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.

Judge John T. Laney, III

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).

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.

Judge Austin E. Carter

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.

Creditor requested extension of deadline to file complaint to determine dischargeability of debt on the grounds that the debtor’s company had failed to respond to pre-petition post-judgment discovery.  Creditor also requested that bankruptcy case be stayed, so that he could investigate possible theories under which debtor might be held liable for debt of his company.  The Court held that the creditor had not shown cause under FRBP 4007(c) for extension of deadline because he had not exercised diligence, as motion was filed on last day of objection period and all facts on which motion was based were known to creditor when bankruptcy case was filed.  The Court denied the request to stay the case because creditor did not demonstrate that he was entitled to such relief to allow him time to explore new theories of corporate officer liability.

Chief Judge James P. Smith

Pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 544(b)(1), Trustee sought to step into the shoes of the IRS and use Georgia’s fraudulent transfer law, O.C.G.A. § 18-2-74, to avoid the debtor’s ten-year old transfer of real property to her brother.  Some thirteen years prior to the debtor’s bankruptcy, the brother had conveyed the property to the debtor because the brother and his wife were having marital problems.  The brother retained all the benefits and burdens of ownership of the property.  The brother and his wife later reconciled and the debtor reconveyed the property to her brother.  Trustee argued the reconveyance was a fraudulent transfer because the debtor had an actual or constructive intent to defraud her creditors.  The court held that the debtor had held the property in constructive trust for her brother and that she had held bare legal title .  Property of the estate does not include property in which the debtor holds only legal title and not an equitable interest. 11 U.S.C. § 541(d).  The court held that the reconveyance was not a transfer of an interest of the debtor’s property under § 544.
 

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.

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