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

A creditor filed a motion for relief from stay to foreclose on the Chapter 13 Debtor’s residence.  At the hearing on the motion, the creditor asked for a continuance.  Debtor’s counsel argued that the motion was frivolous and asked the court to hold a hearing to consider sanctions under Bankruptcy Rule 9011.  Counsel, however, had not complied with the 21 day notice requirements of Rule 9011(c)(1)(A).  Counsel then argued the 21 day rule did not apply if the court held a hearing on its own motion pursuant to Rule 9011(c)(1)(B).  After Debtor’s counsel briefed the issue, the court held that it would be improper to allow Debtor’s counsel to avoid the requirement of Rule 9011(c)(1)(A) by seeking relief under Rule 9011(c)(1)(B).

The husband debtor’s former spouse alleged, inter alia, that the Chapter 13 petition had not been filed in good faith.  11 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(7).  The former spouse argued the debtor had failed to pay certain marital settlement obligations, that the debtor’s and his new spouse’s income and expenses had fluctuated, that they had failed to list in their schedules certain income and expenses, and that they had sent derogatory emails and Facebook postings about the former spouse.    After applying the Kitchens factors and considering the totality of circumstances, the court held that the petition had been filed in good faith and overruled the former spouse’s objection.

The evidence showed that the husband debtor was in the Georgia Air National Guard and had been deployed to Kuwait and Africa, which, upon return, affected his employment status and income.  His current spouse had suffered health problems which affected her income.  There was no showing that any of their expenses were improper or excessive.  Nor did the debtors receive any advantage from any errors or omissions on the schedules.

Judge Austin E. Carter

Debtor sought damages for willful violation of the automatic stay under § 362(k) after her vehicle was repossessed post-petition.  The creditor argued it lacked knowledge of the bankruptcy due to a discrepancy between its zip code as listed on the vehicle lease agreement and as listed on the creditor matrix used by the BNC to mail the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case.  Because the creditor challenged the zip code used by the BNC, the court considered evidence regarding the proper zip code.  In doing so, the Court noted that the BNC had corrected the zip code for the creditor’s address and took judicial notice of two government websites indicating the creditor’s zip code.  The Court applied the presumption of receipt to the Notice of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case mailed to the creditor and held that the creditor failed to rebut the presumption. The Court also found that the creditor was charged with knowledge of the bankruptcy case through the Debtor’s meeting with the creditor’s employee just after the repossession.  The Court held that the creditor willfully violated the automatic stay and awarded damages for lost wages and transportation expenses.

Lessor moved for allowance of administrative expense based on post-confirmation default by debtor on lease debtor assumed through Chapter 13 plan.  Court held that creditor does not have automatic right to administrative expense due to lease default, but rather must show actual and concrete benefit to the estate in accordance with 11 U.S.C. § 503(b)(1)(A).

Judge John T. Laney, III

In this case, the Chapter 7 trustee sought summary judgment on an action to determine the secured status of a claim on the Debtor’s real estate.  The claim was secured by a recorded security deed.  Subsequently, two instruments were recorded canceling the security deed; the instruments, however, were signed and recorded by a party without a recorded interest in the property.  The record indicated the instruments were recorded in error.  The holder of the claim argued that, because the party signing the instruments was a stranger in title, a hypothetical purchaser would have had inquiry notice of the error.  The Court disagreed.  It held that, because the instruments stated the claim was assigned  to the signors of the instruments and otherwise complied with Georgia law, the instruments were neither inconsistent nor facially deficient.  Thus, a bona fide purchaser—such as the trustee—could rely on the statements within the instruments.

This opinion concerns a preference action seeking to avoid the attachment of a judicial lien on the Debtors’ real estate.  The issue before the Court was whether the judicial lien was created within 11 U.S.C. § 547(b)(4)(A)’s look-back period.  The Trustee, the plaintiff in the case, argued that the lien was created when the judgment was recorded in the applicable county’s general execution docket.  The Defendant argued the entry of the judgment, which occurred outside the look-back period, created the judicial lien and that recording merely perfected that lien.  The Court determined that, by operation of O.C.G.A. § 9-12-86(b), only recording a judgment creates a judicial lien on real estate.  Therefore, for purposes of the preference action, the transfer occurred within the applicable look-back period.

This case came before the Court on the Debtor’s motion to reconsider the entry of various orders pursuant to FRBP 9024. The Court discussed the requisite showings a movant must demonstrate to support a request for relief. Particularly, the Court explained that a movant must show it has a meritorious defense when seeking relief from default. To carry this burden over an objection, the movant cannot merely offer putative defenses or general denials; the movant must show evidence that he could substantiate the defenses. The Debtor in this case did not put on any evidence. Accordingly, the Court denied his motion.

In these cases, the Chapter 7 Trustee sought to avoid pre-petition payments made to insiders pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 3304(a)(2).  After an extensive trial, the Court ruled in favor of the Defendants.  Although the Court found the Debtor was insolvent at the time it made the payments, the Court did not find the Trustee met his burden to show the insiders had reasonable cause to believe the Debtor was insolvent.  The opinion discusses the legal standards and the evidence presented by the parties.

In these cases, the Chapter 7 Trustee sought to avoid pre-petition payments made to insiders pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 3304(a)(2).  After an extensive trial, the Court ruled in favor of the Defendants.  Although the Court found the Debtor was insolvent at the time it made the payments, the Court did not find the Trustee met his burden to show the insiders had reasonable cause to believe the Debtor was insolvent.  The opinion discusses the legal standards and the evidence presented by the parties.

The issue before the Court was whether a creditor violated the automatic stay by applying non-bankruptcy estate funds, which the Debtor gave voluntarily to the creditor after filing, to a pre-petition dischargeable claim.  The Debtor further argued that, even if the creditors application of those funds to its claim was not a violation of the automatic stay, refusing to remit the funds to the Debtor after his request was a violation.  The Court rejected these arguments.  It held nothing in 11 U.S.C. § 362 prevents a creditor from retaining and applying a voluntary post-petition payment from non-bankruptcy estate funds.  Further, the Court rejected the Debtor’s argument that, in accepting the payment, the creditor was required to give the disclosures enumerated in 11 U.S.C.  § 524(k).In re

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