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
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
Exemptions, Property of the Estate, Trustee     12/07/2020     Mary Suarez     

The chapter 7 trustee objected to Debtor’s claim of a homestead exemption in her residence on the ground that, having given a warranty deed, absolute in form, to the property to her daughter’s trust, Debtor no longer owns the property and the property is not part of the estate. Debtor asserted that, the warranty deed notwithstanding, she has an interest in the property that she may exempt from the bankruptcy estate under New Mexico law. The chapter 7 trustee did not dispute that Debtor and her daughter, as trustee of the Trust, had an oral agreement that Debtor could live in the property until her death. The Court concluded that the terms of the oral agreement did not merge into the warranty deed, that the oral agreement is enforceable despite the statute of frauds under the circumstances, and that, under the oral agreement, Debtor had a life estate interest that became part of the estate and is exemptible under New Mexico law.

 

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Attorneys Fees, Judicial Liens - Avoidance, Professionals, Valuation     11/25/2020     Rito Bill Sanchez     

Debtor moved for the avoidance of a judicial lien encumbering his property. The Court ruled that on the petition date, Debtor’s house was worth less than the New Mexico homestead exemption, so the lien could be avoided entirely. Further, it would be a violation of the New Mexico Rules of Professional Conduct for the lienholder, Debtor’s former attorney, to collect the judgment, as it was an unreasonable fee consisting primarily of accrued interest.

 

 

Judge David T. Thuma
Conversion, Trustee, Valuation     11/20/2020     Roy Mitchell Waggoner and Jewel Kay Waggoner     

Chapter 7 trustee sought order compelling debtor to turn over three pieces of irrigation equipment that trustee claimed was part of the bankruptcy estate.  The Court held a trial on the merits and concluded that the trustee’s motion for turnover must be denied. Under Section 348(f)(1)(A) equipment acquired by debtor during chapter 13 case prior to conversion to chapter 7 was not property of chapter 7 estate, and therefore not subject to turnover. Equipment that debtor acquired and disposed of prepetition was not property of the chapter 13 or chapter 7 estate, and therefore was not subject to turnover. Equipment that debtor sold prepetition, retained possession of after the conversion date, and delivered to the buyer during chapter 7 case was property of chapter 7 estate subject to turnover, but because evidence of the property’s value was insufficient and the whereabouts of the equipment is unknown, neither the equipment nor its value could be turned over to trustee.  

Judge David T. Thuma
Adversary, Damages, Default Judgment, Nondischargeability, Punitive Damages     11/06/2020     Gretchen Welch v. David Tracy Giron     

Plaintiff sued Defendant for declaration that damages resulting from Defendant’s clouding of Plaintiff’s title, liquidated in a California state court default judgment, were nondischargeable under §§ 523(a)(2), (4), or (6). The Court did not determine the default judgment nondischargeable, but instead found and concluded that Defendant’s actions were willful and malicious, and that actual proved damages and $25,000 in punitive damages were therefore nondischargeable under § 523(a)(6).

 

Judge David T. Thuma
Confirmation, Good Faith, Social Security     10/29/2020     Jimmie Thad Stuteville     

A creditor objected to confirmation of Debtor’s plan of reorganization on the ground that it was not feasible because Debtor’s income derived in part from Social Security benefits for his minor son. The Court concluded that it could consider Debtor’s son’s Social Security benefits as part of Debtor’s income when determining whether Debtor’s plan was feasible, and that Debtor’s plan was feasible. The creditor also argued that the plan was not proposed in good faith because Debtor proposed to retain and continue to pay for a truck that is expensive to maintain and operate. The Court found and concluded that, under the circumstances, the truck is not a luxury item and that Debtor proposed the plan in good faith.

 

Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Adversary, Damages, Summary Judgment     10/23/2020     Edward Mazel et al v. Las Cruces Abstract and Title Company     

Defendants moved for partial summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ claim that Defendants were professionally negligent for failing to disclose to Plaintiffs a mortgage clouding title in a real estate transaction. The Court granted Defendants motion, holding that Plaintiffs were aware of the mortgage prior to closing and that Defendants’ nondisclosure of the mortgage was not the proximate cause of any damages Plaintiffs may have incurred.

Judge David T. Thuma
Adversary, Dischargeability, Summary Judgment     10/16/2020     Jill Stevenson v. Educational Credit Management Corporation     

Debtor filed a complaint seeking to discharge her student loans based on a theory of undue hardship. Debtor, who is participating in an income based repayment plan, based her undue hardship complaint primarily on the potential tax consequences that may arise if the balance of her student loan debt is discharged at the end of her repayment term. Based on Debtor’s interrogatory responses, in which she appeared to concede that she could afford her monthly repayment obligation, Defendant sought summary judgment on the ground that Debtor cannot satisfy the Brunner test. Defendant is entitled to partial summary judgment that the potential tax consequences of student loan debt forgiveness, by themselves, are not enough to render the debt dischargeable. Because Debtor’s response to the summary judgment motion raised genuine issues of material fact about whether Debtor can afford her monthly repayment obligation, the balance of the motion is denied.

Judge David T. Thuma

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