Will an Adversary Proceeding Survive the Dismissal of the Bankruptcy Case? Maybe.

Eight years ago (8 years! You are reading a law blog that has lasted for 8 years!), I talked about the difference between a bankruptcy discharge and a dismissal.

The tl;dr version for creditors? Discharge is bad; dismissal is good.

But, what if you’re a creditor and the debtor has filed an adversary proceeding against you, but then the bankruptcy case is dismissed?

The tl;dr version? It depends.

Generally, the dismissal of the underlying bankruptcy case results in the dismissal of related adversary proceedings because federal jurisdiction is “premised upon the nexus between the underlying bankruptcy case and the related proceedings.” But, there are exceptions.

One such exception is for proceedings to enforce sanctions and contempt for violation of the automatic stay. A Bankruptcy Court will retain jurisdiction “for the purpose of vindicating the court’s own authority and to enforce its own orders.” See In re Bankston, 1:12-BK-14022-SDR, 2015 WL 6126440, at *2 (Bankr. E.D. Tenn. Oct. 15, 2015)

Basically, the reasoning goes, an action for contempt of court resulting from a party’s blatant disregard of the Bankruptcy Code and the authority of the Bankruptcy Court is something that the Bankruptcy Court takes very seriously and will enforce, independent of whether the underlying case still exists.

The reasoning is different for other types of proceedings that are dependent on the underlying case, like actions to recover avoidance preferences.

 

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Courts Revisit, and Affirm, Requirement of Possessory Bond in Eviction Appeals

Here’s a  quick reminder about appeals of detainer and eviction judgments in Tennessee.

Remember, a tenant who loses in General Sessions  has the right to appeal that detainer judgment. But, in order to retain the property, that tenant has to post a bond equal to one year’s rental value of the real property.

But, what if the tenant files an appeal and doesn’t post that giant bond (or otherwise find a dummy to sign off on the bond as surety)?

The Tennessee Supreme Court waded into these waters in an opinion from December 2013 and said that a detainer appeal without the “one year rent” bond is still an effective appeal, but it doesn’t help the defendant in any way in keeping the property.

Earlier in the summer, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued another opinion on that issue. In that opinion, the Court noted that the appeal bond requirement to retain possession applies to appeals as noted under Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-130(b)(2), as well as petitions for writs of certiorari under Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-18-129.

This is an obscure part of the law, but lots of Courts are covering this ground and reaching the same conclusion.

Last note: If the tenant is only appealing the monetary part of the judgment, no possessory bond is needed to have an effective appeal.

7% and Rising: Tennessee’s Post-Judgment Interest Rate Continues to Go Up

About this time last year, I noted that the statutory rate of interest on Tennessee judgments was continuing to increase.  At the time, the rate was 6.25%.

After bumping up to 6.5% in January 2018, it has now risen again to 7.0% (effective July 1, 2018).

As you’ll recall from my post in February 2013, Tennessee switched from a flat-rate of 10% to a variable rate under the (then) new version of Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-14-121.

As a creditor, this is great news. As a creditor lawyer, it’s kind of a pain in the neck.

Now, when I’m asked to prepare a payoff, I have to check the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts website to see what the applicable rate is. Then, for any increases or decreases, I have to adjust my math for that time period.

Come See Me, an “All-Star”, Talk on Ethical Online Marketing in November

I’ve gotten a little stingy about my availability for speaking engagements. Long story short, it’s sort of a pain in the neck.

But, I agreed to teach for the Tennessee Attorneys Memo group, because they have the best marketing materials. Specifically, they lead with the line: “The 12th Annual Tennessee Law Conference boasts an all-star cast of prominent Tennessee judges and attorneys, featuring David Anthony, Gail Ashworth, and James Bryan Moseley.”

So, if you give me top billing and refer to me as an all-star, I’m there.

I’m teaching on November 15, 2018, for the section titled “Ethical Online Marketing.” This is a “dual” credit course, meaning you’ll get ethics and general CLE credit. Plus, I am probably the most prolific blogging, tweeting,  and social media’ing lawyer in town. (Edited: Since publishing this post, this assertion has been questioned by a local attorney.)

The real challenge will be keeping people in their seats and paying attention at 4pm, so I plan to super-charge this talk with lots of examples of terrible and/or unethical online marketing examples.

