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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 Bankruptcy 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 Rachel M. Blise -- 2021 - present
  • Judge William V. Altenberger -- 2016 - present
  • Judge Thomas M. Lynch -- 2018 - present
  • Judge Katherine M. Perhach -- 2020 - present
  • Judge Brett H. Ludwig -- 2017 - 2020
  • Judge Robert D. Martin -- 1990 - 2016
  • Judge Thomas S. Utschig -- 1986 - 2012
  • Judge William H. Frawley -- 1973 - 1986

Chief Judge Catherine J. Furay

Case Summary:
Debtors filed a Joint Chapter 12 Plan of Reorganization providing for 8 classes of claims. The plan proposed to convert members of the Class 8 Allowed Unsecured Creditors’ (“Class 8 Creditors”) unsecured claims into secured claims 30 days after the plan was completed and extend payments to the Class 8 Creditors beyond the plan term. A member of the Class 8 Creditor Class and the Standing Chapter 12 Trustee objected to the proposed plan. The Court found that the Debtors’ proposed treatment of the Class 8 Creditors violated 11 U.S.C. §§ 1222(c) and 1222(b)(9). By waiting to grant security interests to the Class 8 Creditors until after the Plan is completed, Debtors proposed granting security interests in property that would have revested in the Debtors. The Court determined this would preclude the Class 8 Creditors from being classified as allowed secured claims, because allowed secured claims must be secured by property in which the estate has an interest. As payments would be impermissibly extended beyond the plan term to creditors who do not hold allowed secured claims, payment to the Class 8 Creditors could not be extended beyond a three-year term.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 1222 -- Contents of Plan


Case Summary:
Secured Creditor filed a Motion for Relief from Stay and Co-Debtor Stay and to Dismiss arising under 11 U.S.C. §§ 362(d)(1) and 1208(c). Secured Creditor claimed bad faith as well as lack of adequate protection as the bases. Debtors posited that equity in the property together with a stipulation moot the motions. The Court granted the Motion for Relief From Stay and Co-Debtor Stay and the Motion to Dismiss, finding that the Debtors' failure to perform under a previously confirmed Chapter 12 plan, repeated and unreasonable delays by Debtors prejudicial to creditors, and a pattern of waiting until the eve of foreclosure hearings to file bankruptcy confirmed litigation strategy and not an honest effort to perform under any Chapter 12 plan.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 362(d)(1) -- Automatic Stay
11 U.S.C. § 1208(c) -- Conversion or Dismissal

Key Terms:
Automatic Stay
Conversion
Dismissal


Case Summary:
Plaintiffs Creditors filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(B) against Defendant Debtor. The Court denied Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, finding that Plaintiffs failed to establish all of the required elements for summary judgment on the claims under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(B), specifically whether there was intent to deceive and whether Plaintiffs reasonably relied on the Debtor’s written statements concerning Debtor’s financial condition. Further, the Court granted partial summary in favor of Defendant, dismissing one of the Plaintiff’s section 523 claims against Defendant. Because there was no evidence of Debtor being indebted to that Plaintiff in any way, and because section 523 requires there be a right to payment, that Plaintiff cannot make a successful claim under 11 U.S.C. § 523.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(B) -- Use of a Statement in Writing
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7056 -- Summary Judgment
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)


Case Summary:
After conducting a Rule 2004 Examination of the Debtors, the United States Trustee filed an adversary proceeding seeking denial of the Debtors’ discharge under Sections 727(a)(2)(B) and (a)(4). The Debtors denied the allegations, claiming they provided the necessary information to their prior counsel, who did not adequately include the information on their schedules, petition, and statements. The Court found that the Debtors’ ever-changing and often conflicting testimony and filed schedules demonstrated an intent to conceal property, resulting in a denial of discharge on the grounds that Debtors (1) intended to hinder, delay, or defraud a creditor or officer of the estate by concealing property of the estate post-petition, (2) made false oaths on their bankruptcy schedules, and (3) made false oaths at their Section 341 Meeting of Creditors.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(2)(B) -- Discharge
11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(4) -- Discharge

Key Term:
Discharge


Case Summary:
After learning of a previously undisclosed, pre-petition personal injury claim and subsequent settlement award given to Debtor post-discharge, the United States Trustee moved to reopen a Debtor’s Chapter 7 case and appoint a trustee. Five months after the case was reopened, the Debtor amended her Summary of Assets and Liabilities, Schedule A/B, and Schedule C to disclose the lawsuit for the first time and claim an exemption for the personal liability award. The trustee objected to the claim of exemption as untimely, arguing that (1) Debtor should have known about the personal injury lawsuit when she filed for bankruptcy, as she responded to a TV advertisement and filled out a retainer agreement in connection with the lawsuit shortly before she filed for bankruptcy, and (2) there was substantial delay between the reopening of her bankruptcy and the date on which she filed the amendments. In response, Debtor said she was unaware she had a claim and did not intentionally fail to disclose the lawsuit. The Court found that while Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 1009(a) provides a liberal right to file amended schedules, this right ends once a case is closed. As a result, a debtor seeking to amend schedules in a reopened case must request and establish cause for extending time to do so under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9006(b)(1). The Court found that because Debtor neither asked for an extension of time to file her Amended Schedule C nor attempted to show excusable neglect for failing to disclose the asset or file an Amended Schedule C before her case had closed, the Trustee’s objection must be sustained.

