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Opinions

The Western District of Wisconsin offers a database of opinions for the years 1986 to present, listed by year and judge. For a more detailed search, enter a keyword, statute, rule or case number in the search box above.

Opinions are also available on the Government Printing Office website for Appellate, District and Bankrupty cases. The content of this collection dates back to April 2004, though searchable electronic holdings for some courts may be incomplete for this earlier time period.

For a direct link to the Western Wisconsin Bankruptcy Court on-line opinions, visit this link.

Available Decisions:

  • Chief Judge Catherine J. Furay--2013-present
  • Judge William V. Altenberger--2016-present
  • Judge Brett H. Ludwig--2017-present
  • Judge Robert D. Martin (retired)--1990-2016
  • Judge Thomas S. Utschig (retired)--1986-2012

Chief Judge Catherine J. Furay

Marjorie Gibson brought this matter before the Court to vacate a prior order granting partial summary judgment and to alter or amend the findings of fact and conclusions of law. Gibson claimed that there may have been additional evidence that could have been presented at trial. The Court first determined that the motion to vacate was timely filed. The time limit to file such a motion in Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(b) did not begin to run until judgment was entered on all claims, not when the partial summary judgment was entered. Next, the Court determined there was no reason to vacate the award of partial summary judgment or alter the findings. There was never any dispute about the facts. Gibson presented only hypotheticals without any real evidence that could have arisen at trial. If there were other facts or evidence supporting opposition to the award of partial summary judgment, they should have been presented at that time. No such facts or evidence were presented, and therefore the motion to vacate was denied.

Case No. 14-13126-7
The Court overruled the Trustee’s objection to the debtor’s claim of exemptions. The debtor claimed an exemption in a personal injury claim 10 months after filing the bankruptcy petition, even though the claim arose pre-petition and the Trustee gave the debtor repeated reminders to claim the exemption on his schedules. The Trustee argued that the exemption was not timely filed under Wis. Stat. § 815.18(6)(a). Section 815.18(6)(a) states an exemption may be claimed within a reasonable time after seizure, but shall be claimed prior to disposition of the property. Harmonizing Wis. Stat. § 815.18(6)(a) with Rule 1009, the closure of the case is a reasonable time after seizure. Therefore, § 815.18(6)(a) is to be read broadly, in conjunction with Rule 1009, to allow a debtor to amend his exemptions to add additional claims up until the time the case is closed.
Wis.Stat. § 815.18 -- Exemptions

Case Number: 14-13286-13

The debtors objected to two proofs of claim filed by a credit card company. They asserted their corporation incurred the debt, they were guarantors, and the claims should be disallowed because they were “not non-contingent AND liquidated.” The Court found that under the terms of the credit card agreements, the debtors were personally jointly and severally liable for the credit card debt. There was no evidence to the contrary. The agreement was enforceable, so the objection was overruled and the claims were allowed.

11 U.S.C. §502 -- Allowance of claims
Fed. R. Bankr. P. Rule 3001(f)

Case No. 13-10869-7
The holder of a fourth-priority mortgage on property filed a motion to vacate an order approving sale of the property after it did not get paid in full from the proceeds. The Court had granted a motion to shorten time for notice and a motion to sell in turn after no objection was filed to either. The fourth-priority mortgagee asserted it had relied on a statement in an affidavit from the debtors’ counsel in support of the motion to shorten time indicating the sale would pay secured creditors in full. The Court denied the motion to vacate, finding that it was not made within a reasonable time under Rule 60(c) and further finding that even if it had been, the creditor had not stated grounds justifying relief under Rule 60(b)(1), (3), or (4)-(6).
Fed. R. Bankr. P. Rule 9024

