,967.69 including post-judgment interest. The bankruptcy court disallowed that claim, finding that Wojciak used Capital I as his alter ego and became both the creditor and debtor, which extinguished the debt. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed. The bankruptcy court had subject matter jurisdiction to consider the claim objection—the Rooker-Feldman doctrine posed no obstacle. Capital I failed to demonstrate the existence of a final judgment as required by res judicata and collateral estoppel. View "Generation Capital I, LLC v. Fliss" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, in his capacity as Litigation Administrator of the post-confirmation estates (the “Litigation Administrator”) of Post-Confirmation Debtor Décor Holdings, Inc. (“Décor Holdings”), appeals the district court’s order, vacating the bankruptcy court’s entry of default judgment against Defendant Sumec Textile Company Limited (“Sumec”) and remanding the case for further proceedings. The district court’s order re-opened an adversary proceeding that the Litigation Administrator initiated against Sumec to avoid preferential payments of $694,048.84 that Décor Holdings and its affiliated debtors (collectively, the “debtors”) made to Sumec in the ninety-day period before it filed for bankruptcy.   The Second Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that notwithstanding the Litigation Administrator’s practical concerns regarding his ability to effectuate service on Sumec and ultimately collect on any judgment, the court sees no basis to apply the collateral order doctrine to hear an appeal challenging the vacatur of a default judgment which can be reviewed, if necessary, upon the entry of a final judgment in the adversary proceeding. Further, the court explained that this is not a situation where the only remaining questions involve relief and enforcement of the holding; rather, the adversary proceeding is at its infancy, with issues of service of process and the actual merits of the action (assuming service is effectuated) still to be resolved on remand. Thus, the dicta in Stone regarding the general rules of appealability has no application to the circumstances in this appeal. View "In re: Décor Holdings, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

by
Defendant, petitioned for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and listed PRN Real Estate & Investments, Ltd. (“PRN”) as his primary creditor. PRN sought to exempt debts that Defendant owes PRN from being discharged. The bankruptcy court granted judgment for Defendant on all of PRN’s claims and fully discharged Defendant’s debt. The district court affirmed.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed the bankruptcy court’s rulings and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that it agrees with each of the bankruptcy court’s rulings except one: that PRN pleaded a viable discharge exception in Count 3. The court explained that Congress gave PRN the right to request an exception of COLP’s contribution debt, if PRN can prove that Defendant fraudulently obtained COLP’s money and, as a result, became responsible for COLP’s contribution debt. PRN has pleaded facts that, if proven, meet these requirements. The Trustee’s action to avoid the same fraudulent transfer does not preempt PRN’s right to seek a discharge exception. Because the bankruptcy court dismissed PRN’s claim based on non-viability and lack of standing, the bankruptcy court did not rule on the merits of Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Thus, the court remanded the case for the bankruptcy court to determine in the first instance whether any facts material to Count 3 are genuinely disputed and, if not, whether Defendant is entitled to judgment on Count 3. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). View "PRN Real Estate & Investments, Ltd. v. William W. Cole, Jr." on Justia Law