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.

Order denying Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.  Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that various Defendants should be declared invalid or are mere alter egos of Debtor, and therefore seeks turnover of their respective assets as assets of the estate.  Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings argues that Plaintiff is barred from raising such claims, because those claims belong either to Debtor's creditors or Debtor himself.  Defendants assert that Trustee does not have authority to raise a claim on behalf of Debtor's creditors under the reasoning of Caplin v. Marine Midland Grace Trust Co., 406 U.S. 416 (1972), and that Trustee cannot raise the claims standing in Debtor's shoes under the doctrine of in pari delicto.  Whereas a prior order determined that Caplin barred Trustee from raising claims on behalf of Debtor's creditors under 11 U.S.C. § 544, binding 11th Circuit precedent states that Trustee has the authority to raise an alter ego claim general to Debtor's creditors under 11 U.S.C. § 541.  The equitable doctrine of in pari delicto is inapplicable to the factual circumstances surrounding this case, where Trustee alleges that Debtor has attempted to place assets beyond the reach of creditors and Trustee seeks to recover those assets for apportioned distribution to Debtor's creditors.

Debtor filed an adversary proceeding in the Bankruptcy Court under 11 U.S.C. § 505(a) seeking to determine the extent and legality of a tax assessment by the Mississippi Department of Revenue (“MDOR”). Prior to the bankruptcy, Debtor appealed the assessment to the state Board of Review, but failed to appear at the appeal hearing. Debtor alleged that he never received the notice stating the date and time of the appeal hearing, but the MDOR asserted it had mailed the notice to the address provided by Debtor. In the adversary proceeding, Debtor argued the court had jurisdiction to re-determine the assessments because, like a default judgment, they were not “contested and adjudicated” for the purposes of § 505(a)(2)(A). Debtor also asserted a violation of his due process rights. The Court held that failure to appear at an appeal hearing initiated by Debtor differed from a default judgment because in the appeal both parties took action in furthering the result. Here, Debtor failed to follow through with his appeal, and therefore waived his opportunity to be heard, resulting in a final, non-appealable judgment that was “contested and adjudicated” for the purposes of § 505(a)(2)(A). The Court also held that no due process violation occurred because the MDOR’s act of mailing the appeal notice to Debtor’s provided address in compliance with the Mississippi Code was reasonably calculated to apprise Debtor of the hearing.

After a closed Chapter 7 case was reopened, the Trustee filed a motion for sanctions against a creditor for violation of the automatic stay. Prior to the closing of the case, the creditor obtained relief from the automatic stay to foreclose on Debtors’ residence (Property), but instead filed a complaint for equitable relief against Debtors in the Georgia Superior Court. The Superior Court complaint alleged that only half of the Property was encumbered by the security deed due to inadvertence, and sought reformation of the security deed or imposition an equitable lien upon the unencumbered portion. The Court held that notwithstanding the subsequent closure of the Chapter 7 case, the creditor’s suit was void for two reasons: First, the Property was still property of the estate at the time the complaint was filed and thus subject to the Court’s exclusive jurisdiction. Only the Court could determine the extent of the estate’s interest and only the Trustee, not the Debtors, could represent the estate in such a proceeding. Second, the terms of the stay relief order did not permit the suit, rendering it void as a violation of the stay. The Court found, however, that the subsequent closing of the case abandoned the Property by operation of law under 11 U.S.C. § 554(c), and that the Trustee would have to revoke this “technical abandonment” before attempting to administer the Property.

Honorable Paul W. Bonapfel

Court concludes that credit card debt incurred by debtor shortly before a minimum payment was due, when she did not intend to make the required minimum payment, is not excepted from discharge under sectoin 523(a) for actual fraud because she made the charges with the intent to pay the debt she incurred.
NOT INTENDED FOR PUBLICATION

Order denying motion to dismiss.  Complaint states a claim for relief under 523(a)(6).
NOT INTENDED FOR PUBLICATION

Honorable Barbara Ellis-Monro

In a dispute over application of the cap on lease termination damages under § 502(b)(6), the court held: (1) all damages awarded in a pre-lease-termination judgment, including post-judgment interest that accrued prepetition, were allowable in full and not subject to the cap, less amounts already paid on account of the judgment; (2) all damages resulting from a post-termination judgment were subject to the cap; (3) late fees, interest, and attorney fees awarded under the post-termination judgment did not constitute rent reserved and were, therefore, disallowed.

Honorable Wendy L. Hagenau, Chief Judge

Order denying Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  Plaintiff moved for summary judgment, arguing collateral estoppel applied to a prior state court judgment obtained by Plaintiff such that the judgment-debt was non-dischargeable under Sections 523(a)(4) and (a)(6).  The prepetition judgment consisted of a single monetary award on a motion for summary judgment that referenced a five-count complaint.  The judgment did not specify the basis for the award, or which count or counts entitled Plaintiff to the judgment.  The Court reviewed all counts and determined only the civil theft count addressed the same issue as willful and malicious injury. However, it was impossible to know what finding was critical and necessary to the state court judgment.  Thus, the Debtor was not precluded from relitigating the issue of dischargeability.   

Order granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and denying Plaintiff’s Motion to Strike.  Plaintiff moved for summary judgment, arguing collateral estoppel applied to a criminal conviction entered in U.S. District Court, as well as to a prior state court judgment obtained by Plaintiff, such that the judgment-debt owed to Plaintiff was non-dischargeable under Sections 523(A)(2)(a) and (a)(4).  Debtor argued res judicata barred Plaintiff from raising the issue of fraud in the non-dischargeability action, because there were no allegations of fraud in the state court case.  The Court concluded res judicata did not bar the non-dischargeability claim based on fraud.  The Court also held the Debtor, as an escrow agent, was a fiduciary for purposes of Section 523(a)(4) and the criminal conviction showed Debtor acted with the requisite culpable intent to commit defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity.  Finally, the Court denied the Plaintiff’s Motion to Strike an affidavit filed by the Debtor finding the evidence relied on by Plaintiff was not sufficient to justify striking the affidavit.   

Honorable W. H. Drake Jr.

The Court sustained the Chapter 7 trustee's objection to a proof of claim filed against the debtor because the claim represented a debt owed to the claimant by an entity other than the debtor.

The Court partially disallowed creditor's objection to exemptions, finding that the certain property that became property of the estate vested in the Debtor and did not revest upon conversion of the case from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, and the post confirmation acquired property did not vest in the Debtor, became property of the estate, and remained property of the estate upon conversion, subject to applicable exemptions.

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