Unpublished Dispositionin Re Walter J. Lawrence, Debtor,walter J. Lawrence, Plaintiff-appellant, v. Honorable Kenneth A. Fricke, Judge, of the 9th Judicialdistrict Court, Division Ii, State of Michigan,defendant-appellee, 935 F.2d 270 (6th Cir. 1991)

Annotate this Case
US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit - 935 F.2d 270 (6th Cir. 1991) June 11, 1991

Before KENNEDY and SUHRHEINRICH, Circuit Judges, and WELLFORD, Senior Circuit Judge.


Walter J. Lawrence, a Michigan resident, appeals pro se the district court judgment affirming a bankruptcy court's award of sanctions against Lawrence pursuant to Bankr.R. 9011. This case has been referred to a panel of the court pursuant to Rule 9(a), Rules of the Sixth Circuit. Upon examination, this panel unanimously agrees that oral argument is not needed. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a).

Lawrence was a defendant in a Michigan state district court action when he filed for bankruptcy. The property at issue in the state court action was not part of the bankruptcy estate. Lawrence did not inform the state court of his pending bankruptcy until some three months after the court had announced judgment in favor of the plaintiff. It was not until he was notified of a hearing on a motion for sanctions against him that he attempted to seek the protection of an automatic stay pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 362. His improperly filed motion was ignored by the state court judge, who awarded the plaintiff sanctions of $4,000. Lawrence then filed a motion in the bankruptcy court to hold the state court judge in contempt of the automatic stay. The bankruptcy court denied the motion and assessed sanctions for its filing of $2,175. Lawrence appealed to the district court, which affirmed. This appeal followed, with Lawrence arguing that the bankruptcy court abused its discretion by awarding sanctions without holding a hearing on the issues of his intent in filing the motion for contempt and his ability to pay.

Upon consideration, it is concluded that no abuse of discretion occurred in awarding the sanctions, as Lawrence's conduct in filing the motion for contempt was unreasonable. Cf. Century Products, Inc. v. Sutter, 837 F.2d 247, 253 (6th Cir. 1988). Contrary to Lawrence's argument, the bankruptcy court did hold a hearing and made extensive findings on his intent in filing the pleading in question, concluding that it was done for an improper purpose. Cf. Herron v. Jupiter Transp. Co., 858 F.2d 332, 335 (6th Cir. 1988). Moreover, the bankruptcy court was familiar with Lawrence's financial condition due to the nature of his pending action. There is no indication that Lawrence argued inability to pay before the bankruptcy court. This issue therefore does not merit consideration by this court. Cf. White v. Anchor Motor Freight, Inc., 899 F.2d 555, 559 (6th Cir. 1990). Accordingly, the district court's judgment is affirmed. Rule 9(b) (3), Rules of the Sixth Circuit.