Judge Timothy A. Barnes - Opinions

Judge Timothy A. Barnes

12 B 48031
Mortgagee bank brought a motion to dismiss for bad faith and a motion for relief from stay on three investment properties of the Debtor. Bank contended the infeasibility of the Debtor’s proposed plan, along with the Debtor’s conduct, including filing three bankruptcies within a year, established sufficient grounds to warrant cause for dismissal. In regards to the relief for stay, the bank alleged that the Debtor’s failure to pay delinquent taxes and the pending expiration of tax redemption period demonstrated that the bank inadequately protected. The bank also reasoned that with respect to two of the properties, grounds exists to grant relief from the stay because there was no equity in the properties and the Debtor did not have a reasonable possibility of confirming a reorganization plan. The Bankruptcy Court held that: (i) the Debtor’s conduct, while troubling, did not warrant cause for dismissal under section 1112(b); and (ii) the failure of the Debtor to confirm a plan that proposes to pay all delinquent taxes in full prior to expiration of the tax redemption period will result in the bank being inadequate protected and thus failure to do so will cause sufficient grounds to arise to grant relief from stay on the three investment properties.

In re Debra A. Morrow
June 26, 2013

12 B 26246

Condo association brought motion for relief from stay eight days after debtor’s chapter 13 plan was confirmed. Condo association alleged that an unexecuted prepetition order for possession and a default in postpetition, but preconfirmation, direct payments to creditor constituted lack of adequate protection. The court denied the motion and condo association filed a motion to reconsider.
The Bankruptcy Court held that: (i) the res judicata effect of the order confirming a plan precludes a creditor from seeking relief from stay immediately following confirmation of a plan when the basis of the relief is based on grounds that could have been raised preconfirmation; and (ii) the existence of a creditor’s unexecuted, prepetition order for possession does not extinguish a debtor’s actual possessory interest and does not constitute grounds for relief from stay.

11 B 27030, 12 A 01057

State court judgment creditor brought a complaint seeking declaratory judgment that three bank accounts that were the subject of or created by state court orders were not property of the Debtor’s estate. State court judgment creditor filed motioned for summary judgment. The Bankruptcy Court held that: (i) the parties consented to judgment on one account; (ii) summary judgment in favor of state court judgment creditor was appropriate as to a second account because funds were deposited to restore previously depleted trust funds, and as such were not property of the estate; and (iii) summary judgment in favor of bankruptcy estates was appropriate as to the third account because, even though the state court orders requiring the creation of the account described the account as an “escrow” account, the nature of such orders did not clearly indicate the precise legal obligation for which the account was established, the condition upon which the funds would be released, or the beneficiary of the account.

09 B 39937, 11 A 02236

The court considers whether the causes of action raised by the Plaintiff in this instance, matters of avoidance under sections 544 and 548 of title 11 of the United States Code, state fraudulent conveyance law and federal preference law, are properly brought by the Plaintiff in its second amended complaints. Given that the Plaintiff has not sufficiently addressed the badges of fraud in its second amended complaints and the Ponzi scheme presumption does not apply, the court grants the Plaintiff leave to further amend in order to meet the standards of Rule 9(b). The Defendants’ other grounds for dismissal are rejected for the reasons stated within.

In re Anthony P. Montalbano
February 12, 2013

09 B 30477

In considering the trustee’s objection with respect to claims pursuant to sections 502 of title 11, United States Code and Rule 3007 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the court addresses the sole issue – one on which there is no direct binding case law in the Seventh Circuit – as to whether the debtor, as the 100% shareholder, sole director, CEO and President of the corporation, is personally liable with respect to wage claims against the corporation under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. The Court finds that the trustee’s objection to the wage claims is well taken as the debtor is not be held personally liable for such claims solely because the debtor discontinued infusing personal funds into the corporation to keep it alive as a going concern. In so doing, the court notes that piercing the corporate veil is not favored, that deepening insolvency does not stand as an independent ground for relief, and that absent fraud, of which there is no indication, the claimant’s claims against the debtor individually are not well founded.