Case No. 15-11204-13
The Court found a bank demonstrated it had standing to seek relief from stay. Its foreclosure judgment demonstrated it had a “colorable claim” to property. The debtor did not meet her burden of showing making a payment in the amount of the regular monthly mortgage payment to the debtor’s attorney’s trust fund adequately protected the bank’s interest. Thus, the bank was entitled to relief from stay for cause under section 362(d)(1). It was also entitled to relief under section 362(d)(2). The debtor stipulated she had no equity in the property, and she failed to meet her burden of proving it was necessary for an effective reorganization. Her proposed sale of the property would not result in proceeds available for any other creditor, nor would it generate exempt proceeds for purchase of a new home. Her personal liability for the debt had previously been discharged.
The court also granted in rem relief from stay as to the property, finding the filing of the petition was part of a scheme to hinder, delay, or defraud creditors involving multiple bankruptcy filings affecting the property.
11 U.S.C. § 362 -- Automatic stay
11 U.S.C. § 362(g)(1)

Case No. 15-11204-13
At the time this adversary proceeding was filed, a motion for relief from stay was pending in the main case. The debtor’s arguments in opposition appeared to require the conclusion that until a determination was reached in the adversary proceeding, it was impossible to determine whether the movant had standing to seek relief from stay. Thus, the Court reviewed the adversary complaint. Because the review suggested the debtor was challenging the validity of a foreclosure judgment, the Court ordered the debtor to explain why the Rooker-Feldman doctrine would not bar the claims. After considering her response and other submissions, the Court determined it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and dismissed the complaint.

Judge Robert D. Martin

Case No. 14-11319-11
Creditor, Dr. Phuoc Vuong, one of the debtor’s former employees, filed a claim in the amount of $7,624.00 for reimbursement for vacation time and continuing education expenses. Dr. Vuong was terminated for cause on April 15, 2014. However, he argued that he was entitled to reimbursement for continuing education expenses relating to classes which he was scheduled to attend from April 21st through 25th in 2014. The debtor objected to Dr. Vuong’s claim, arguing that, although Dr. Vuong was owed the regular vacation time, he was not owed reimbursement for the continuing education expenses because he had neither obtained approval to attend nor actually attended any classes. The court found in favor of the debtor as to the continuing education expenses, holding that that the debtor had carried its burden in defeating the presumption in favor of the validity of Dr. Vuong’s claim. Specifically, the court held that the employment contract introduced into evidence by the debtor provided that an employee would only be reimbursed for continuing education expenses where the employee had both received approval from a supervisor to attend continuing education classes and successfully completed the classes with proof of credit earned. In this case the court found that Dr. Vuong had done neither of these things, and, thus, his claim was limited to reimbursement for vacation time.

Case No. 13-11475-7
Creditors filed a motion to grant standing to pursue, on behalf of the bankruptcy estate, preference and fraudulent transfer claims against debtor’s insiders. Although the creditor had ongoing discussions with the trustee about various causes of action, the trustee declined to pursue the actions at issue. Generally, a creditor may bring an avoidance action under the theory of derivative standing. The court found that while the trustee’s decision not to pursue the actions was well thought out and reflected no improper motives, it was not technically justified in the manner which would preclude granting derivative standing to the creditor. Furthermore, the creditor volunteered to absorb the costs in the event the actions were unsuccessful. Thus, derivative standing was appropriate in this case because of the low cost and risk placed on the estate.

Case No. 13-15958-7
Creditor filed an adversary proceeding seeking to determine the dischargeability of his debt. After a trial on the merits, the court dismissed the case. Debtor’s counsel filed a motion for attorney fees pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(d). While the legal and factual positions taken by the creditor to litigate the dischargeability (of what the court determined to be a consumer debt) were not substantially justified, special circumstances existed to deny the motion. Attorney fees under § 523(d) are only allowed for defending § 523(a)(2) claims. In this case, the amount of resources devoted to defending the § 523(a)(2) action was likely small and the related fees de minimis and hard to determine. Accordingly, the court found awarding the entire amount requested would be unjust.

Case No. 12-16624-7
The chapter 7 trustee objected to the debtor’s amended claim of exemptions shortly after the reopening of the case. The trustee asserted that the exemption claim was filed in bad faith. At issue was the bankruptcy courts’ authority to deny bad faith exemptions. The court found that the Supreme Court clearly opined in Law v. Siegel, 134 S.Ct. 1188 (2014), that bankruptcy courts do not have authority to deny a federal exemption on a ground not specified in the code. Thus, the court could not reach the merits of the trustee’s objection because there is no codified bad faith prohibition on exemption amendments.
11 U.S.C. § 502(a)

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