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

Defendant moved to disqualify Plaintiff’s counsel (Geer) because one of its attorneys (Christy) had allegedly learned confidential information about Defendant while Christy was working as a contract attorney for Defendant’s counsel (McBryan).  While working for McBryan, Christy worked on the Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases of four corporations of which Defendant was sole owner and CEO.  After Christy stopped receiving work from McBryan, McBryan filed an individual Chapter 11 case for Defendant.  Christy never worked on Defendant’s bankruptcy case.  Defendant’s brother then filed an adversary proceeding asserting that Defendant’s debt arising from her actions as trustee of her brother’s trust are non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A), (a)(4) and (a)(6).  Geer is counsel for the brother and Christy is a contract attorney at Geer.  

Whether Christy learned confidential information about Defendant while working at the McBryan firm on the corporations’ bankruptcy cases was hotly disputed.  The Court applied Rules 1.6(a), 1.7(a), 1.9(a) and 1.13(a) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and determined that Geer and Christy should not be disqualified.  

When Christy worked for McBryan, McBryan represented the Chapter 11 corporations and not Defendant, individually, who was represented by separate counsel.  Any confidential information Christy learned while representing the corporations belonged to the corporations, not to Defendant.  Furthermore, this adversary proceeding is not “substantially related” to the corporations’ bankruptcy cases.  This adversary proceeding concerns decisions Defendant made in 2014 regarding her brother’s trust, which are not related to Defendant’s financial condition in 2019.  Also, Defendant’s financial information is now public knowledge, having been disclosed in her bankruptcy schedules.

Judge Austin E. Carter

Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on lien priority dispute seeking equitable subrogation and declaratory judgment. Plaintiff advanced funds to satisfy existing first priority lien on Debtor’s property as part of refinance transaction, with the intention and understanding that its new lien would be in first priority position. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff at the time of the refinance, however, was Defendant’s junior lien, which did not appear on Plaintiff’s title search.  Defendant challenged jurisdiction, requested abstention, and argued that Plaintiff was chargeable with inexcusable neglect. The Court declined to abstain and granted summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiff, finding no issues of material fact existed as to the elements of equitable subrogation under Georgia law.

The Debtor asserted that a pawned vehicle was property of the estate and moved for turnover under § 542(a).  The redemption period expired prior to the petition date—passing title to Respondent under state law—but Respondent failed to repossess the vehicle at that time, so it was in the Debtor’s possession when she filed her case.  The Debtor’s confirmed plan provided for surrender of the vehicle, which was shown as inoperable.  After confirmation, Respondent did not attempt to retrieve the vehicle.  Several months later, the Debtor had repairs made, which substantially increased the vehicle’s value.  Much later, the Respondent repossessed the vehicle, after which the Debtor filed a motion to modify her plan to retain the vehicle and pay the Respondent’s claim through monthly payments.  The modified plan drew no objection and was confirmed.  The Debtor argues that the modified plan is res judicata and deems the vehicle estate property subject to turnover.  The Debtor argues, alternatively, that: (1) Respondent abandoned its ownership interest in the vehicle via its failure to repossess; (2) Debtor’s repairs to vehicle give her an ownership interest or an equitable or mechanic’s lien; and (3) Debtor is owed recovery under unjust enrichment or quantum meruit due to the increase in value from the Debtor’s repairs.  The Court held that, because the redemption period expired before the petition date, the vehicle was excluded from the estate and the Debtor could not transform it into estate property through plan modification. In addition, the Court found that the equities did not favor the Debtor because she repaired a vehicle owned by the Respondent under Georgia title pawn law, and that she was obligated to surrender through her confirmed plan.  Additionally, Debtor benefited from use of the repaired vehicle while representing that it was inoperable in two proposed modified plans filed after repairs were made.

