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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 James P. Smith (Retired)

The Chapter 13 trustee objected to confirmation of the below-median-income debtors’ plan on the grounds that the plan did not comply with the “projected disposable income” requirement of 11 U.S.C. § 1325(b)(2)(B).  The trustee agreed that social security benefits should be included in the calculation of a below-median debtor’s projected disposable income.  The court, consistent with the majority of reported decisions, held that social security benefits are specifically excluded from “current monthly income” and are not included in the calculation of projected disposable income.  The court also rejected the trustee’s argument that the plan was not filed in good faith, 11 U.S.C. § 1325(c)(3), and held that the debtors’ had shown “cause” to extend the terms of their plan from 3 to 5 years.

The bank objected to the dischargeability of its claim under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(B) because the debtor had falsely claimed on his financial statements that he owned certain real property.  Although the bank had foreclosed on the real property that secured the debtor’s debt, the bank had not had the sale confirmed in state court.  The bankruptcy court held that, under state law, the bank had no enforceable deficiency claim against the debtor and dismissed the bank’s complaint with prejudice.

The court held that a Chapter 13 debtor, pursuant to a Chapter 13 plan, can use 11 U.S.C. § 506(a) to value a non-910 vehicle and then, under 11 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(5)(C), surrender that vehicle in full satisfaction of the creditor’s claim where the value so determined is equal to or greater than the creditor’s claim. The court also held that the proper standard of value to be applied where the collateral is surrendered is the replacement value as of the date of the bankruptcy filing.

The “above median” Chapter 13 debtor proposed to pay in full all unsecured claims during the five year term of his plan.  The plan payment would be substantially lower than the debtor’s monthly net or disposable income.  The Court held that a plan satisfies 11 U.S.C. § 1325(b) if unsecured claims will be paid in full even if the claims could be paid in a shorter period of time if all monthly disposable income was contributed to plan payments.

Judge James D. Walker Jr. (Retired)

When a secured creditor's collateral is subject to joint ownership and the joint owner is also a cosigner on the debt, then a lien release provision in the debtor's plan renders the creditor's lien unenforceable against the debtor's interest in the collateral upon the debtor's discharge. However, the creditor may retain its lien to the extent of the co-owner's interest in the collateral until such time as the creditor receives payment of its debt in full at the contract rate.

When the clerk's office issued an erroneous deadline for filing objections to discharge, the Court would use its equitable power under section 105(a) to accept an untimely motion to extend the bar date when the motion was filed prior to expiration of the erroneous deadline.

Transfer restriction on stock in closely held corporation was manifestly unreasonable and void because it limited transfers to family members, while providing no means for a shareholder to realize his value in the stock if family members were unwilling or unable to buy it. Because the restrictions were void, a creditor could validly foreclose on the debtor's shares.

When an undersecured creditor holds a security interest in real property and in post-petition rents generated from that property, each interest is entitled to separate adequate protection. Thus, the debtor must provide adequate protection to use post-petition rents that constitute cash collateral.  However, no adequate protection is necessary to the extent the rents are used to protect the underlying real property or to otherwise benefit the creditor's interest in the property.

Judge John T. Laney, III

The Court granted the Chapter 7 trustee's motion to reconsider an order denying the trustee's motion to reopen. The Court reexamined Johnson v. Alvarez (In re Alvarez), 224 F.3d 1273 (11th Cir. 2000), and concluded it mandated the result that Georgia's discovery rule does not apply when determining whether a cause of action is property of the estate.

The Chapter 7 trustee moved to reopen a closed case to administer settlement proceeds as property of the estate.  The settlement was on account of a injury caused by prepetition by prescription medication, but the debtor did not know the cause of the injury until after the bankruptcy case was closed. Georgia's discovery rule states that a cause of action does not accrue until a plaintiff knows what caused the injury. Inconsistent Eleventh Circuit authority put the Court in a difficult position, but the Court denied the trustee's Motion to Reopen.  The debtor's product liability lawsuit did not accrue under Georgia law until he knew the cause of his injury.  Because the lawsuit did not accrue prepetition, the settlement proceeds were not property of the estate.