In Re Debtor Alan Dale Dickinson, No. 8:2022cv01452 - Document 26 (C.D. Cal. 2023)

Court Description: ORDER DENYING APPELLANT'S APPEAL FROM BANKRUPTCY COURT's 4/22/22 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STRIKE by Judge Sherilyn Peace Garnett. The decision of the Bankruptcy Court is AFFIRMED. (iv)

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In Re Debtor Alan Dale Dickinson Doc. 26 1 JS-6 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 ALAN DALE DICKINSON 12 Cross-Plaintiff/Appellant, 13 v. 14 15 GOLDEN RAIN FOUNDATION OF LAGUNA WOODS 16 Case No. 8:22-cv-01452-SPG ORDER DENYING APPELLANT’S APPEAL FROM BANKRUPTCY COURT’s 4/22/22 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STRIKE Cross-Defendant/Appellee. 17 18 19 This matter is on appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Courts for the Central 20 District of California. 21 Bankruptcy Court’s order dated April 22, 2022 (the “April 2022 Order”), granting Golden 22 Rain Foundation of Laguna Wood’s (“Appellee”) motion to strike Appellant’s first 23 amended complaint. (ECF No. 14 (“App.”)).1 After reading and considering the papers Appellant Alan Dale Dickinson (“Appellant”) appeals the 24 25 26 27 28 1 The notice of appeal in the present case states that Appellant is appealing from the order of the Bankruptcy Court dated April 22, 2022. (ECF No. 1 at 2). Appellant has filed a separate appeal from the Bankruptcy Court’s July 21, 2022, order awarding attorney’s fees and costs to Appellee and its attorneys. See In re Alan Dale Dickinson, Case No. 8:22-cv01397-SPG, ECF No. 1 at 3. Thus, although Appellant makes some arguments regarding 1 filed in connection with this appeal, and for the reasons discussed below, the Court 2 AFFIRMS the Bankruptcy Court’s April 2022 Order. 3 I. 4 5 6 BACKGROUND A. Factual Background The following facts are taken from the record in the United States Bankruptcy Court proceedings, as found in the filed appendices of the parties: 7 On February 25, 2021, Appellant filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for 8 the Central District of California a voluntary petition under chapter 13 of the United States 9 Bankruptcy Code, which was converted on May 14, 2021, to a petition under chapter 7 of 10 the Code. (ECF No. 19 at 268). Golden Rain Foundation of Laguna Woods (“Appellee”) 11 filed a complaint against Appellant seeking a determination of nondischargeability under 12 Title 11, United States Code, Section 523(a)(6) on June 18, 2021. (Id.). On July 1, 2021, 13 Appellee amended its complaint to include a claim for objection of discharge under Section 14 727(a)(4)(A). (Id.). Appellant filed an answer to the amended complaint and a cross- 15 complaint, which was later amended on August 25, 2021. (Id. at 4-21, 268). The cross- 16 complaint contained claims for relief for elder abuse, defamation, libel, slander, intentional 17 infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of physical distress, negligence 18 infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of physical distress, and willful and 19 malicious injury. (Id.). On September 30, 2021, Appellee filed a motion to strike the cross- 20 complaint pursuant to California’s anti-strategic lawsuit against public participation 21 statute, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16 (“anti-SLAPP”). (Id. at 25-44, 268). 22 On April 22, 2022, the Bankruptcy Court granted Appellee’s motion to strike 23 Appellant’s cross-complaint (the “April 2022 Order”). (Id. at 268). In doing so, the 24 Bankruptcy Court explained that “[t]here is long-standing authority in the Ninth Circuit for 25 the application of California’s anti-SLAPP law in federal court so long as the claims are 26 27 28 the July 21, 2022, order in his briefs filed in the present appeal, the Court declines to address those arguments here and, instead, will address them in the related appeal. -2- 1 pendant state law claims and do not involve federal claims for relief.” (Id. at 270 (citing 2 United States ex rel Newsham v. Lockheeed Missiles & Space, 190 F.3d 963 (9th Cir. 3 1999); Planned Parenthood Fed. of Am., Inc. v. Ctr. for Med. Progress, 890 F.3d 828 (9th 4 Cir. 2018), amended by 897 F.3d 1224 (9th Cir. 2018); Restaino v. Bah (In re Bah), 321 5 B.R. 41, 46 (9th Cir. BAP 2005)). The Bankruptcy Court then concluded that, because 6 Appellant’s cross-complaint explicitly stated that all of his claims for relief arose out of 7 California law, the claims were subject to California’s anti-SLAPP statute. (Id. at 270-71). 8 The Bankruptcy Court also found that Appellee had satisfied its burden of proof that the 9 cross-complaint involved protected activity under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. (Id. at 10 271-76). Additionally, the Bankruptcy Court concluded that Appellant had not met his 11 burden of establishing a reasonable probability of success on the merits of his claim 12 because Appellant failed to provide a sufficient legal or factual basis for any of his nine 13 claims. (Id. at 276-84). 14 Thereafter, Appellee moved the Bankruptcy Court for an order awarding attorneys’ 15 fees and costs pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.16(c). (Id. at 16 289). In the motion, Appellee asserted that Appellant had “engaged in a pattern of bad 17 faith, frivolous, meritless litigation against [Appellee], its volunteers, board members, 18 employees, and attorneys. This has resulted in a total of zero dollars paid to [Appellant], 19 or awarded to him by a court, a total of zero lawsuits wherein [Appellant’s] cases have not 20 been dismissed, either after a bench trial or well before, and a total of 8 judicial officers, in 21 this court and throughout the California state system, who have been forced to waste 22 countless hours of their precious time, dealing with [Appellant] and his meritless lawsuits.” 