Judge Jacqueline P. Cox - Opinions / Outlines

Judge Jacqueline P. Cox

13 B 36813
The Court held evidentiary hearings over three days on the objection of the successor lessor of a downtown commercial food court to the claims for rejection damages filed by certain food court tenants to determine the amount of damages due to them pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 365(g) and (h). The Court also considered the good faith and fair dealing doctrine under Illinois contract law regarding the timing of the formation of the leases and the rejection of the leases under the Code as some of the leases were entered into within only a few months, weeks, or even days in the case of two tenants, before the motion to reject them was filed.

As of the petition date, Debtor Dearborn Retail, LLC, owned the food court space located at 201 N. Clark Street in Chicago. Subsequently, Garvey Court, LLC, an entity controlled by Bighorn Capital, Inc. acquired the property. The Court granted Debtor’s motion, in connection with the acquisition, to reject the leases of eighteen food court tenants. As part of the rejection order, Garvey Court agreed to assume the obligations, if any, to pay damages and/or termination fees that resulted from such rejections. Neither Debtor nor Garvey Court issued a notice of early termination pursuant to the leases.

Under the terms of an agreed claims resolution order, an evidentiary hearing was held to determine the amount of damages owed to tenants whose claims were not settled. Nine of the eighteen tenants filed proofs of claim, to which Garvey Court objected; one tenant settled before the hearing. The claimants generally sought damages for build-out costs, replacement rent, advertising/promotion for the new locations, moving costs, return of security deposits and attorneys’ fees. Garvey Court argued that the claimants could not recover any damages because of their failure to pay rent and the resulting termination of the leases because of such default. Alternatively, Garvey Court generally sought to limit the build-out and replacement rent damages to only a two-year period pursuant to the early termination provision.

The Court found that the rejection damages were not limited by the early termination provision because it was never triggered. The Court also found that build-out costs, replacement rent, etc. were the proximate result of the lease rejections. Individual orders were entered for each tenant.

 

14 MP 90007
The United States Trustee filed a Statement of Charges against Attorney Al-Haroon Husain charging him with violating applicable disciplinary rules by systematically altering documents, reusing debtors’ signatures, signing documents on behalf of clients and causing clients to sign incomplete documents.  After a five-day hearing, the Court found that the U.S. Trustee proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Husain has committed the violations as charged.

Mr. Husain will be permanently suspended from the practice of law before the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois due to the nature and extent of his misconduct.  The suspension is effective July 31, 2015 at 5:00 p.m.  Mr. Husain is also ordered to refund the fees received from the clients listed in the Memorandum Opinion.

The Order will be reported to the Executive Committee of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and to the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.

12  B 24676, 14 A 00392
In this Chapter 7 adversary proceeding, the Trustee filed an Amended Adversary Complaint seeking to avoid and recover transfers made in connection with a commercial mortgage-backed securitization transaction. The Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that certain of the transfers were covered by the safe harbor provision of 11 U.S.C. § 546(e).  In response, the Trustee argued that the safe harbor provision did not apply because the transactions at issue involved a two-tiered commercial mortgage loan transaction. The Trustee also disputed that the recipient was a financial institution.  The Court decided in favor of the Defendants, noting that the transactions at issue fit squarely within the broad definition of a securities contract as defined by § 741(7)(A) and used in § 546(e).

Because the parties did not consent to the Court’s entry of a final order on the fraudulent transfer claims, the Court submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the district court pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9033.  On the preferential transfer claim, the Court determined that it had both statutory and constitutional authority to enter its order dismissing the claim, with prejudice.

The Court recommended dismissal of the actual fraud transfer claims without prejudice, because those claims were not plead with specificity as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b).

11 B 41826
In this post-confirmation Chapter 11 proceeding, the Michael Bahary & Steven Bahary Partnership (“the Reorganized Debtor”) filed a Motion for a Rule to Show Cause requiring Napleton Enterprises, LLC (“Napleton”) and its counsel to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for suing to enforce Napleton’s purported Right of First Refusal as to certain real property (the "Grand Avenue Property") in a state court action regarding transactions that ensued in this bankruptcy case in 2012. The Reorganized Debtor asserted that Napleton’s actions were inconsistent with the terms of the confirmed Amended Plan of Reorganization and the Bankruptcy Code’s discharge injunction.

