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Smith-Scott v. Howard Bank

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 18, 2016

ARLENE A. SMITH-SCOTT, Appellant,
v.
HOWARD BANK, Appellee. Bankruptcy No. 14-25022

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Debtor Arlene A. Smith-Scott brings this appeal from two orders of United States Bankruptcy Judge James F. Schneider: (1) the Order Approving Trustee's Motion for Sale of 10 Stanley Drive, Catonsville, Free and Clear of Liens and Encumbrances ("Order Approving Trustee's Motion for Sale") (ECF No. 1-1, B.R. Doc. 273); and (2) the Order Denying the Debtor's Motion to Alter or Amend Order Converting Chapter 11 Case to Chapter 7 ("Order Denying Motion to Alter or Amend") (ECF No. 1-2, B.R. Doc. 274). Both Orders were entered on November 6, 2015. Id.

Currently pending before this Court are: (1) Appellee George W. Liebmann, Chapter 7 Trustee's Motion to Strike Notice of Appeal Insofar as It Relates to Order Denying Amended Motion to Alter or Amend Order Converting Case to Chapter 7 ("Motion to Strike") (ECF No. 2); Appellee George W. Liebmann, Chapter 7 Trustee's Motion to Dismiss Appeal ("Motion to Dismiss") (ECF No. 3); Appellant Arlene A. Smith-Scott's Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss Appeal ("Opposition") (ECF No. 5); Appellant's Motion for Stay Pending Appeal ("Motion to Stay") (ECF No. 11); and Appellee's Second Motion to Dismiss Appeal ("Second Motion to Dismiss") (ECF No. 13).

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a), as Smith-Scott's appeal arises from final orders entered by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland and is brought pursuant to Local Rule 404(1)(a) (D. Md. 2014). Oral argument is deemed unnecessary because the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. See Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8019(b)(3); see also Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, Appellee's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 3) is GRANTED, all other pending motions (ECF Nos. 2, 11, and 13) are MOOT, and the Orders of Bankruptcy Judge James F. Schneider (ECF No. 1-1, B.R. Doc. 273; ECF No. 1-2, B.R. Doc. 274) are AFFIRMED.[1]

BACKGROUND

I. Appeal of Order Approving Trustee's Motion for Sale

On October 1, 2015, Appellee filed a Motion for Sale of 10 Stanley Drive, Catonsville Free and Clear of Liens and Encumbrances.[2] (B.R. Doc. 257.) The Motion for Sale was fully briefed, and on November 6, 2015, Judge Schneider issued the Order Approving Trustee's Motion for Sale. (B.R. Doc. 273.) The Order stated that buyers were already under contract to purchase the property, and that they are a "good faith purchaser" within the meaning of 11 U.S.C. § 363(m). (ECF No. 1-1, B.R. Doc. 273 at ¶ A, ¶ E.) The sale of the property was completed on November 24, 2015. (ECF No. 13-4, B.R. Doc. 313.) Appellant now challenges the Order Approving Trustee's Motion for Sale.

II. Appeal of Order Denying Motion to Alter or Amend

The background of the second basis for this Appeal is set forth in this Court's Memorandum Opinion dated October 8, 2015 ("Memorandum Opinion"). Smith-Scott v. Patapsco Bank, Civ. No. RDB-15-1013 (ECF No. 10), B.R. No. 14-25022, 2015 WL 5921028 (D. Md. Oct. 8, 2015). In the Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order, this Court affirmed the Amended Order Converting Appellant's Case from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 ("Conversion Order") (B.R. Doc. 141).[3] On October 8, 2015, the same day that the Memorandum Opinion and Order were issued, however, Appellant filed in the Bankruptcy Court a Motion to Alter or Amend the Conversion Order. (B.R. Doc. 260.) With this Court having already affirmed the Bankruptcy Court's Conversion Order, Judge Schneider denied Appellant's Motion to Alter or Amend. (B.R. Doc. 274.) It is this Order Denying Appellant's Motion to Alter or Amend the Conversion Order that Appellant now challenges.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This appeal is brought pursuant to Rule 8001 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. On appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court, this Court acts as an appellate court and reviews the Bankruptcy Court's findings of fact for clear error and conclusions of law de novo. In re Merry-Go-Round Enterprises, Inc., 400 F.3d 219, 224 (4th Cir. 2005); In re Kielisch, 258 F.3d 315, 319 (4th Cir. 2001). A factual finding is clearly erroneous "when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with a firm and definite conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948). "Under the clearly erroneous standard, if the bankruptcy court's factual findings are plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, a reviewing court may not reverse even if it would have weighed the evidence differently." In re Frushour, 433 F.3d 393, 406 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mungo v. Taylor, 355 F.3d 969, 974 (7th Cir. 2004)).

A distinct standard of review applies to Appellant's challenge to the Order Denying Appellant's Motion to Alter or Amend the Conversion Order. "An abuse of discretion standard applies to a bankruptcy court's orders denying either a Rule 60(b) motion, Nat'l Org. for Women v. Operation Rescue, 47 F.3d 667, 669 (4th Cir. 1995), or a Rule 59(e) motion, see EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 116 F.3d 110, 112 (4th Cir. 1997)." In re Xiaolan Zhang, Civ. No. DKC 12-1287, 2012 WL 5200072, at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 19, 2012) (citations in original).

"The brief of the appellant shall contain... [a]n argument... with citations to the authorities, statutes and parts of the record relied on." In re Rood, 482 B.R. 132, 143 (D. Md. 2012) (citing Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8010(a)(1)(E)). "It is not for this court to scour the record in search of potential bases for his arguments." Id. The district court may affirm, modify, or reverse a bankruptcy judge's order, or remand with instructions for further proceedings. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8013; s ee also In re White, 128 ...


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