23 (Id. at 291). Appellee also argued that, as the prevailing party under California Code of 24 Civil Procedure Section 425.16(c), the Court was obligated to award attorney’s fees and 25 costs to Appellee. (Id. at 292-93). Appellee explained that its counsel’s senior partner 26 billed a total of 26.6 hours working on the matter, “which were reasonable and necessary 27 to the work defending against [Appellant’s] cross-complaint,” at a billing rate of $400 per 28 hour, totaling $10,640.00 in legal fees. See (id. at 294-95). Appellee also explained that -3- 1 one of counsel’s associate attorneys spent a total of 65.8 hours working on the matter, 2 “which were reasonabl[e] and necessary to the work defending against [Appellant’s] cross- 3 complaint,” at a billing rate of $400 per hour, totaling $26,320.00. (Id.). Further, Appellee 4 explained that it anticipated it would spend an additional three hours reviewing Appellant’s 5 opposition, three hours preparing the Reply to Appellant’s opposition, and two hours to 6 appear at the hearing on the motion and to review the court’s ruling, for a total of eight 7 hours at a billing rate of $400.00, totaling $3,200. (Id.). Thus, Appellee requested 8 $40,160.00 in attorneys’ fees from the Bankruptcy Court. (Id.). For these propositions, 9 Appellee attached declarations for each of the attorneys who worked on the matter, along 10 with records of their billable hours. See (id. at 299-332). Appellee also urged the court to 11 compare its rates to the Laffey Matrix, which Appellee described as being “based on 12 attorney rates in metropolitan Washington D.C. and Baltimore” because of “similarities in 13 population, density, and competition among a large number of law firms” in Southern 14 California. 15 $59,409.76 in fees and costs. See (id. at 395-96). (Id. at 295). Appellee’s counsel also filed similar motions, requesting 16 On July 21, 2022, the Bankruptcy Court granted both motions in full. (Id.). In 17 doing so, the Court awarded Appellee $40,160 in fees, and Appellee’s attorneys $58,555 18 in fees and $854 in costs, totaling $59,409.76. See (id.). 19 B. 20 On August 5, 2022, Appellant filed an appeal of the Bankruptcy Court’s April 2022 21 Order in this Court. (ECF No. 1). In his opening brief, filed on September 6, 2022, 22 Appellant primarily argues that the Bankruptcy Court improperly sustained the Appellee’s 23 anti-SLAPP motion because California’s anti-SLAPP statute is inapplicable to the 24 Bankruptcy Court. See (ECF No. 14 at 11). On November 16, 2022, Appellee filed its 25 reply brief. (ECF No. 18). On August 18, 2022, Appellant filed his own reply brief. (ECF 26 No. 20). Procedural History 27 28 -4- 1 II. LEGAL STANDARD 2 “Findings of fact of the bankruptcy court are reviewed for clear error, and 3 conclusions of law are reviewed de novo. Mixed questions of law and fact are reviewed 4 de novo.” Harkey v. Grobstein (In re Point Ctr. Fin., Inc.), 957 F.3d 990, 995 (9th Cir. 5 2020) (citations omitted). 6 considerable deference and are only clearly erroneous if [the reviewing court is] left with 7 a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been committed.” Nichols v. Marana 8 Stockyard & Livestock Mkt., Inc. (In re Nichols), 618 B.R. 1, 5 (9th Cir. B.A.P. 2020). This 9 Court may affirm a decision on any basis supported by the record. Id. 10 III. The bankruptcy court’s “findings of fact are accorded DISCUSSION 11 Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure 8002 requires a party to file a notice of 12 appeal with the clerk within fourteen (14) “days of the date of the entry of the judgment, 13 order, or decree appealed from.” Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8002(a); see also Fed. R. Bankr. P. 14 9021 (“A judgment or order is effective when entered under Rule 5003.”). “The provisions 15 of Bankruptcy Rule 8002 are jurisdictional; the untimely filing of a notice of appeal 16 deprives the appellate court of jurisdiction to review the bankruptcy court’s order.” In re 17 Mouradick, 13 F.3d 326, 327 (9th Cir. 1994). “A request to extend the time for filing a 18 notice of appeal must be made by written motion filed before the time for filing a notice of 19 appeal has expired, except that such a motion filed not later than 20 days after the expiration 20 of the time for filing a notice of appeal may be granted upon a showing of excusable 21 neglect.” Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8002(c)(2). 22 As previously discussed, the Bankruptcy Court granted Appellee’s motion to strike 23 on April 22, 2022. Thus, Appellant had until approximately May 6, 2022, to file a notice 24 of appeal challenging this determination. However, Appellant’s notice of appeal was filed 25 and entered on August 5, 2022. (ECF No. 1). Thus, Appellant’s appeal of the April 2022 26 Order is untimely. 27 In its appeal, Appellant seemingly argues that his status as a pro se party, alone, 28 justifies allowing the appeal notwithstanding its untimeliness. See (App. at 15). However, -5-

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