Pursuant to the Confirmed Plan, the Reorganized Debtor surrendered the Grand Avenue Property to Banco Popular, its mortgagee, by giving it a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure to satisfy Banco Popular’s secured claim.  Napleton was not scheduled as a creditor in the Reorganized Debtor’s bankruptcy and did not have notice of it.  The Court ruled that the transfer to the mortgagee was not subject to the Right of First Refusal which vested only if the Debtor, as Napleton's transferee, wanted to sell the property to a bona fide third party.  The Debtor did not sell the property in issue; it surrendered collateral to a lienholder.

In the April 1, 2015 Amended Memorandum Opinion, the Court declined to enter findings of contempt against Napleton and its attorney.

13 B 01449, 13 A 01050
Prepetition, the parties to the medical malpractice suits participated in a mediation conference presided over by a former Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. The mediation was successful, and resulted in the entry of a July 21, 2008 settlement order in state court.  Prior to the mediation session, one Plaintiff's claim proceeded to trial in state court, where a jury returned a verdict of $30,000,000 against the Debtor and other defendants.

The crux of the Complaint is that the Debtor falsely stated that the settlement would be secured by property at 1101 Dodge, Evanston, Illinois (“Dodge Property”) in violation of 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) which excepts from discharge debts incurred fraudulently under certain circumstances.  The Debtor did not arrange for the Dodge Property to be titled in a land trust as required by the 2008 court order.  The Plaintiffs also allege that the Debtor wilfully and maliciously injured them in violation of 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6).

The Court entered judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs, finding that the Debtor intentionally misled the Plaintiffs when he represented that he would pledge the Dodge Property to secure the settlement amount, and that fraud created the debt.  In so ruling, the Court relied, in part, on Dr. Eisenstein's admission at trial that he had no intention of having the property placed into a land trust to secure payment of the $1.275 million settlement until a formal settlement agreement got executed.  The July 21, 2008 order did not condition the settlement on the entry of a subsequent agreement.

 

11 B 41826
In this post-confirmation Chapter 11 proceeding, Michael Bahary & Steven Bahary Partnership (“the Reorganized Debtor”) filed a Motion for a Rule to Show Cause requiring Napleton Enterprises, LLC (“Napleton”) and its counsel to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for suing to enforce Napleton’s purported Right of First Refusal as to certain real property (the "Grand Avenue Property") in a state court action regarding transactions that ensued in this bankruptcy case in 2012. The Reorganized Debtor asserted that Napleton’s actions were inconsistent with the terms of the confirmed Amended Plan of Reorganization and in violation of the Bankruptcy Code’s discharge injunction, set forth in 11 U.S.C. § 524(a)(2).  
Pursuant to the Reorganized Debtor's Confirmed Plan, the Reorganized Debtor surrendered the Grand Avenue Property to Banco Popular by executing a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure to satisfy Banco Popular’s secured claim. Napleton was not scheduled as a creditor in the Reorganized Debtor’s bankruptcy.
In the offending state court action, Napleton alleged that its Right of First Refusal was an executory contract that survived confirmation of the Plan because its claim was not scheduled therein by the Debtor and it did not get notice of the bankruptcy case.  Napleton also asserted that the Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure was a “bona fide” offer that gave it a basis to exercise its Right of First Refusal.  
The Court issued the Rule to Show Cause, and determined that although Napleton was not included in the Debtor’s bankruptcy schedules, Napleton is neither a debtor, a trustee, an indenture trustee nor a creditor to whom a debt is owed as defined by 11 U.S.C. § 101 (10) (creditor is defined as an entity who holds a claim against the debtor or the bankruptcy estate).  Napleton is neither a creditor/claim holder nor a party to an executory contract because its Right of First Refusal remained inchoate because no third party made a bona fide offer, which it could match within five days.  
The Court denied Napleton’s request to alter or amend its prior December 29, 2014 judgment under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9024.

