Opinions

Effective January 1, 2017, Orders in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia designated by the Court as "opinions" will be transmitted to the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and made available to the public at no cost.  To view these opinions, click HERE to be transferred to GPO site.

Orders designated as Opinions and issued between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2016 are maintained on this website. Many of these Opinions are not intended for publication and are so designated. Each entry includes the style of the matter, the case number, the date entered on the docket, and a short parenthetical expression of the issue(s) raised. The most recent opinions appear first.

You can narrow your search by judge and/or year below.  You can also use the search feature above to search by name, word, or phrase. The single opinions are in PDF text format and may be searched for word, phrase, or date by using “Control F,” the Windows search function available in any Windows application.

Honorable Wendy L. Hagenau, Chief Judge

Order After Trial.  Debtor sought a determination that repayment of her student loans would cause “undue hardship” such that the loans were dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8).  The Court found that the Debtor’s limited income would prevent her from being able to maintain a minimal standard of living if required to repay the loans.  The Court also found that the payment by the Debtor of over $11,000 on the loans constituted a good faith effort to repay the loans.  Finally, the Court found that the Debtor’s situation was likely to persist because she would be unable to find a job that would provide sufficient income to repay her outstanding loans within the loan repayment period.  As a result, the Court found that the Debtor’s student loans were dischargeable pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8).
 

Order Granting Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant sought summary judgment on claims for actual and constructive fraudulent transfer under 11 U.S.C. §§ 548(a)(1)(A) and (B) and for unjust enrichment. The allegedly fraudulent transfer involved the termination of a residential lease between the Debtor and the Defendant. The Court held that the lease created a valid interest in the real property, and that the termination of the residential lease was a transfer of an interest in property of the Debtor. With respect to whether the transfer was constructively fraudulent, the Court found that the Plaintiff failed to carry his burden to provide evidence as to the value of the interest transferred by the Debtor such that a determination could be made that the value provided by Debtor was not reasonably equivalent. Likewise, with respect to actual fraud, the Plaintiff failed to produce evidence that the transfer was made with actual intent to hinder, delay or defraud creditors. Finally, with respect to the unjust enrichment claim, the Court again held that the Plaintiff failed to provide any evidence of the value of the property transferred to the Defendant that would support a conclusion that the Defendant was unjustly enriched. Therefore, the Court held that summary judgment was appropriate in favor of the Defendant on the remaining counts for fraudulent transfer and unjust enrichment.

Order After Trial. Plaintiff sought to determine the dischargeability of certain student loans pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8). Defendants Educational Credit Management Corp. and National Collegiate Student Loan Trust carried the initial burden of proving that the loans they held fell within the scope of section 523(a)(8). The burden of proof then shifted to the Plaintiff to prove that repayment of the loans would cause him to suffer “undue hardship”. A substantial pay raise shortly after the petition date prevented the Plaintiff from proving that repayment of the loans would deprive him of a minimal standard of living. Furthermore, the Plaintiff failed to show the existence of additional circumstances that would cause his previously poor financial condition to persist. Finally, the Court could not conclude that the Plaintiff had acted in good faith by continuing to not pay his loans after receiving an increase in income. Therefore, the Court held that the Plaintiff’s student loans were non-dischargeable.

Honorable W. H. Drake Jr.

Order on the Defendant's motion for summary judgment.  In this adversary proceeding, the United States Trustee (UST) seeks to revoke the Debtors' discharge pursuant to section 727(d).  The UST alleges that the Debtors concealed cash income from a business (itself in a Chapter 11 case) they owned, that they failed to maintain adequate records, that they made false oaths and accounts, and that they failed to report all of their property.  The Debtors filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the UST could not seek to revoke their discharge because he had knowledge of their alledegly fraudulent conduct prior to the entry of their discharge, that the UST was asserting untimely claims, that the Debtors' conduct in a related Chapter 11 case could not be the basis to revoke their discharge, and that the UST could not show that the Debtors failed to preserve records.
The Court concluded that the UST could not proceed under section 727(d)(1) as he had pre-discharge knowledge of the Debtors' allegedly fraudulent conduct.  However, the Court concluded that the UST could proceed under section 727(d)(2), which allows revocation where a debtor fails to report the acquisition of property of the estate, despite the UST's knowledge.  The Court held that 727(d)(2) contains no lack-of-knowledge requirement, and it was not necessary or appropriate for the Court to add one.
The Court also concluded that the UST was alleging a claim not raised in his complaint and that would not relate back under Rule 15, and that the Debtors' conduct in the business's Chapter 11 case could not be used to revoke their discharge in their individual case.
Consequently, the Defendant's motion was granted in part and denied in part.

Order on the Debtors' motion to reconsider the Court's order approving employment of a real estate agent.  The Debtors' requested that the Court reconsider its order approving the Trustee's employment of a real estate agent to market real properties owned by the Debtors' Bankruptcy estate.  The Debtors' reasoned that the Court should not have approved the employment because the proposed agreement between the Trustee and the agent undervalued the properties.
The Court concluded that the Debtors' objection concerning the pricing of the properties was untimely.  The Court had approved the employment of the agent, not the terms of any sale.  Therefore, as the Debtors had raised no new evidence or mistake of fact or law, the motion to reconsider was denied.

Honorable Paul M. Baisier

 
Order granting motion of United States to dismiss complaint of Plaintiff-Debtor.  Debtor filed complaint seeking damages based on various allegations including illegal surveillance, obstruction of justice, and harassment.  Court analyzed Debtor’s causes of action and concluded that: (1) Debtor failed to state claims for which relief may be granted consistent with F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) (as applicable through F.R.B.P. 7012(b) as they did not meet standard for plausibility; (2) to the extent viable claims were asserted, such allegations were previously addressed and dismissed by U.S. District Court and subject to claim preclusion; and, (3) to the extent claims are criminal in nature, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear and decide them.

Honorable Lisa Ritchey Craig

Dismissing complaint to determine debt to be nondischargeable for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted;  plaintiff pled no facts to support a finding that the debt at issue is nondischargeable.

Denying motion to reopen adversary proceeding for the purpose of setting aside the Court's prior dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim.

Honorable Barbara Ellis-Monro

The Court determined that Plaintiff was entitled to recover attorney’s fees incurred in prosecuting a 362(k) action. The Court applied the lodestar standard to the fees claimed and concluded that the hourly rate was reasonable. However, the hours expended were not justified given the lack of significant factual or legal complexity involved and the minimal damages sought. In reducing the attorney’s fees awarded, the Court also considered Plaintiff’s unsuccessful efforts to mitigate his damages.   
NOT FOR PUBLICATION

Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on a claim of violation of the automatic stay based on an invoice for water service sent by Defendants post-petition. The Court found that none of the facts in dispute were material facts; however, the Court declined to consider a document containing Defendants’ bankruptcy guidelines that was submitted with Defendants’ motion for summary judgment because Plaintiff showed the document might be excludible from evidence. The Court concluded Defendants were not entitled to summary judgment because the invoice sent to Plaintiff included language requiring payment while lacking any prominent disclaimer.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION

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