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St. John's Case Blog

 By: Joshua L. Eisenson

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

                
In a case of first impression, In re DB Capital Holdings, LLC,[1] the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Tenth Circuit (“B.A.P.”) held that a provision in a limited liability company’s (“LLC”) operating agreement prohibiting the LLC’s members or its management from filing a bankruptcy petition is valid.[2]  In May 2010, DB Capital’s manager filed a chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on behalf of DB Capital (“the debtor”).[3]  The B.A.P. affirmed the bankruptcy court’s order dismissing the chapter 11 case pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 1112(b),[4] holding that a provision in the operating agreement expressly barring the debtor’s manager from filing for bankruptcy was valid.[5]
February 10 2012

By: Jonathan Weiss

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff 

In S. White Transportation, Inc.,[1]the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Mississippi held that secured creditor had “participated” in the chapter 11 case and was bound by a plan voiding its lien because it received notice, even though it had not appeared or taken any action in the case.[2] The debtor, S. White Transportation, Inc. (“SWT”), had challenged the validity of a Deed of Trust with the creditor, Acceptance Loan Company, Inc. (“Acceptance”) in state court on the basis that the individuals who had signed the Deed of Trust on behalf of SWT did not have the authority to do so.[3]  Consistent with its claims in state court, SWT’s proposed chapter 11 plan classified Acceptance’s lien as a disputed claim on which no payment would be made.[4] Two weeks after SWT’s chapter 11 plan was confirmed, Acceptance objected to the plan, requesting that the court find that its lien survived the confirmation unaffected.[5] The court held that the plan voided the lien and denied motions for relief and modification of the plan, and reaffirmed the old adage that litigants must not “sleep on their rights”.[6]

February 7 2012

By: Jessica E. Stukonis

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff 

An attorney who signed a proof of claim on his client’s behalf narrowly avoided disqualification in In re Duke Investments.[1] In Duke, the court refused to disqualify the attorney from representing his creditor-client in the chapter 11 case because the attorney was not a “necessary witness” despite his role in preparing, signing, and filing a creditor’s proof of claim.[2] The creditor’s attorney compiled the proof of claim based on information received from the creditor’s officers.[3]  The court denied the debtor’s motion to disqualify the creditor’s attorney because the debtor failed to demonstrate that the attorney was a necessary witness. The attorney was not a necessary witness because he lacked “exclusive knowledge or understanding of the [proof of claim]. . . . [and the attorney’s] testimony would [not] be the sole source of information pertaining to the [proof of claim]”.[4]  Moreover, even if the attorney was a “necessary witness,” he would not be disqualified because the debtor failed to demonstrate that his testimony would “substantially conflict” with Amergy’s testimony,[5] and Amergy consented to the attorney’s continued representation.[6]

January 3 2012

By: Heather Hili

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

Recently, in In re XMH Corp.,[1] the Seventh Circuit added trademark licenses to the types of intellectual property that cannot be assigned in bankruptcy without the licensor’s permission.[2] In 2009, XMH Corporation (“XMH”) and some of its subsidiaries sought relief under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code (“the Code”).[3] Blue, a debtor subsidiary of XMH, attempted to sell its assets to purchasers, Emerisque Brands and SKNL, including a trademark license agreement with Western Glove Works (“Western”).[4] The bankruptcy court refused to allow Blue to assign its trademark license agreement to the purchasers because Western would not consent to the assignment, and trademark law prohibits the non-consensual assignment of a trademark.[5]

January 2 2012

By: Jonathan Abramovitz

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

Recently, in In re Two Gales, Inc.,[1] the United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Sixth Circuit (the “Panel”) held that 11 U.S.C. § 726(b) is not intended to serve as a basis for denying a claim for attorney’s fees, but rather serves as a priority scheme for dealing with distributions on allowed claims.[2] The law firm of Cupps & Garrison, LLC (“C & G”) represented Two Gales, Inc. (the “Debtor”) as its bankruptcy counsel before the case was converted from chapter 11 to chapter 7.[3] The bankruptcy court ordered C & G to disgorge its $10,000 retainer because the Debtor was administratively insolvent and, under section 726(b), chapter 7 administrative expenses are entitled to priority in proceedings converted from chapter 11 to chapter 7 where the debtor is administratively insolvent.[4] The Panel reversed, holding that before ordering disgorgement of C & G’s retainer, the lower court should have determined whether C & G had a properly perfected lien on its prepetition retainer under state law.[5]