 

13 B 29753, 14 A 00674
In this Chapter 13 adversary proceeding, the Debtor-Plaintiff, Samuel Brimmage, alleges that the Defendants, Quatnum3 Group LLC and Elite Recovery Acquisition, LLC, violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by filing a proof of claim on a debt that is otherwise time-barred. Elite Recovery Acquisition is a national debt buyer and Quantum3 Group is its agent.
The Defendants moved to dismiss the adversary proceeding by arguing that 1) filing a proof of claim is not a debt collection action subject to FDCPA and 2) that if it was a debt collection action then it would be impossible to comply with both the Bankruptcy Code and the FDCPA, and that the Code should therefore control.
The Court denied the motion, concluding that filing a proof of claim is a form of debt collection. The Seventh Circuit has held that while the statutes do overlap, enforcement of both is possible where “any debt collector can comply with both simultaneously.” Randolph v. IMBS, Inc., 368 F.3d 726, 730 (7th Cir. 2004). Agreeing with a similar decision out of the Southern District of Indiana, the Court determined that the Defendants could easily comply with both the Code and the FDCPA by simply not filing a proof of claim on a time-barred debt. See also Patrick v. PYOD,LLC, 2014 WL 4100414 (S.D.Ind. 2014). As such, the Court will be able to enforce both the FDCPA and the Code in this situation.

13 B 38149, 14 A 00177
In this Chapter 7 adversary proceeding, Plaintiff Kenneth Wians, as Independent Administrator of the Estate of Clara Wians, filed a Motion for entry of Summary Judgment against Defendant Dennis Wians on a complaint seeking to except a debt from discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(4).  The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant converted assets belonging to his elderly and disabled mother, while he held powers of attorney for healthcare and property.

In support of his Motion, the Plaintiff asserted that the doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded the Defendant from relitigating the issues previously resolved in a prior state court matter, which proceeded to final judgment, creating the $196,000 debt at issue herein.

The Court granted the Motion, finding that the prior state court order contained specific findings establishing that a fiduciary relationship existed between the Defendant and his mother, within the meaning of § 523(a)(4) and that Defendant committed acts of defalcation with the requisite state of mind, as required by the Supreme Court in Bullock v. BankChampaign N.A.,133 S. Ct. 1754, 1759 (2013).

In re Tiffany Armstrong
November 7, 2014

14 B 18107
In this unpublished decision, the Court denied the Motion of Oasis Legal Finance, LLC (“Oasis”) to Alter or Amend portions of its Order disapproving a reaffirmation agreement where (1) Oasis appeared to tie enforcement of its claim to the Debtor’s receipt of a workers compensation award when Illinois law prohibits liens on such awards; (2) Oasis failed to answer in the Reaffirmation Cover sheet whether the subject debt was nondischargeable and 3) the reaffirmation agreement required the Debtor to repay Oasis $4,125 when only $1,025 of the debt was potentially nondischargeable under section 523(a)(2)(C)(i)(II) - cash advances made within 70 days of filing for bankruptcy relief.

The Court concluded that Oasis failed to present any newly discovered evidence and failed to show that the Court made a manifest error of law in reaching its decision.

In re Luis Medina, Jr.
November 7, 2014

14 B 27755
In this Chapter 11 proceeding, the Debtor’s sixth bankruptcy filing in four years, the Court dismissed Debtor’s case for cause under 11 U.S.C. § 1112(b)(1), finding that the Debtor’s financial circumstances made it clear that he would be unable to propose a confirmable plan of reorganization without modifying the rights of a secured creditor, in violation of 11 U.S.C. § 1123(b)(5) .

The Court also imposed a one-year bar to refiling under 11 U.S.C. § 349(a), finding that the successive filings were an intentional abuse of the protections afforded debtors under the Bankruptcy Code.

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