Statute/Rule References:
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 1009(a) -- General Right to Amend
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9006(b) -- Enlargement

Key Term:
Excusable Neglect


Case Summary:
Joint Debtors filed a Chapter 12 petition. Later, they amended their summary of assets and liabilities as well as schedules A/B and C. The amendment detailed a claim of exemption in tools of the trade. The Debtors elected to use state exemptions, asserting a $27,500 exemption in tools of the trade under Wis. Stat. § 815.18(3)(b). Further, they sought to avoid a secured creditor’s (“Creditor”) lien on tools of the trade, arguing it impairs their exemption under 11 U.S.C. § 522(f)(1)(B)(ii). Creditor objected to the avoidance action. Creditor argued that Wis. Stat. § 815.18(12) prohibits avoidance of a nonpossessory, non purchase-money security interest on tools of the trade as stated in 11 U.S.C. § 522(f)(3)(B), triggering the lien avoidance cap of $6,825 per debtor in 11 U.S.C. § 522(f)(3). The Debtors argued that neither subpart of § 522(f)(3) was met, making § 522(f)(3) inapplicable. Creditor argued that both subparts were met. The Court found that because Wis. Stat. § 815.18(12) does not explicitly prohibit avoidance of a nonpossessory, non purchase-money security interest on tools of the trade, the second subpart of 11 U.S.C. § 522(f)(3)(B) is not met and thus the Debtors could avoid Creditor’s lien to the full extent of the exemption available under Wis. Stat. § 815.18(3)(b).

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 522(f)(3) -- Exemptions
Wis. Stat. § 815.18(3)(b) -- Business and Farm Property
Wis. Stat. § 815.18(12) -- Limitations on Exemptions

Key Terms:
Exemptions
Lien Avoidance


Case Summary:  
Plaintiffs sought a determination that the debt owed to them is nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A). Debtor opposed Plaintiff’s assertion and argued Plaintiffs were collaterally estopped. The Court found collateral estoppel was inapplicable. After a trial on the issue, the Court determined Debtor’s debt to Plaintiffs was nondischargeable because it was obtained by fraudulent misrepresentation.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) -- False pretenses, false representation, or actual fraud

Key Terms:
Nondischargeability


Case Summary:
Plaintiffs sought a determination that the debt owed to them is nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A). Debtor opposed Plaintiff’s assertion and argued Plaintiffs were collaterally estopped. The Court found collateral estoppel was inapplicable. After a trial on the issue, the Court determined Debtor’s debt to Plaintiffs was dischargeable because Plaintiffs did not sufficiently establish Debtor’s participation in the fraudulent misrepresentation that led to incurring the debt.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(2)(A) - False pretenses, false representation, or actual fraud

Key Terms:
Nondischargeability


Judge Rachel M. Blise

Case Summary:
Debtors filed a chapter 13 plan in which they proposed to pay directly two claims that are secured by the Debtors’ vehicles. The chapter 13 trustee objected to the plan, asserting the Debtors are required to pay the claims through the Trustee based on a long-standing practice in this District. The Court rejected the Trustee’s argument that all payments to pre-petition vehicle creditors must be disbursed through the Trustee. The Court overruled the Trustee’s objection but emphasized its decision is dependent on the facts and circumstances of this particular case, including that the Debtors had proposed a 100% plan, the maturity dates for the loans were after the plan’s completion date, and there were no pre-petition arrearages on the claims.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 1322(b) -- Contents of Plan
11 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(5) -- Confirmation of Plan

Key Terms:
Direct payments


Case Summary:  
Debtors requested and obtained voluntarily dismissal of a previous chapter 13 case after their mortgage creditor requested relief from the automatic stay. They commenced another chapter 13 case less than 180 days later.  Section 109(g)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code provides that an individual debtor who voluntary dismisses his or her case following the filing of a request for relief from the automatic stay may not file another bankruptcy case until 180 days have passed.  The Court found that the Debtors dismissed the previous case after and as a result of the mortgage creditor’s motion for relief from stay.  The Court held that it did not have discretion to allow the case to proceed under the circumstances, and that § 109(g)(2) compelled the Court to dismiss this case because the Debtors are ineligible to be debtors.

Statute/Rule References:
11 U.S.C. § 109(g)(2) -- Who may be a debtor

Key Terms:
Eligibility
Voluntary Dismissal


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