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Weekly Summaries Distributed May 27, 2016

In the matter of Castaic Partners II, LLC

Castaic, debtors, challenged the district court's dismissal of this bankruptcy appeal as moot under 11 U.S.C. 363(m). During the pendency of the appeal, the bankruptcy court dismissed the underlying bankruptcy cases as well. Castaic did not appeal those dismissals, and after 14 days, they became final. Therefore, the court concluded that there is no longer any case or controversy, and the court has no power to grant Castaic any effective relief. The court dismissed the appeal as moot under Article III.

Johnson v. Midland Funding, LLC

In Crawford v. LVNV Funding, LLC, the court held that a debt collector violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692e, when it files a proof of claim in a bankruptcy case on a debt that it knows to be time-barred. The district court in these cases interpreted the Crawford ruling as having placed the FDCPA and the Bankruptcy Code in irreconcilable conflict. The court concluded that, although the Code allows all creditors to file proofs of claim in bankruptcy cases, the Code does not at the same time protect those creditors from all liability. A particular subset of creditors - debt collectors - may be liable under the FDCPA for bankruptcy filings they know to be time-barred. Therefore, the court found no irreconcilable conflict between the FDCPA and the Code. The court reversed and remanded.

Morrison Info. v. Members 1st FCU

Morrison Informatics, Inc. (the “Company”) filed a petition for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy relief in September 2009. In May 2011, the Company and two shareholders, who also were officers of the corporation, commenced a civil action in the court of common pleas against Members 1st Federal Credit Union, Mark Zampelli, and Scott Douglass. In the ensuing complaint, the Company and the Shareholders asserted that, beginning sometime after January 2005 and continuing into 2009, the Company’s finance manager, Zampelli, had colluded with a Credit Union relationships officer, Douglass, to embezzle Company funds. The complaint advanced claims against the Credit Union, Zampelli, and Douglass variously sounding in fraud, conversion, civil conspiracy, and negligence. The question this case presented for the Supreme Court's review concerned whether a federal bankruptcy trustee could be substituted as a plaintiff in a civil action previously commenced by the debtor in bankruptcy in a Pennsylvania state court, although the statutory limitations period expired prior to the attempted substitution. "Although we recognize that the interests of a debtor and a trustee may diverge in some respects, we find it most important that trustees’ interests are derivative, and accordingly, they generally cannot assert any greater rights as against defendants than debtors could have in the first instance." The Supreme Court departed from the Superior Court’s focus on the continued “existence” of the Company after the initiation of insolvency proceedings, and the Court rejected a strict rule foreclosing a relation-back approach to substitution of a bankruptcy trustee for a debtor. Instead, the Court held that relation back in favor of a federal bankruptcy trustee was appropriate, at least where the trustee has acted in a reasonably diligent fashion to secure his or her substitution, and there is no demonstrable prejudice to defendants.

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