All posts in Courts

Following up on Taggart

In Taggart, you may recall, the 9th Circuit said that a good faith belief that the discharge injunction doesn’t apply preempts contempt even when the “good faith belief” is “unreasonable.”  Huh?  One of the more surprising aspects of the proceeding at the Supreme Court was that both sides agreed – before oral argument – that the 9th Circuit got it wrong.  Well, thankfully the Supreme Court agreed and reversed saying that contempt is appropriate unless there is “a fair ground of doubt,” as to whether the discharge applies to the creditor or not.   The 9th Circuit test of “good faith works even if it’s not good faith,” was pitched out.  The Supremes sent it back to the 9th Circuit for further review.

Where does it stand now?

A brief history is necessary.  The creditor sought attorneys fees in state court based on post-discharge litigation involving a prepetition debt.  The creditor told the state court postpetition that the debtor was an “indispensable party” and that it needed a particular order against the debtor but otherwise was not trying to collect the debt as it knew the debt had been discharged.  This is not terribly unusual.  When the creditor later “won” and got the state court order it requested, it then asked for attorneys fees against the debtor for the postpetition litigation using the contract (which was discharged).  This is also not terribly unusual.  The creditor argues that the debtor “returned to the fray,” that is, participated in the postpetition litigation and therefore should be liable for the fees under the contract for the postpetition litigation. Read more…

Judge Whitman Holt takes the bench in the Eastern District of Washington

Whitman HoltJudge Marty Barash and new Judge Whitman Holt.  This appointment is so deserved.  Whitman attended most of the cdcbaa events even though the programs had little to do with his personal practice.  He simply has a huge taste for and love of learning.   Congratulations Whit.  We are going to miss you.  Our loss is Washington’s gain.

If you’re not sure where Yakima is, look here.

Below is the notice from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Appoints New Bankruptcy Judge for Eastern District of Washington SAN FRANCISCO —

Whitman L. Holt has been appointed as the next judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Washington.  He begins his 14-year term today, November 1, 2019, and will maintain chambers in Yakima.  His appointment was made by the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Read more…

Small Business Task Force – Central District

Email from Chief Judge Maureen Tighe:

Dear Bar Advisory Board members:

As I mentioned at our last meeting, I am seeking nominations for members of a small business task force I am setting up for January 2020.  You may send nominations to the email address below.  The task force will be in furtherance of the court’s goal to be as accessible as possible to business cases.  We will focus in the task force on the small family businesses and other small businesses in the district.  The group will define the term “small business” more as part of its work, but the total liabilities are likely under $3 million.  I will be selecting a broad range of people from around the entire district and encourage you to nominate people with connections to various communities and small business groups in the district, whether or not they have bankruptcy experience.  There will be monthly meetings and community outreach, discussion and report writing involved, so it should be someone able to commit sufficient time to the project.  If you could tell me a little bit about anyone you nominate, that would be helpful.  To give your more guidance, I list the goals of our soon to be final strategic plan below:  Outreach for Businesses. Ensure that businesses know how to appropriately access bankruptcy resources

Strategies:

- Have sufficient outreach and public education to ensure that businesses in financial distress are aware of bankruptcy laws, referral resources, and bankruptcy-related fraudulent schemes
- Investigate and identify barriers that prevent small businesses from accessing court resources
- Maintain and develop relationships with a diverse range of organizations, community groups, and bar associations
- Study the existing business bankruptcy procedures to see whether there are barriers to business access

The recently enacted Small Business Reorganization Act will be considered as part of this task force, as we would like to see that word gets out about this new law and that the court implement it well.  The scope of the task force is broader than the new law, however.  Because the task force likely will not complete its work until late 2020, the Rules Committee we will be addressing separately and much sooner whether any new rule or form changes are required before the Act goes into effect in February.  Judge Scott Clarkson, Chair of the court’s Rules Committee, is currently gathering suggestions from the bar of any changes you believe are required for any of the recently enacted bankruptcy legislation. Please send your comments directly to him at Scott_Clarkson@cacb.uscourts.gov. And send nominations for the Task Force to Email address: CACB_SBTF@cacb.uscourts.gov

