First National Bank - Fox Valley v. Gruber (13-2797)(April 2014) -- Judge Halfenger
Plaintiff purchased vacant land owned by the debtor at a pre-petition execution sale. When the debtor filed his bankruptcy petition, his right to redeem had expired, but lien-holding creditors still had one day to acquire the plaintiff's interest under Wis. Stat. §815.44. Because the §815.44 period had not expired, the plaintiff did not have the right to make a demand on the sheriff to issue a deed conveying the debtor's right, title, and interest in the land. The plaintiff filed an adversary proceeding seeking, in part, a declaration that the land purchased at the execution sale was not property of the debtor's bankruptcy estate, or in the alternative, a declaration that the bank did not need relief from the automatic stay to demand that the sheriff issue it a deed to the land.
The court ruled that (1) at the time the debtor filed his bankruptcy case he had both legal title and a possessory right in the land to use it in any manner that did not constitute waste; those interests were included in Gruber's bankruptcy estate pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §541(a)(1); and (2) the bank could not demand a deed conveying the debtor's right, title, and interest in the land without obtaining relief from the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. §362(d), because any such demand by the bank would, at a minimum, violate 11 U.S.C. §362(a)(3) and would not be a ministerial act excepted from the automatic stay.
Debtors, with only one prior dismissal, who did not file motion to continue the automatic stay under 362(c)(3) in time to have it heard and decided within 30 days did not have standing to move to impose the automatic stay under 362(c)(4).
The court sustained, in part, the debtor's ex-wife's objection to confirmation of the debtor's chapter 13 plan and overruled the debtor's objection to his ex-wife's proof of claim, concluding that (i) the plan's proposed treatment of the maintenance arrears owed to the debtor's ex-wife did not comply with 11 U.S.C. §1322(a)(2), and (ii) the debtor did not have a right of setoff under Wisconsin law that would allow him to reduce the amount of his ex-wife's proof of claim.
The court denied chapter 13 debtor's application to employ special counsel as unnecessary, finding that 327 applies only to trustees.
Order overruling debtors' post-confirmation claim objections.
Order denying debtor's post-confirmation claim objection.
Order denying motion to shorten notice period for failure to demonstrate cause that also discusses claimed "ministerial act" exception to automatic stay.
Order denying mortgagee's request for abandonment and fees.
The debtor, after paying the prescribed filing fee installment, sought reconsideration of an order denying her fee waiver application. The court denied the reconsideration motion because the debtor, who supplied no additional evidence and made no showing of legal error, failed to meet the applicable standard. The order further discusses the showing needed to justify a discretionary waiver of the filing fee, see In re Williams, and cautions that filing facially incredible schedules weighs against the grant of a fee waiver.
This decision explains Judge Halfenger’s fee-waiver methodology and why he denied this debtor’s application to waive the chapter 7 filing fee. When considering applications to waive the filing fee, Judge Halfenger begins with the statutory fee-waiver requirements: (1) whether the debtor’s income falls below 150% of the applicable official income poverty line, and (2) whether the debtor is unable to pay the filing fee in installments. If the debtor’s submission establishes that she meets these criteria, the grant of a fee waiver becomes a matter of judicial discretion. In exercising this discretion, Judge Halfenger considers whether there is reason to believe that the debtor faces special circumstances such that a bankruptcy discharge will afford her benefits beyond relief from typical collection efforts. In this case, although the debtor’s income was below 150% of the income official poverty line, she did not show that she was unable to pay the filing fee in installments or that a discharge would provide unusual benefits.