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Keywords/Topic Date Title Description Judge
Abandonment, Assumption and Rejection, Due Process, Jurisdiction, Valuation     12/04/2019     Leobardo Munoz and Maria Elena Munoz     

Debtors filed motion to assume a real estate contract for the purchase of an unimproved lot.  In a 2008 chapter 7 case, Debtors failed to disclose their interest in the real estate contract which, therefore, remained property of the chapter 7 estate.  If Debtors wish to assume the real estate contract, they must re-open the 2008 chapter 7 case, amend their schedules, and seek abandonment of the real estate contract.  In the present case, moreover, Debtors failed to comply with service-of-process rules and thereby deprived the owner of the unimproved lot notice of the bankruptcy and of the motion to assume.  Without proper service of process, the Court lacks jurisdiction over the property owner.  The motion to assume is denied.


Judge David T. Thuma
Chapter 13, Proof of Claim     11/27/2019     Jimmy Thad Stuteville     

The court determined on the parties’ joint motion for summary judgment based on stipulated facts that debtor’s former spouse’s claim arising from a state court judgment awarding her a judgment in the event she paid debtor’s share of guardian ad litem fees debtor was ordered to pay in connection with the parties’ dissolution of marriage proceeding constituted a domestic support obligation (“DSO”) under § 101(14A), entitled to priority under § 507(a)(1)(B).  However, portion former spouse paid to GAL based on court-imposed sanction against debtor was not in the nature of support; consequently it was not entitled to priority status as a DSO.


Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Chapter 13, Dischargeability, Proof of Claim     11/14/2019     Kenric L. Redfearn     

Debtor objected to his ex-wife’s proof of claim arising from an “equalization payment” provision of the marital settlement agreement.  Debtor argued that the equalization payment was a property settlement dischargeable in Chapter 13.  Debtor’s ex-wife argued that the equalization payment was a non-dischargeable domestic support obligation.  Evidence presented at a final hearing on the matter indicated that the equalization payment was intended as support for Debtor’s ex-wife, who could not otherwise afford basic necessities, and who took a significantly smaller distribution of community property in exchange for the equalization payment.  Debtor’s objection was overruled.   

Judge David T. Thuma
Filing Injunction     11/14/2019     The Vaughan Company, Realtors     

The court struck an objection filed by pro-se litigants in violation of a filing injunction order. 


Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Judicial Estoppel, Property of the Estate, Public Utility, Res Judicata, Sales of Assets     10/25/2019     Clark C. Coll v. Picacho Hills Development Co., Inc.     

Trial held to determine whether a contracted-for conveyance of real property title for cash was in improper post-petition transfer based on bankruptcy and state law; whether the contract transferred water rights as additional consideration for the title; whether state court proceedings curtailed this Court’s jurisdiction; and whether this Court should revisit an earlier judgment that was affirmed on appeal.  The Court concludes that the state court actions do not limit this Court’s ability to rule; that the exchange of cash for title was improper but that no water rights changed hands; and that the Court will not alter the earlier judgment.


Judge David T. Thuma
Due Process, Employment of Professionals, Fees     10/24/2019     Victor P. Kearney     

Debtor sought to employ criminal defense counsel using estate funds.  The Court denied the request because employing criminal defense counsel would be of no benefit to the Debtor’s bankruptcy estate, the requirements of Sections 327(a) and (e) were not otherwise satisfied, and Debtor’s Sixth Amendment rights do not trump the “benefit to the estate” requirement.

Judge David T. Thuma
Good Faith, Statutory Construction     10/11/2019     Jody and Richard Garcia     

Debtor  signed an Endorsement Agreement guaranteeing a $1.8 million loan that her father used mostly to finance the rehabilitation of a ski mountain and resort.  She was to get ten percent of the profits from the ski area—either from operating profits or from sale of parcels.  Debtor was motivated to help her father, but also motivated by profit.  When the father defaulted on the loan, the Debtor attempted to repay it, but ultimately filed for bankruptcy.  Debtor sought to reconvert Chapter 13 bankruptcy to Chapter 7, and Bank argued that under 11 USC Section 707(b), Debtor’s case must be dismissed for abuse because the debt was a consumer debt.  The main issue is whether the debt is consumer or non-consumer debt, and this opinion synthesizes the case law and sets forth several considerations that factor into a court’s resolution of the issue of whether debt is “consumer” or “non-consumer.”  Court held that debt is a non-consumer debt, and therefore allowed conversion to chapter 7, and denied Bank’s motion to dismiss.


Judge David T. Thuma
Dischargeability     10/10/2019     Michael Alarid Jr. vs Robert Pacheco     

The Court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a non-dischargeability claim under § 523(a)(2)(A) and granted motion to dismiss for failure to state a non-dischargeability claim under § 523(a)(6), with leave to amend complaint. The standard for willful and malicious injury requires:  1) a deliberate or intentional injury (willful); and 2) culpable conduct beyond recklessness done without justification or excuse while desiring, knowing or intending that the action cause the resulting harm (malicious). Willfulness may be inferred based on the debtor’s subjective belief that the consequences of his actions are substantially certain to occur.  An intentional breach of a settlement agreement may serve as the basis for a non-dischargeable § 523(a)(6) claim, provided the intentional breach meets the willful and malicious standards


Chief Judge Robert H. Jacobvitz
Abandonment, Classification of Claims, Exemptions, Good Faith     10/04/2019     Michael Allen Holley     

Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. Section 544(c) only property that is properly scheduled on schedules A and B can be deemed abandoned.  The debtor in this case mentioned an accident from which he suffered personal injury on his Schedule I only.  He settled his personal injury claim for $1.6 million.  In a subsequent bankruptcy case, the debtor attempted to claim exemptions under 11 U.S.C. Section 522(d) in property purchased with the proceeds of the personal injury settlement.  The Court held that: (1)  the trustee did not abandon the personal injury claim to the Debtor; (2) the exemptions are not allowable because they were purchased with the ill gotten gains of an innocent misrepresentation, at best, or a bankruptcy crime, at worst; and (3) in the alternative, the exemptions were not allowable on their merits.


Judge David T. Thuma
Due Process, Proof of Claim, Service, Standing     10/03/2019     Kyu Dong Park and Woo Jung Lee     

Foreign claimant filed a proof of claim, the trustee objected, the claimant did not respond but the debtors did, alleging that they had standing and that the procedure of notifying the claimant was unfair. The Court held that notice was proper and that while the trustee can respond to claim objections, the debtors cannot, so the Court strikes debtors response and allows claimant 30 days to respond.


Judge David T. Thuma