Maureen Tighe, Chief Bankruptcy Judge United States Bankruptcy Court,Central District of California

Judge Scott Clarkson website on Rembrandt van Rijn — Bankrupt Printmaker, Art, love and insolvency in the 17th Century

Judge Scott Clarkson has a great website you need to visit - Rembrandt van Rijn — Bankrupt Printmaker, Art, love and insolvency in the 17th Century.   As is said on the website, “Judge Clarkson’s hour-long lecture and PowerPoint presentation of the life and 1656 Bankruptcy of the Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn paints a unique picture of art, personality, the loves of his life, and his overwhelming financial successes and failures.  Scott will take his unique show to American University on November 1, 2019.

Take a look at the picture of the US Capitol that Scott uses for the background of the announcement.    The picture was taken by my son Desmond (who also created and maintains this blog for me).   Des and I were at the Space Museum late in the afternoon  a few years ago and we walked out and the sun was shining through on the capitol on what was otherwise a very gloomy day.  Thanks to Scott for thinking of Des.

Supreme Court Stat Pack available at Scotusblog

If you are a numbers nerd, be prepared to blow an hour just scrolling through the 46 pages of numbers.  You can get the final package for the last term here.

One statistic I found intriguing is the makeup of the 5-4 decisions.  Last term 20 cases were decided 5-4.  That is out of 66 cases in total – so 28% of the total.  You would think that the 5-4 decisions were all the five “conservatives” v. the four “liberals.”  But that was the lineup on only seven of the 20.  Justice Gorsuch voted with the four liberals in four cases to make the 5-4 majority.  Justice Roberts voted with the four liberals in two cases.  Justice Thomas and Justice Ginsburg were on the same side in three of the 5-4 cases!  Thomas and Sotomayor were on the same side in two of the 5-4 cases.

Another stat that jumps out at me is that Justice Kavenaugh voted with the majority 89% of the time.   He and Roberts voted together 92% of the time.

I better get to work.  Have fun.

Update on In re Brace – pending at the California Supreme Court

This is the case where the California Supremes will decide whether property held by husband and wife as joint tenants is owned 50-50 by each or is owned as community property.   California law presumes both.  The BAP agreed with Judge Scott Yun and ruled that the ”record title presumption of Cal. Evid. Code § 662″ does not trump “the community property presumption of Cal. Fam. Code § 760″ citing Valli v. Valli (In re Marriage of Valli), 58 Cal. 4th 1396 (2014).

The 9th Circuit punted the issue over to the California Supreme Court.  They are still doing briefing so we are probably a ways from a result.  The Supremes must rule within 90 days after oral argument but there is no deadline re when oral argument must be set.

 IN RE CLIFFORD ALLEN BRACE, JR. 
Case Number S252473 (See docket below) Read more…

Ransom – My ABA summary of the Supreme Court case

I forgot about this summary I wrote for the ABA on the Ransom case at the Supreme Court.  http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/ABA-Preview.Ransom.pdf

 

Nice quote on Chief Justice John Marshall

I finally finished reading Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen.  It’s a great book that really puts into perspective how we wound up with our constitution.  And how close it came to never happening, and then to not being ratified.   It’s pretty amazing that neither John Adams nor Thomas Jefferson were there.  Both were in Europe that summer.  George Washington and Benjamin Franklin “laid their shoulders to the great points, knowing that the little ones would follow of themselves.”

Anyway, there is a great comment on John Marshall that I want to remember.  The scene is the convention in Virginia brought afterwards to consider adopting the new constitution.

John Marshall, now in his thirty-third year, was a great strength to the Constitutionalists.  Ruddy and handsome, with wild black hair, a piercing dark eye, as a concession to the occasion he had draped his tall frame in a new coat which however had cost but a pound and looked it.  The assembly knew Marshall, respected him for his soldierly record in the Revolution and loved him for his sociability – which says Grisby primly, at times verged on excess.

