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Mustafa v. Branigan

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 16, 2017

FATIMA MUSTAFA, Pro Se Debtor-Appellant
v.
TIMOTHY P. BRANIGAN Trustee-Appellee FATIMA MUSTAFA, Pro Se Debtor-Appellant
v.
TIMOTHY P. BRANIGAN Trustee-Appellee

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro Se Debtor-Appellant Fatima Mustafa appealed four orders issued in a single bankruptcy proceeding, In re Fatima Mustafa, Ch. 13 Case No. TJC 15-20053 (Bankr. D. Md.), which were docketed in this Court as four separate cases. See Civ. Nos. PJM 16-494, PJM 16-523, PJM 16-3828, PJM 16-4007. The Court has already considered and affirmed the Bankruptcy Court with respect to two appeals of lift-stay orders pertaining to post-foreclosure proceedings on two residential properties. See Mustafa v. PennyMac Corp. by PennyMac Loan Servs., LLC, No. CV PJM 16-494, 2017 WL 1176057 (D. Md. Mar. 29, 2017).

         The Court now addresses the other two appeals, both of which relate to orders dismissing the underlying bankruptcy. In Civ. No. PJM 16-3828 Mustafa v. Branigan, she seeks relief from the Bankruptcy Court's Order dismissing the proceeding, see ECF No. 1-1, and in Civ. No PJM 16-4007 Mustafa v. Branigan, she seeks relief from the Bankruptcy Court's Order denying her motion to reinstate the bankruptcy case. ECF No. 1-1.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the orders of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland in both cases.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mustafa filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief on July 20, 2015, which was voluntarily converted into a Chapter 13 case a month later. ECF No. 1-1, at 1. Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code allows an individual with a regular income to pay some or all of her debts over 3-5 years and keep some or all of her property by developing and complying with a payment plan under the supervision of a Chapter 13 trustee. See 11 U.S.C. § 1322. Mustafa was represented by counsel in the bankruptcy proceeding but in this Court she is acting pro se.

         The facts of the case are uncomplicated and, it appears, undisputed in this Court. According to an opinion written by Bankruptcy Judge Catliota who presided over the case, four creditors held claims against Mustafa totaling $46, 000, whose monthly net income after expenses was determined to be $3, 370. Civ. No. PJM 16-4007, ECF No. 1-1, at 1.

         Mustafa did not appear at two separate meetings with creditors in 2016, spurring the Chapter 13 Trustee, Thomas Branigan, to file two motions to dismiss the proceedings. See Bankr. No. TJC 15-20053, ECF Nos. 44, 86. Both were denied by the Bankruptcy Court. Id. at 51, 121. But, for more than a year, Mustafa also failed to submit critical records to Branigan, including tax returns, bank statements, and proof of her husband's and son's social security status. Civ. No. PJM 16-4007, ECF No. 1-1. Mustafa does not dispute that she failed to submit this material, though she submits that eventually, on September 3, 2016, she did submit them. ECF No. 2-6 at 3.

         The most prominent cause of delay, however, was that for a year into her case, Mustafa proposed three different Chapter 13 plans, none of which was deemed suitable for confirmation by the Bankruptcy Court. See Civ. No. PJM 16-4007, ECF No. 1-2. Judge Catliota ultimately gave Mustafa “one last chance” to amend her plan by August 26, 2016. Civ. No. PJM 16-3828, ECF No. 1-1, at 3. On August 23, 2016, she filed an amended plan, but on October 3, 2016, the Bankruptcy Court declined to confirm it. Civ. No. PJM 16-4007, ECF No. 1-2. Then, with extraordinarily tender mercy, the Bankruptcy Court gave Mustafa until October 21, 2016 to file yet another plan, warning that:

[I]f within the time granted for amendment the Debtor(s) fail(s) to file an Amended Plan, voluntarily dismiss this case, or the case is not converted to a case under another chapter, the court may reconvert this case to a case under Chapter 7 or dismiss this case, without further notice or hearing, because of Debtor's failure to prosecute the case.

Civ. No. PJM 16-4007, ECF No. 1-1, at 3. On October 21, 2016, Mustafa filed a motion to extend the time to file her final plan, which the Bankruptcy Court, with continuous generous solicitude, granted, giving her an extension until November 12, 2016. Id.

         Ten days after that deadline had passed, without receiving a filing from Mustafa, Judge Catliota dismissed her Chapter 13 case, citing his October 3, 2016 order. Civ No. PJM 16-3828, ECF No. 1-1. That same day, Mustafa filed a Motion to Reinstate Chapter 13 Case (“Motion to Reinstate”). Civ. No. PJM 16-4007, ECF No. 2-4 at 2.

         Then, while the Motion to Reinstate was pending before the Bankruptcy Court, Mustafa appealed the Order of Dismissal that the Motion to Reinstate was based on. That appeal was docketed in this Court as Civ. No. PJM 16-3828.

         On December 1, 2016, Judge Catliota denied the Motion to Reinstate. Civ. No. PJM 16-4007, ECF No. 2-5, an order that Mustafa appealed as well. That appeal was ...


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