In the Debtor’s previous Chapter 12 case, the Court valued farmland for the purpose of confirmation.  When the creditor whose claim was secured by the farmland sought to enforce a settlement agreement that had earlier been announced to support plan confirmation, the Debtor dismissed the case under 11 U.S.C. § 1208(b).  In the current case, the Debtor sought a continuance of the confirmation hearing under § 1224 to conduct a new appraisal of the farmland.  The creditor objected to the continuance and brought a motion to dismiss for “cause” under § 1112(b) due to the Debtor’s lack of good faith in filing the petition and abuse of the bankruptcy process.  The creditor argued that the value of the farmland was fixed by the Court’s valuation in the previous case under the doctrine of res judicata.  The Court found that no “cause” existed to continue the confirmation hearing.  The Court also found that “cause” existed to dismiss the case as the petition was filed in bad faith.  Although res judicata did not apply to the valuation of the farmland in the current case due to dismissal of the previous case, the Court held that the Debtor was improperly attempting to manipulate the bankruptcy code by taking action in the current case (i.e., revalue the farmland) that could not have been accomplished in the previous one.

Judge John T. Laney, III

This Movant, Roger Munn, filed this motion to vacate or set aside plan confirmation. The Movant claimed the lack of notice of the plan’s contents and confirmation date from the BNC, despite actual notice from the attorney representing the Respondent, Esther Collins, violated his due process rights. He also argued his claim for attorneys’ fees from his representation of the Respondent had priority status as a domestic support obligation. The Court found the Movant’s motion to vacate procedurally defective because a motion to set aside plan confirmation must be brought as an adversary proceeding. Despite its procedural deficiencies, the Court found the motion also lacked merit because the Movant had actual notice of the Respondent’s claim and had the duty to inquire to protect his rights. Finally, the Court found the Movant did not present adequate evidence of a claim against the Respondent for attorneys’ fees. Thus, the Court denied the Movant’s motion.

This matter came to the Court on cross motions for summary judgment filed by the Plaintiff and Defendant. The sale for the Plaintiff’s house was cried out and the deed was executed before the passage of the CARES Act, but the foreclosure deed was not recorded until after the CARES Act was signed into law. The parties disagreed as to whether the foreclosure moratorium prohibits the recordation of a foreclosure deed. The Court found under Georgia law the foreclosure sale was complete before the passage of the CARES Act, therefore, the CARES Act foreclosure moratorium did not apply. Thus, the Court granted the Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and denied the Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.In

Creditor Commercial Capital Bank filed a motion to dismiss the Chapter 7 case of the Debtors Eric and Jerrie Lee for abuse of the bankruptcy system under 11 U.S.C. §§ 707(a), 707(b)(2), and 707(b)(3). The Court found that the presumption of abuse did not arise under § 707(b)(2), but the totality of the circumstances showed their case should be dismissed under § 707(b)(3). The Court did not rule on the motion under § 707(a).

Kelley, Lovett, Blakey & Sanders P.C. (“KLBS”) requested writs of execution against clients Hood Farms, Inc. and Hood Landscaping, Inc. for unpaid attorneys’ fees. KLBS had previously been granted administrative claims in both bankruptcy cases for their attorneys’ fees. Guardian Bank, which also held administrative claims, objected. The Court found a writ of execution to collect attorneys’ fees is impermissible, sustained Guardian Bank’s objections, and denied KLSB’s requests.

Kelley, Lovett, Blakey & Sanders P.C. (“KLBS”) requested writs of execution against clients Hood Farms, Inc. and Hood Landscaping, Inc. for unpaid attorneys’ fees. KLBS had previously been granted administrative claims in both bankruptcy cases for their attorneys’ fees. Guardian Bank, which also held administrative claims, objected. The Court found a writ of execution to collect attorneys’ fees is impermissible, sustained Guardian Bank’s objections, and denied KLSB’s requests.

This matter came before the Court by the Debtors’ objection to the IRS’s proof of claim number three. The IRS’s amended proof of claim included $2,780 owed for Shared Responsibility Payments under the Affordable Care Act. The IRS claimed the Shared Responsibility Payments were entitled to priority under § 507(a)(8) as either “an excise tax on a transaction…” or “a tax on or measured by income.” The Court found that the Shared Responsibility Payments are not levied on a transaction, therefore not entitled to priority under § 507(a)(8)(E), but are measured by income and entitled to priority under § 507(a)(8)(A).

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