John Marshall was with Washington at Valley Forge.

I want to add a quote from a poem at the end of Ms. Bowen’s Preface to the book:

If all the tales are told, retell them, Brother,
If few attend, let those who listen feel.

Bankruptcy Appeals – BAP or District Court?

The Ninth Circuit 2018 Annual Report tells us that last year there were 277 appeals from bankruptcy courts in the Central District of California.  Total appeals in the 9th Cir were 623 so we are almost half.  Of the 277 in the Central District, 131 were to the BAP and 146 to the district courts.

Every appeals program I have been to since forever spends a healthy amount of time discussing which court is “better” for the appeal – the BAP or the district court.

Here is my take on how to decide which court to appeal in:

  • If the issue is truly a bankruptcy issue, it is rarely better to appeal to the district court.  Plans and confirmation, the automatic stay and preferences befuddle most district court judges and their clerks.  One district court judge told me that he is mystified that anyone would want him to resolve a bankruptcy issue.
  • If there is BAP precedence against you, the BAP is bound by its prior rulings so you might as well go to the district court which is not bound by BAP rulings in other cases.
  • If you suspect that the matter is going to go  to the 9th Circuit irrespective of the result at the first level of appeal, go to the BAP.  It will recognize the issue and explain it to the 9th Circuit for you.
  • The BAP is ruling pretty quickly these days.  You can expect a resolution within 3-4-5 months.  The district court in my experience takes a lot longer.
  • The BAP will almost always allow oral argument.  The district court rarely does (in my experience).
  • If the matter is really heavy duty state court -non-bankruptcy court – litigation, the district court might be better.  For example, claims objections based on state law.  The district court is likely more familiar and comfortable with non-bankruptcy litigation issues.

The idea that one court or the other will “rubber stamp” the bankruptcy court is ridiculous and insulting to the judges.

cdcbaa 6th Annual JIm King Program – September 7, 2019

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Southwestern Law School, 3050 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90010

11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Sixth Annual James T. King Bankruptcy Symposium

Supreme Court: In re Taggart, Discharge Violations

SPEAKERS:

Daniel L. Geyser, Dallas, Texas
Prof. Dan Bussel, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
M. Jonathan Hayes, Resnik Hayes Moradi, LLP

Dan Geyser argued the Taggart case before the Supreme Court in April, 2019 and of course obtained a badly needed reversal of the Ninth Circuit opinion. In fact, Dan argued four cases this year in front of the Supreme Court! He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and a very entertaining speaker.

Dan has argued the following cases before the Supreme Court:

  • Taggart v. Lorenzen (creditor’s “good faith” does not preclude liability for discharge violations – reversing the Ninth Circuit).
  • Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus LLP (non-judicial foreclosures not covered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act).
  • U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n v. The Village at Lakeridge, LLC, (appellate standard of review in the “non-statutory insider” context).

His major cases at the circuit court of appeals level:

  • Garfield v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC (Bankruptcy Code does not broadly repeal the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in the discharge context). 811 F.3d 86 (2d Cir. 2016).
  • America’s Servicing Co. v. Schwartz-Tallard (In re Schwartz-Tallard) (attorney’s fees proper for prosecuting violations of the automatic stay – convincing the en banc court to overturn past circuit authority).

Prof. Dan Bussell teaches Bankruptcy and Contracts among other subjects at UCLA Law School. He is also a partner at Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanof & Stern LLP. Prof. Bussel received his law degree from Stanford Law School and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor after that. Published opinions in which Prof. Bussel served as appellate counsel include Stern v. Marshall (US Supreme Court); In re Penrod (US Supreme Court (on cert.) and 9th Cir.); Continental Insurance Co. v. Thorpe Insulation Co. (9th Cir. and US Supreme Court (on cert.)); and Motor Vehicle Insurance Co. v. Thorpe Insulation Co. (9th Cir.).

This will be an very entertaining discussion about the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Taggart, the discharge injunction, violations of the automatic stay and perhaps some predictions about where the court and the law is going.