09 B 17582, 12 A 00799
Upon the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Chapter 7 trustee’s adversary complaints for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and the statute of limitations contained in 11 U.S.C. § 546(a)(1), held: (i) the commencement of the adversary proceedings on May 11, 2012 was timely as Congress clearly intended to afford a bankruptcy trustee no less than a year to bring avoidance actions, while at the same time limiting the time period to no more than three years; and (ii) an additional year afforded to the trustee runs from the date an interim trustee begins service under section 701, if that appointment occurs within two years of the order for relief and if that interim trustee becomes the permanent trustee by operation of section 702(d).  Motion to dismiss denied.

08 B 10095, 10 A 00998
Upon the Defendant’s motion for summary judgment in the adversary proceeding brought by the Chapter 11 Liquidation Trustee to avoid and recover fraudulent and preferential transfers and disallow claims, held: (i) without evidence supporting an implied contract theory, the Liquidation Trustee could not establish that the transfer was on account of an antecedent debt, an element of the preference avoidance claim; but (ii) for many of the same reasons that the preference avoidance claim fails, genuine factual disputes exists as to whether an indirect benefit defense exists as to the fraudulent transfer avoidance claim.  Motion for summary judgment granted in part and denied in part.

08 B 10095, 10 A 00824
Upon the Defendant’s motion to dismiss the Chapter 11 Liquidation Trustee’s adversary proceeding to avoid alleged fraudulent or preferential transfers, citing Stern-challenges to constitutional grounds and failure to state cause of action on which relief could be granted, held: (i) bankruptcy court, even as non-Article-III court, had constitutional authority to enter final decision on preference avoidance claims; (ii) court also had authority to finally decide fraudulent transfer claims, regardless of whether claims were asserted under bankruptcy fraudulent transfer statute or pursuant to state law in exercise of powers accorded under strong-arm statute; and (iii) allegations in the Liquidation Trustee’s complaint stated plausible claim for relief.  Motion to dismiss denied.

In re Victoria C. Quade
October 10, 2012

12 B 26779
Upon the Judgment Creditor’s motion for relief from automatic stay and the Debtor’s motion to avoid the Judgment Creditor’s  liens as impairing exemption, held: (i) the Debtor’s ownership rights in funds that were in possession of third party were estate property, despite the Judgment Creditor’s prepetition service of state-court turnover order on third party; (ii) any postpetition setoff against judgment without leave of court by the Judgment Creditor of the Debtor’s royalties was void; (iii) conditional grant of motion for stay relief was warranted; (iv) neither res judicata nor Rooker-Feldman doctrine applied to bar the Debtor from claiming exemptions and seeking to avoid judicial liens impairing those exemptions; and (v) any royalties collected by the Judgment Creditor postpetition were estate property in which the Debtor could claim exemption. Motion for relief from stay granted in part and denied in part.  Motion to avoid liens granted.

09 B 39937, 11 A 02196
Upon the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Chapter 11 Plan Administrator’s adversary proceeding, seeking to avoid and recover as fraudulent transfers lease payments transferred from the Debtor to the Defendant that purportedly were part of fraudulent scheme, held: (i) the Defendants’ interpretation of the interplay between sections 11 U.S.C. §§ 544 and 546 with respect to the statute of limitations to avoid fraudulent transfers was not well founded as the overwhelming majority of opinions in this circuit interpreting such interplay go against the Defendants’ assertions; (ii) that the Debtor may have received “reasonably equivalent value” was not fatal to cause of action to avoid lease payments as actually, and not just constructively, fraudulent transfers; (iii) allegations in complaint did not establish “good faith and for value” defense on face of complaint for purposes of 11 U.S.C. § 548(c); but (iv) the Plan Administrator failed to adequately allege Ponzi-type scheme and to explain how challenged payments were used to further alleged scheme and harm the Debtor’s other creditors.  Motion to dismiss granted.