Attend the TBA Creditors Practice Forum

The Tennessee Bar Association has asked me to teach at the 2018 Creditors Practice Forum, on September 26, 2018.

This half-day seminar is a well-attended and well-produced CLE event, designed to provide both the basics, as well as some advanced “deep-dives,” into a variety of topics in creditor’s rights practice in Tennessee.

This year, the topics will include presentations on:

  • Charging Orders and Theories of Successor Liability
  • Telephone Consumer Protection Act
  • Bankruptcy Court Stay Violations
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Ethical Considerations

The full agenda can be found here.  Also, lunch is provided. If you’re going to CLE, might as well get a free-ish lunch.

 

 

Borrower Beware: They look like Checks but act like Loans.

Nashville’s Fox 17 news asked me to comment on their news story about lending companies that target low income borrowers.

The news report focused on one lending practice as particularly unscrupulous: the unsolicited check loan. These are sometimes called “live loan” checks.  Maybe you’ve received one in the mail. They look exactly like a check, made payable to you, and all you have to do is take it to your bank and, boom, you’ve got cash.

And…you’ve got a new loan that probably has very bad interest rates and onerous terms.

You can click on the news segment above, but, ultimately, I gave this warning:

There’s no such thing as free money, and so if someone has sent you a check unsolicited in the mail, that’s where your radar should go up. They do take advantage of someone who needs something. They have a resource, cash, that these people over here desperately need.

In the end, I’m sympathetic to the borrower, but also acknowledge a really hard fact: These type of credit vehicles may be the only life-line some borrowers have to pay rent, get medical treatment, or obtain necessary goods and services. And that’s not a problem created by an unscrupulous lender, but a part of the income inequality of modern society.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending the lenders here, but I want to make sure that, while most of us are alarmed by these lending practices, we also realize that exposing these practices doesn’t, by itself, solve the deeper issues.

Poor people face a lack of access to funds for essential goods, services, and needs that is completely under-served and ignored. We may scorn the lenders for exploiting that need and call it predatory, but we also lack resources to consider alternate ways to address those needs.

And that’s where I end my tidy little blog post.

Disagree Without Being Disagreeable: Accepting Bad News From a Judge with a Smile

In March, I suggested/implied/explicitly promised to provide professional lawyer advice to you all. Sorry for the delay.

I saw this tweet recently, though, and I am reminded of an important lesson for you litigators out there…

No, not the part about the client dinners.

The part about how, as the Judge recites his or her oral ruling, you have to sit there, listening, and taking furious notes. And, no matter how wrong the Judge gets the decision, at the end, you have to politely smile and thank her for the ruling and consideration.

Side Note: Don’t get me wrong, if there is more argument to be made, you present that argument as quickly and respectfully as you can. If the Judge clearly gets the facts or case law wrong, then you have point that out and see if you can get them to change course.

But, here, I’m not talking about that situation. I’m talking about situations where you’ve argued your position so thoroughly and completely that the Judge has no question about the substance of your surely awesome and unassailable legal theory, but nevertheless rules against you.

In that case, my advice is to learn how to take exact and detailed notes, smile, thank the Judge for their time, and then appeal or attack the ruling (if necessary).

A few months ago, I won a hotly contested hearing and, obviously, my opposing counsel lost. And he disagreed with the Judge. A lot. And it showed. His tone toward the Judge expressed frustration, anger and condescension. To avoid any confusion, after his final efforts to get the Judge to change her mind, he threw his argument notes down on the counsel table with an audible sigh.

Don’t ever be that guy.

One, I refuse to ever acknowledge defeat, even in the face of clear defeat. Instead, I go back to the office and confidently call the other lawyer, tell them we’re preparing an appeal, and try to settle. I mean, what else can you do?

Two, judges don’t like being disrespected, and, if this Judge had any doubt in her mind about her ruling, this definitely erased that.

Finally, when you express anger or frustration at the judge, you’re showing a lack of tact and professionalism to everybody in Court, including opposing counsel. Plus, this Judge is going to remember this lawyer.

This is always a fine line to walk, between preserving your reputation for being respectful toward the court and zealous advocacy. I’m sure the lawyer’s client would have appreciated the show, but, in the end, there are definitely down-sides to an emotional outburst.