Articles Tagged with Bankruptcy Court

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This post was prepared by yours truly, with contributions from Phil Bradford, a financial web content writer. Phil graduated from New York University School of Law and recently joined Herald University as a reporter. He has also written for websites such as debtfreeguys.com and disabilitycanhappen.org

An now, on with the post…

Those who’ve exhausted their financial options or are unable to meet obligations due to illness, divorce, job-loss, or other life-altering events, may consider filing Bankruptcy to get their life back on track.  Here is a quick-guide to help you navigate the process with the help of a good Bankruptcy Lawyer:

Basic Types of Bankruptcy

The most basic distinction when thinking about Bankruptcy is the one between a liquidation (Chapter 7) and a reorganization (Chapter 13 for most people). Whether you need to file a Chapter 7 or 13 case will depend on several factors, including:

  • Total “household” income
  • The value of your property
  • What you stand to lose
  • What you intend to keep

That said, below you will find a few of the most important points when considering if Bankruptcy is right for you.
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7th Circuit Court Seal

Smith v. Sipi, LLC
7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Docket 15-1166 Date:Jan. 20, 2016

In this case from right in our neighborhood – Joliet, Illinois – the Bankruptcy Court and 7th Circuit agree that using the market value of property instead of its artificially low disposal price in a tax sale reflects the real intent of both Bankruptcy law and Illinois law. At the same time, both Courts agree that one taking from a tax-sale buyer is entitled to bona fide purchaser protection.

Background

The Smiths lived in a single-family home in Joliet, Illinois. In 2004 Mrs. Smith inherited the property. While living there in 2000, she and her husband failed to pay the real estate taxes, giving rise to a tax lien in favor of Will County. At a 2001 auction, SIPI purchased the tax lien and paid the delinquent taxes of $4,046.26 plus costs.Mrs. Smith did not redeem that tax obligation and SIPI recorded its Tax Deed in 2005; ultimately selling the property to Midwest for $50,000.

Procedural History

In 2007 the Smiths filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy protection and successfully sought to avoid the Tax Sale. Both the Bankruptcy Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that under the terms of 11 U.S.C. 548(a)(1)(B) the property was not transferred for reasonably equivalent value. However, both Courts did find that Midwest was a “subsequent transferee in good faith” (i.e. a bona fide purchaser) entitled to retain the value of the property it had purchased.

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BK Ct. ND IL EDAmerican Eagle vs. Friedman, 13-AP-01199

Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Ill., Eastern Div.  Opinion: December 29, 2015.

JACK B. SCHMETTERER, Bankruptcy Judge.

This case resulted in a Summary Judgment finding despite the assertion by the Debtor-Defendant of his 5th Amendment right to be free from self-incrimination.

Specifically, this Adversary Case arose from the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filed by Arthur Friedman (“Debtor”). Creditor-Plaintiff, American Eagle Bank (the “Plaintiff) filed a 3-count Complaint to determine the dischargeability of debt as follows:

Count I  –  per 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A)
Count II –  per 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6)
Count III-  per 11 U.S.C. §§ 727(a)(3) and (a)(5)
Count IV- per  11 U.S.C. §§ 727(a)(2), (4),(5) and (7)

Count IV was added in the Amended Complaint. The Debtor answered both the Complaint and the Amended Complaint.

On August 4, 2015 the Plaintiff served Requests for Admission pursuant to Fed.R.Bankr.P.7036. The Debtor never responded, and the Plaintiff brought a Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count IV, alleging that the unanswered Requests were deemed admitted under Fed.R.Civ.P.36(a)(3). The Court agreed, and Summary Judgment was granted on Count IV.

I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

Subject matter jurisdiction is proper in the Bankruptcy Court per 28 U.S.C. §1334, and this is a “core proceeding” under 28 U.S.C. §§157(b)(2)(A), (I), and (O) since it seeks to determine the dischargeability of a debt. Therefore, it “stems from the bankruptcy itself” and may be decided by a Bankruptcy Court (See: Stern v. Marshall, 131 S.Ct. 2594, 2618 (2011)).

