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Robertson v. Grigsby

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 6, 2018

Keith Robertson
v.
Nancy Spencer Grigsby, Chapter 13 Trustee

          MEMORANDUM

          CATHERINE C. BLAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Keith Robertson appeals an order of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland denying his motion to reinstate his bankruptcy case under Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure 9023 and 9006(b)(1). (Pet.'s Br. 1). For the reasons stated below, the bankruptcy court's decision will be affirmed.

         Background

         Robertson filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy on June 28, 2017. Within three months, Robertson failed to appear at two scheduled proceedings, prompting filings from the Chapter 13 Trustee, Nancy Spencer Grigsby (“Trustee”), and the bankruptcy court.

         First, the Trustee filed a motion to dismiss on August 21, 2017, after Robertson had to reschedule a meeting with his creditors. The motion claimed that Robertson failed to submit certain documents ahead of the meeting, failed to provide certain required documents, failed to begin payment under his proposed bankruptcy plan, and that the creditor meeting did not occur. (ECF No. 4 (“Record”) at Ex. 16). Robertson claims that although he received the Trustee's motion, and opposed it, he failed to receive notice of the Trustee's response to his opposition. (Pet.'s Br. 2).

         Robertson next missed his Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan confirmation hearing, causing, in part, the bankruptcy court to file an order on September 13, 2017, denying Robertson's proposed bankruptcy plan. (R. at Ex. 20). The court gave Robertson 14 days to convert his case to a different proceeding under the bankruptcy code, or to voluntarily dismiss his case. (Id.) If he did neither, the court warned, it may dismiss Robertson's case for failure to prosecute, without further notice or hearing. (Id.)

         Robertson asked the court to reconsider its order to no avail. (R. at Ex. 21). The Trustee opposed his request noting several violations of the bankruptcy code and that Robertson's proposed plan would not have been confirmable even if he had attended the meeting with the creditors. (R. at Ex. 22). Robertson having neither converted his case nor voluntarily dismissed it, the bankruptcy court made good on its warning and dismissed Robertson's case on October 12, 2017, relying on its prior September 13, 2017, order. (R. at Ex. 24).

         After unsuccessfully moving the bankruptcy court to reinstate his case in October and November of 2017, (R. at Ex. 27, 30), Robertson turned to this court for relief. He filed a notice of his appeal of the bankruptcy court's denial of his motion for reinstatement, (R. at Ex. 32), [1] on November 27, 2017. (R. at Ex. 33).

         Standard of Review

         This court reviews decisions from the bankruptcy courts in the same manner the federal courts of appeals review decisions from the district courts. 28 U.S.C. § 158(c)(2). Thus, legal conclusions are reviewed de novo, factual findings are reviewed for clear error, In re White, 487 F.3d 199, 204 (4th Cir. 2007), and discretionary decisions are reviewed for abuse of discretion. A court “abuses its discretion when it (1) acts arbitrarily, as if neither by rule nor discretion, (2) fails to adequately . . . take into account judicially recognized factors constraining its exercise of discretion, or (3) rests its decision on erroneous factual or legal premises.” U.S. v. Alvarado, 840 F.3d 184, 188-89 (4th Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted).

         Analysis

         Robertson argues that the bankruptcy court's denial of his motion to reinstate his case under Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure 9023 and 9006(b)(1) violated his due process rights, particularly because he is a pro se litigant. He argues that because he did not timely receive the Trustee's response to his opposition to the Trustee's motion to dismiss, he should have been granted more time to comply with the deficiencies the response noted.

         Neither Rule 9023 nor Rule 9006(b)(1) support Robertson's position. Rule 9023 states, with a few inapplicable exceptions, that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 applies to bankruptcy proceedings, and that “[a] motion for a new trial or to alter or amend a judgment shall be filed, and a court may on its own order a new trial, no later than 14 days after entry of judgment.” Fed.R.Bankr.P. 9023. Rule 59 states that a court “may, on motion, grant a new trial . . . for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law . . . or . . . a suit in equity in federal court.” Fed. R. Civ. P 59. And Rule 9006(b)(1) instructs that:

[W]hen an act is required or allowed to be done at or within a specified period by these rules or by a notice given thereunder or by order of court, the court for cause shown may at any time in its discretion (1) with or without motion or notice order the period enlarged if the request therefor is made before the expiration of the period originally prescribed or as extended by a previous order or (2) on motion made after the expiration of ...

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