Opinions

The Middle District of Georgia offers opinions in PDF format, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter the keyword or case number in the search box above.

Please note: These opinions are not a complete inventory of all judges' decisions and are not documents of record. Official court records are available at the clerk's office.

Chief Judge James P. Smith

ETC was the successful bidder at an ad valorem tax sale on Debtor’s residence.  ETC then held title to the property as a defeasible fee interest, subject to Debtor’s right of redemption.  After Debtor failed to redeem the property within one year of the tax sale (O.C.G.A. § 48-4-40(1)), Debtor was personally served with a barment notice to foreclose her redemption rights.  Debtor again failed to redeem and filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy offering to pay the redemption price through her plan.  The Court held that Debtor’s rights in the property had expired and that there was no “claim” to modify under § 1322(b)(2).  The Court also held that service of the barment notice upon Debtor, although not perfect, met due process requirements.  The Court denied confirmation of Debtor’s Chapter 13 plan.

The plaintiff asserted that collateral estoppel precluded the debtors from denying that a probate court judgment was nondischargeable under 11. U.S.C. §523(a)(4) and (6). The plaintiff and wife-debtor are sisters. Debtors moved the daughters’ father and his extensive gun collection from Ohio to debtor’s home in Georgia. The plaintiff later moved the father back to Ohio where he soon died. The Ohio Probate Court appointed the plaintiff executrix of the father’s estate, prohibited the debtors from disposing of the guns and ordered them to return the guns to Ohio. Thereafter, the probate court held the debtors in contempt for failing to return and disposing of most of the guns and awarded the father’s estate damages of $125,940. The judgment was assigned to plaintiff, individually, as a distribution in accordance with the father’s will. Later, the debtors filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy court held that the judgment was not a nondischargeable larceny under §523(a)(4) because there was no “felonious taking” of the guns which came into debtors’ possession lawfully when the father brought them to the debtors’ home. The plaintiff had not asserted a claim for embezzlement (fraudulent taking of property by person into whose hands it had lawfully come).

As to §523(a)(6), the probate court had found, in essence, that the debtors had converted the guns to their own use and that their conduct was “malicious.” Issue preclusion barred any argument to the contrary. The probate court judgment established facts from which a finder of fact could find that the debtors acted with intent in concealing the guns. Since the debtors offered no other evidence as to why they concealed the guns, the bankruptcy court held that their debt was nondischargeable under §523(a)(6).

Judge John T. Laney, III

Movant, Regions Bank, filed a motion for adequate protection or, in the alternative, relief from the stay. The Trustee objected. The Trustee presented evidence that the Movant’s financing statements, which listed Debtor’s name with the Debtor’s middle initial not the Debtor’s full name as listed on his driver’s license, were seriously misleading. The Court found the Trustee’s evidence persuasive and denied the motion. The Court also addressed the Movant’s unpersuasive arguments that the Trustee’s objections were barred by res judicata and judicial estoppel and that the Debtor filed his plan in bad faith.

This matter came before the Court by the Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider or vacate judgement under the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure Rules 7052, 9023, and 9024, Plaintiff’s claims the previous judgement violated his due process rights, and the Plaintiff’s oral motion to continue the hearing. The Court found that the Plaintiff had not presented new evidence or facts and it did not make an error in law in its earlier judgment. The Court also found that the Plaintiff was not entitled relief under Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Rule 9024. The Court did not find that the Plaintiff’s due process rights were violated and did not grant the Plaintiff’s oral motion to continue

This matter comes before the Court by cross motions for summary judgement filed by Plaintiff, AgGeorgia Farm Credit, ACA, and Defendant, Deere & Company in an adversary proceeding to determine the priority of liens on a tractor. The Court found that the Debtor’s name on Deere & Company’s UCC filing statement was seriously misleading, giving AgGeorgia the priority lien on the tractor over Deere’s lien. Neither actual notice of Deere’s lien nor res judicata affected AgGeorgia’s lien priority. Therefore, the Defendant’s motion for summary judgement is denied and the Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgement is granted.

The Defendant moved to dismiss and for sanctions this adversary proceeding because the Plaintiff failed to produce his exhibits in anticipation of trial. The Court orally ordered the Plaintiff to produce his exhibits by October 30, 2020 and, after the Plaintiff failed to comply, the Court again ordered the Plaintiff to produce his exhibits by January 10, 2021. The Court heard the motion on March, 4, 2021, at which point the Plaintiff had still not produced his exhibits. The Court found that, because of the Plaintiff’s failure to produce his exhibits and failure to comply with Court orders, along with other delays throughout the Plaintiff’s prosecution of the case, the Plaintiff had demonstrated a “clear record of delay” and “lesser sanctions would not suffice”, the standard for dismissal in Goforth v. Owens, 766 F.2d 1533 (11th Cir. 1985). Accordingly, the Court dismissed the adversary proceeding as a sanction.

Debtor Antonio McCants objected to Proof of Claim No. 14 filed by Creditor Georgia Community Bank F/K/A the Citizens State Bank of Taylor County. The Creditor included $15,461.85 of fees and expenses from the prior case. The Debtor argued that, for these fees and expenses, the Creditor failed to file notice pursuant to Rule 3002.1(c) in his previously dismissed bankruptcy case, the Creditor failed to file notice pursuant to Rule 3002.1 in this case, and § 1327(a) binds the Creditor to the specific provisions of the plan. The Court held that the Creditor’s claim survived the dismissal of Debtor’s previous case regardless of whether the Creditor filed notice, Rule 3002.1 does not apply to the Creditor in this case because the property no longer served as the Debtor’s primary residence, and the plan’s provisions allow for the collection of the fees and expenses. Therefore, the Court denied the Debtor’s objection.

The Chapter 7 Trustee moved for the Court to approve a proposed settlement to resolve an adversary proceeding, Kelley v. Lee, et al. AP 18-07009. Synovus Bank objected to the settlement. After reviewing the four factors bankruptcy courts consider when approving settlements outlined in In re Justice Oaks II, Ltd., 898 F.2d 1544 (11th Cir. 1990), the Court found the Trustee carried his burden and the proposed settlement was within the range of reasonableness. Therefore, the Court approved the Trustee’s settlement.

Movant U.S. National Bank Association, not in its Individual capacity, but solely as trustee for RAMC Trust, Series 2016-CTT, moved for relief from the stay because Respondent’s proposed chapter 11 plan failed to provide adequate protection to the Movant. The proposed chapter 11 plan modified the mortgage on debtor’s principal residence, in violation of § 1123(b)(5). Therefore, the Court grants Movant’s motion for relief from the stay.

Movants, The Otis Overby Co. and Steven Mark Overby moved to reopen the chapter 7 bankruptcy case of Respondent Christine Marie Ray.  Movants allege that technical difficulties with CM/ECF prevented their timely upload of an objection to dischargeability. The Court found that, if the case was reopened, Movant would still be barred from relief under FRBP Rule 4007(c). Therefore, the Court denied Movant’s motion to reopen case.

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