January 2 2012

By: Linda C. Attreed

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

Adopting a narrow view of the section 362(b)(4)[1] “police and regulatory power” exception to the automatic stay, the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas, in In re Reyes,[2] held that Josie Jones (“Jones”) and her attorney Robert Wilson (“Wilson”) violated the automatic stay provision by reporting the debtors to the Texas Real Estate Commission (“the TREC”).[3]  The court determined that Jones and Wilson had intentionally prosecuted the TREC complaint “to punish the debtor for filing, and to exert pressure on the debtor in order to collect on the judgment.”[4]  The court noted that Jones and Wilson filed the TREC action against the debtors approximately two months after seeking to lift the stay, and held that this was sufficient to support a finding of civil contempt.[5]  

January 2 2012

By: Gregory R. Bruno

St. John's Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In Gold v. Marquette (In re Leonard),[1] the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan held that college tuition payments could be recovered as constructively fraudulent transfers because the debtors did not receive “reasonably equivalent value” for pre-petition payments made to Marquette University (“Marquette”) on their adult son’s behalf.  In 2008, the debtors paid Marquette $21,527 to cover the rest of their son’s tuition and related expenses.[2]  The chapter 7 trustee sought to avoid and recover these payments as fraudulent transfers.[3]  Marquette moved for summary judgment on the ground, inter alia, that the debtors received reasonably equivalent value for these payments because the debtors received two benefits from such payments: (1) peace of mind in knowing that their son was receiving a quality education, and (2) the expectation that their son would become financially independent from them because of such education.[4]

January 2 2012

By: Eric J. Dostal

St. John's Law Student

American  Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

Recently, in J.J. Re–Bar Corp. v. United States (In re J.J. Re–Bar Corp.)[1] the Ninth Circuit held that the Anti–Injunction Act[2] does not bar the post-confirmation collection of a trust fund recovery penalty (“TFRP”)[3] from the responsible officers of a debtor corporation by the IRS.[4] The Ninth Circuit, relying on Davis v. United States[5] determined that because TFRP liability arises from officers’ willful conduct, such penalties are the obligations of the officers themselves and not the debtor corporation.[6] This case arose after the IRS assessed a TFRP against the Skokans, the corporate officers responsible for the company’s failure to remit certain “trust fund taxes–the tax withholdings from employee paychecks–to the government.”[7] The IRS chose to assess the TFRP against the responsible officers of the debtor after the debtor had confirmed its plan and paid its outstanding payroll taxes.[8] Seeking to halt the IRS’ collection efforts, J.J. Re–Bar “filed a motion to enforce . . . the Plan and to hold the IRS in contempt.”[9] Both the Bankruptcy Court and the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel ruled for the IRS.[10]    

January 2 2012

Jennifer K. Arcarola

St. John's Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In In re Balas & Morales,[1] the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California held that a legally married same-sex couple could jointly petition for bankruptcy.[2]  The debtors, Gene Balas and Carlos Morales, are a same-sex couple legally married in California who jointly filed for bankruptcy under chapter 13.[3] The United States Trustee (the “Trustee”) moved to dismiss the case, alleging that section 1307(c) of the United States Bankruptcy Code (the “Code”) prohibits two males from jointly filing for bankruptcy[4] because the Defense of Marriage Act (the “DOMA”) defines “spouse” as a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife,[5] and so Trustee alleged that their case should be dismissed “for cause” pursuant to section 1307(c) of the Code.[6]  The court concluded that (1) the DOMA was unconstitutional as applied to a same-sex married couple under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment, (2) no legitimate government interest was served in applying the statute, and (3) none of the eleven grounds for dismissal listed in section 1307 were implicated.[7]

January 2 2012

By: Ravi Vohra

St. John’s Law Student

American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review Staff

In Motors Liquidation Co.,[1] the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York denied class certification and disallowed two claims set forth by the Botha and Balintulo claimants (the “Class Claimants”) in General Motors Corporation’s (“Old GM”) chapter 11 proceedings.[2] The claims were first raised prepetition by 26 named plaintiffs in two separate groups, (the “Botha Plaintiffs” and the “Balintulo Plaintiffs”), and Old GM filed its chapter 11 petition while those lawsuits were still pending. The Botha and Balintulo Plaintiffs then filed proofs of claims against the corporation.[3] More than twelve months after Old GM’s chapter 11 filing and eight months after the bar date, the Class Claimants moved for class treatment and Old GM then sought to disallow the class claims.[4] Among other things, the Class Claimants alleged that they were victims of the infamous system of apartheid in South Africa, and that Old GM aided and abetted the perpetrators of the apartheid system in causing the claimants’ injuries.[5]

December 29 2011