II. UNCONTESTED FACTS

The Plaintiff filed a Statement of Material Facts as required by Local Rules, but the Debtor failed to file an opposing statement; thus “[a]ll material facts in [Plaintiff’s] statement…[were] deemed admitted.” Accordingly, the following was taken from the Plaintiff’s Statement of Material Facts, Debtor’s Answers, and the Requests for Admission:

Debtor was a principal and the president of Prestige Leasing (“Prestige”). Before filing, the Debtor was party to a lawsuit that was settled in his favor. As a result, the Debtor received $75,000 annually, minus attorneys’ fees.  Payments were made to Prestige until it was closed in 2011. After that time, payments were made to the Debtor. In his Answers the Debtor admitted as much, and that payments were received within a year of filing bankruptcy.

Moreover since the Debtor did not respond to the Requests for Admission within the 30-day time limit prescribed by the rules, the resulting admission could be deemed a violation of his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. Therefore, the Court’s inquiry began with a discussion of the Debtor’s Fifth Amendment rights.

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A Little Light Reading

Are you excited to read about a dispute between competing secured creditors for the priority of their liens in property of the Bankruptcy Estate? Of course not.

Lucky for you issues such as these are generally heard in State court rather than in Federal Bankruptcy courts. Why? Because real property is considered a unique feature of the state and county in which it is located. Local features get local treatment.

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Q: Can a Citation to Discover Assets filed prior to  a Bankruptcy

case have an affect on the resulting Bankruptcy estate?

A: You Bet It Can …

The Facts


In the 7th Circuit Case of In re Porayko, appealed from the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois, a Citation to Discover Assets was served on a year before the Debtor filed bankruptcy, while a 3rd Party Citation was served on his bank the month he filed. The creditor moved for relief from the Automatic Stay to seize the $10,000 in the Debtor’s bank account and the Trustee objected on the basis that the initial citation had not created a lien, while the 3rd Party Citation was avoidable pursuant to 11 USC 547.

The Law
Citations to Discover Assets are addressed in Illinois Statutes, Section 5/2-1402. According to Sec. 1402(m) a Citation to Discover Assets creates a lien on all

“nonexempt personal property including money, choses in action and effects of judgment debtor” as well as “personal property belonging to the judgment debtor in the possession or control of the judgment debtor or which may thereafter be acquired or come due…”

Illinois cases support the concept that a checking account is personal property to which a lien may attach. See Chicago v. Air Auto Leasing Co., 297 Ill. App. 3d 873, 878 (1st Dist. 1998), a problem for the Trustee.

The Argument
The Trustee in Porayko tried to distinguish Air Auto Leasing by pointing out that other Illinois Courts treated bank accounts as mere promises to pay rather than items of personal property that could be subject to a lien. The leading case of its kind, Citizens Bank of Maryland v. Strumpf, 515 US 16 (1995), dealt with whether a bank could offset a payment while the Debtor was in Bankruptcy. But the Porayko Court found the situation before it to be quite different, and concluded that the creditor’s citation had created a secured interest in the checking account, so the relief from the Automatic Stay granted by the Bankruptcy Court was proper. 

Surprisingly, this meant that under the proper circumstances the lien of a pre-filing creditor could trump the interest of a Bankruptcy Trustee: a notion that would appear to stand the law of insolvency on its head.

The Takeaway
The takeaway from the Porayko case is that Debtors are wise to address debts before their creditors secure judgments that turn into liens. At a minimum, a Debtors ought to file soon enough so that creditors cannot perfect their judgment liens and trump the case Trustee.

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After losing nearly $11 billion since 2001, in November 2011 American Airlines sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In Chapter 11 the debtor company remains in control of its business assets subject to a plan of reorganization approved by creditors and the Court. In American’s case despite traumatic changes at the top, painful labor reform, and competitors eagerly eying its routes and pilots, the company has maintained, even improved, its bottom line. In short, the system works.

The More Things Change …

As its Chapter 11 case was being filed American’s parent company AMR installed Tom Horton as the new CEO. As a holding company AMR owns American’s stock but has no business of its own (think Berkshire Hathaway).