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Tshiani v. Monahan

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

June 18, 2015

NOEL K. TSHIANI, APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN C. MONAHAN, APPELLEE

For Noel Tshiani, Appellant: Marc L Jordan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jordan and Tell LLP, Columbia, MD.

For John Monahan, Appellee: Alvin I Frederick, Lauren Elizabeth Marini, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Eccleston and Wolf PC, Hanover, MD.

For Noel Tshiani, Chapter 7, Debtor: Marc L Jordan, Jordan and Tell LLP, Columbia, MD.

For Roger Schlossberg, Chapter 7, Trustee: Roger Schlossberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, Schlossberg and Associates, Hagerstown, MD.

Page 507

MEMORANDUM OPINION

George J. Hazel, United States District Judge.

This case is before the Court on appeal from the order of Bankruptcy Judge Paul Mannes dismissing Noel Tshiani's (" Tshiani's" ) adversary complaint against a court-appointed trustee, John Monahan (" Monahan" ). See ECF Nos. 1-12, 1-13. Oral argument is deemed unnecessary because the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and records, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. See Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8012; see also Loc. R. 105.6 (Md.). For the reasons stated below, the Court will AFFIRM the Bankruptcy Court's order dismissing Tshiani's adversary complaint against Monahan.

I. BACKGROUND

On March 28, 2014, Tshiani filed a case under Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. See ECF No. 1-5 at ¶ 6. Upon the filing of Tshiani's bankruptcy petition, all acts to obtain possession of property from his estate were automatically stayed pursuant to § 362 of the Bankruptcy Code. See 11 U.S.C. § 362; see also ECF No. 1-5 at ¶ 7. Tshiani's Chapter 13 case was ultimately converted to a Chapter 7 proceeding on May 7, 2014. ECF No. 1-12 at 6.[1]

Prior to the filing of Tshiani's bankruptcy case, he was involved in a lengthy and acrimonious divorce proceeding with his ex-wife, Marie Ntumba (" Ntumba" ). See id. at 3-7. As a result of that proceeding, Ntumba was awarded a monetary judgment that Tshiani would satisfy through a division of marital property, including the marital home (the " Property" ). See id. On September 26, 2012, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland (" Circuit Court" ) -- the court presiding over Tshiani's divorce proceeding -- appointed Monahan as trustee to sell the Property in order to collect the debt Tshiani owed to Ntumba. See id. at 5.

Page 508

Tshiani failed to cooperate with Monahan's efforts to sell the Property, and, as a result, the Circuit Court entered a number of orders compelling Tshiani's cooperation. See ECF 1-8 at 2-61. Due to Tshiani's repeated failures to cooperate, the Circuit Court held a civil contempt hearing on April 25, 2014 (a month after the automatic stay went into effect) and held the matter under advisement. See id. at 54. On May 1, 2014, the Circuit Court found Tshiani in contempt and imposed a suspended sentence and fine. See id. at 55-56. On May 2, 2014, the Circuit Court entered an Amended Contempt Order, finding Tshiani in constructive contempt of the Circuit Court for his willful violation of a Court Order entered by Judge Robert Greenberg on February 4, 2014, which required Tshiani to vacate the Property. See id at 75-77.

Shortly thereafter, Tshiani filed an Ex Parte Motion for Stay Pending Appeal. See id. at 79-113. On May 8, 2014, the Circuit Court heard argument on Tshiani's ex parte motion and held that the Amended Contempt Order was exempt from the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. § 362 because the Order did not affect any property that was the subject of the bankruptcy estate and the order was entered to protect the dignity of the Circuit Court. See id. Then, on July 1, 2014, the Bankruptcy Court lifted the automatic stay due to Tshiani's " ongoing contempt of the state court order [requiring Monahan to sell the Property], his failure to make required payments to the mortagee as demonstrated by the statement from Bank of America [], as well as the absence of opposition from the Chapter 7 Trustee." ECF No. 1-18 at 2. Accordingly, the Bankruptcy Court " terminate[d] the automatic stay so as to permit [Monahan] to proceed with his efforts to sell the [P]roperty, subject to the proviso that any funds received from the sale in excess of all valid liens and expenses of sale be turned over to the Chapter 7 Trustee to be administered by him." Id.

On July 31, 2014, Tshiani filed an adversary complaint against Monahan alleging that the contempt proceedings, which occurred after the automatic stay went into effect, were a violation of the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. § 362. See ECF No. 1-5. Monahan moved to dismiss the adversary action on September 5, 2014. See ECF No. 1-6. Following a hearing, the Bankruptcy Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order on October 30, 2014, dismissing the Complaint. See ECF Nos. 1-12; 1-13. Specifically, the Bankruptcy Court held that (1) it did not have jurisdiction over Monahan, a trustee appointed by another court, where Tshiani failed to obtain leave of the Circuit Court to bring a claim against that court's trustee; and (2) there was no violation of the automatic stay in the contempt action that was directed at Tshiani's actions ...


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