United States District Court, D. Maryland
PAUL C. CLARK, SR., et al., Appellants,
MONIQUE S. ALMY, Appellees.
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
appeal results from the reorganization of the Council of Unit
Owners of The 100 Harborview Drive Condominium
(“Reorganized Debtor” or “Council”)
in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings before the United States
Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland
(“Bankruptcy Court”). The Bankruptcy Court
awarded damages to Paul C. Clark, Sr., Rebecca Delorme, and
Paul C. Clark, Jr. (“Appellants” or
“Creditors”) during the Chapter 11 reorganization
process. Monique Almy (“Almy” or “Plan
Officer”) and the Reorganized Debtor (together
“Appellees”) sought a clarification that the
Bankruptcy Court's damages award did not address
Appellants' responsibility for paying assessment fees at
the condominium. The Bankruptcy Court issued an Order, as
requested by Appellees (“Clarification Order”). I
have reviewed Appellees' Motion to Dismiss,
4, Appellants' brief, ECF 12, Appellees' brief, ECF
18, and Appellants' reply brief, ECF 20. No. hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For
the reasons set forth below, Appellees' Motion to Dismiss
is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part, and the Bankruptcy
Court's decision is AFFIRMED.
Debtor is an unincorporated condominium association comprised
of “any person, firm, corporation, trust, or other
legal entity … holding title to a condominium
unit” located at 100 Harborview Drive, a 29-story
luxury residential high rise at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
ECF 18 at 2. Reorganized Debtor filed a petition for Chapter
11 bankruptcy on March 9, 2016. Id. It sought
Chapter 11 reorganization in part to resolve years of
litigation involving two units in the building. See
Id. Appellant Paul C. Clark is the owner of one of those
units, a penthouse (“Unit PH4A”), located in the
high rise. ECF 12 at 2. The Council and the Creditors have an
extensive, decade-long litigation history concerning Unit
PH4A. See ECF 3-1 at 2 n.3 (noting that the parties
stipulated at trial to their extensive litigation history).
filed several claims against the Council as part of the
Chapter 11 process, collectively asserting more than $25
million in damages. ECF 3-1 at 10. The claims related to
prepetition litigation between the parties, alleging
violations of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”),
property damage to Unit PH4A, and consequential and other
damages allegedly resulting from these claims. Id.
The Council filed objections to these claims, and Appellants,
correspondingly, filed an opposition to the objections.
Id. at 3 n.4. After a multi-day trial, the
Bankruptcy Court issued its Preliminary Order on April 10,
2018. Id. at 3. On the same day, the Bankruptcy
Court issued its order (“Confirmation Order”)
confirming the Council's Fifth Amended Plan of
Reorganization (“Confirmed Plan”). Id.
Confirmed Plan established Reorganized Debtor's
obligations with respect to several classes of creditors. For
instance, the Plan identified Appellants as Class 7
creditors. In the Preliminary Damages Order, the Bankruptcy
Court found that the Council had breached its contract with
Appellants, and awarded Appellants $731, 000 as “set
damages, ” plus $6, 000 per month in “ongoing
damages.” ECF 3-1 at 2. However, the court held a
further evidentiary hearing on the status of repair and
remediation of the unit. Id. at 3. After this
hearing, the Bankruptcy Court issued its Final Order
regarding Appellants' damages claims on October 16, 2018.
Id. The Court maintained the set damages amount at
$731, 000, and finalized the ongoing damages at $19, 552, for
a total aggregate amount of $750, 552. Id.
Confirmed Plan, the court appointed Monique Almy as Plan
Officer. Id. at 1. She was responsible for
implementing the Plan with respect to Class 7 claims.
Id. On April 5, 2019, Almy, in her capacity as Plan
Officer, filed a Motion for Clarification with the Bankruptcy
Court. ECF 4-1. Almy contended that Dr. Clark underpaid
assessment fees from October, 2017 through August, 2018, and
refused to pay assessment fees for June and October, 2018.
ECF 4-1 at 2. According to Reorganized Debtor, Dr. Clark owed
$13, 925.56 in total for unpaid assessments. Id. As
his defense, Dr. Clark took the position that the Bankruptcy
Court had explicitly rejected any arguments regarding amounts
of unpaid assessments. See ECF 4-1 at 3 (summarizing
letter from Dr. Clark's counsel regarding unpaid fees).
Accordingly, the Plan Officer sought for the Bankruptcy Court
to determine whether its prior orders had resolved
Appellants' liability to pay assessments relating to Unit
PH4A. See generally ECF 4-1. The Bankruptcy Court
granted the motion for clarification on May 1, 2019, and
confirmed that its prior orders did not address the
Creditors' obligation to pay assessments. See
Order Granting Plan Officer's Motion for Clarification,
timely filed their notice of appeal, with respect to the
Clarification Order (“Order”), on May 16, 2019.
ECF 1. However, Appellants filed their supporting brief on
July 11, 2019, ECF 12, which was six days after the deadline
imposed by Bankruptcy Rule 8018. The Plan Officer filed a
Motion to Dismiss the appeal, claiming (1) the appeal is not
ripe for judicial review and (2) the appeal brief was
untimely under Rule 8018 and Local Rule 404.3. ECF 4.
court has jurisdiction to hear appeals from final orders of
the bankruptcy court. 28 U.S.C. § 158. On appeal from
the bankruptcy court, the district 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 Johnson, 960 F.2d 396, 399 (4th Cir. 1992).
contend that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
because the Clarification Order is not ripe for review. ECF 4
at 3-4. Because ripeness concerns the Article III case or
controversy requirement, I address it first. See
DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 352 (2006)
(stating ripeness “originates” from Article
III's case or controversy language). The doctrine of
ripeness “prevents judicial consideration of issues
until a controversy is presented in ‘clean-cut and
concrete form.'” Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d
312, 318-19 (4th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). In
determining whether a case is ripe for judicial review,
courts “balance ‘the fitness of the issues for
judicial decision with the hardship to the parties of
withholding court consideration.'” Id. at
319 (quoting Franks v. Ross, 313 F.3d 184, 194 (4th
case, the ripeness issue is best understood by parsing the
issues being appealed. First, Appellants argue that the
Bankruptcy Court erroneously determined, in the Clarification
Order, that its prior orders did not address payment of
assessments. In other words, Appellants take the position
that any claim for unpaid assessments is “claim
precluded” by the Court's Preliminary Damages Order
and Final Damages Order. Second, Appellants contend that
Reorganized Debtor was required to bring any claim for
underpaid assessments as a compulsory counterclaim in the
Chapter 11 proceedings. Deciding the first question does not
depend on any future uncertainty, rendering it reviewable by
this Court. However, the issue ...