United States District Court, D. Maryland
Stephanie A. Gallagher United States District Judge.
John Kelly Ihejurobi, a debtor in the underlying bankruptcy
case (“Debtor”), appeals an Order entered by
United States Bankruptcy Judge Robert A. Gordon on May 6,
2019 (“the Order”), overruling Debtor's
objection to a claim filed by secured creditor Wells Fargo
Bank, N.A. (“Wells Fargo”). ECF 7. The facts and
legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and
record, rendering oral argument unnecessary. See
Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8019(b)(3); Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018).
For the reasons that follow, the Bankruptcy Court's Order
will be affirmed.
several prior bankruptcy petitions, on March 14, 2018, Debtor
filed a voluntary petition, under Chapter 13 of the
bankruptcy code, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for
the District of Maryland. ECF 2-1. He filed his Chapter 13
Plan (“the Plan”) on April 6, 2018. ECF 2-26.
Specifically, in the section of Schedule D calling for a list
of creditors who have claims secured by property, the Debtor
identified an “unknown” creditor with a claim
secured by 11405 Hunt Crossing Court, Ellicott City,
Maryland, 21042 (“Hunt Crossing”). ECF 2-19. The
Debtor asserted that the amount of the “unknown”
creditor's claim, and the value of Hunt Crossing, were
both $1.7 million. Id. He noted that the claim was
incurred in March, 2008, and that it was related to an
agreement “such as a mortgage, ” but further
noted that the claim was “disputed.” Id.
April 24, 2018, Wells Fargo filed an objection to the Plan,
because it did not provide adequate protection to Wells Fargo
as a secured creditor. ECF 2-38. On May 1, 2018, the Debtor
filed an Amended Schedule D, still listing the claim as
“disputed” and the creditor as “unknown,
” but reducing the declared value of Hunt Crossing to
only $900, 000.00. ECF 2-39. Nine days later, Wells Fargo
filed a Proof of Claim (“POC”), asserting a total
indebtedness of $1, 765, 680.27 for the mortgage on Hunt
Crossing, and a total pre-petition arrearage of $739, 698.87.
ECF 2-140 at 3.
24, 2018, the Debtor filed an objection to Wells Fargo's
POC. ECF 2-63. The Court filed a deficiency notice, ECF 2-64,
and eventually struck the objection following Debtor's
failure to correct the deficiency, ECF 2-70. The Bankruptcy
Court held hearings relating to the POC on November 14, 2018,
ECF 2-112, and December 14, 2018, ECF 2-120. Following those
hearings, the Bankruptcy Court issued an Opinion (“the
Opinion”) and Order on May 6, 2019. ECF 2-140; 2-141.
9, 2019, Debtor noted the instant appeal from the Order. ECF
1. Debtor filed his opening brief on July 8, 2019, ECF 7;
Wells Fargo filed a responsive brief on August 2, ECF 9; and
the Debtor filed a reply on August 23, ECF 10.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court reviews a bankruptcy court's findings of
fact for clear error, and its conclusions of law de
novo. See In re Official Comm. of Unsecured
Creditors for Dornier Aviation (N. Am.), Inc., 453 F.3d
225, 231 (4th Cir. 2006). “The Supreme Court of the
United States has held that ‘[a] finding is
“clearly erroneous” when although there is
evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire
evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a
mistake has been committed.'” In re
Fitzwater, No. 2:11-cv-00934, 2012 WL 4339559, at *2
(S.D. W.Va. Sept. 21, 2012) (quoting United States v.
U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)); In re
Broyles, 55 F.3d 980, 983 (4th Cir. 1995). On questions
of law, this Court makes “an independent determination
of the applicable law.” In re Fabian, 475 B.R.
463, 467 (D. Md. 2012) (quoting In re Jeffrey Bigelow
Design Grp., Inc., 127 B.R. 580, 582 (D. Md. 1991)).
With respect to the bankruptcy court's application of law
to the facts, the standard of review is abuse of discretion.
Id. (citing In re Robbins, 964 F.2d 342,
345 (4th Cir. 1992)).
to Debtor, who is represented by the same counsel who
represented him in the Bankruptcy Court, the sole issue
presented on appeal is, “Did the bankruptcy court err
in ‘allowing a claim' which was earlier discharged
in a Chapter 7 case?” ECF 7 at 4. Debtor argues,
without citing any case law to support the proposition, that
his discharge following his Chapter 7 filing in September,
2015, in which Wells Fargo was listed as a creditor, barred
the POC Wells Fargo filed in his 2018 Chapter 13 petition.
Id. at 5-6. He concludes: “The appellee is not
entitled to any payment in the current Chapter 13 plan.
Appellee [sic] claim is barred pursuant [sic] 11 U.S.C.
§ 524 and § 727. Bankruptcy Court made an err [sic]
by allowing a discharged claim.” Id. at
for Debtor raised the same contention repeatedly before the
Bankruptcy Court. At the first hearing, on November 14, 2018,
when Counsel argued that the debt had been discharged, the
Court responded: “[Wells Fargo] has a lien against the
real estate. The lien doesn't get discharged. . . .
Don't make ridiculous arguments.” ECF 2-112 at
9:5-9. At the second hearing, on December 14, 2018, the
Bankruptcy Court expressly rejected the argument as
You said the debt has been discharged in his prior
bankruptcy. Which is the same thing that you said before and
that objection was stricken because you didn't follow
through on what the deficiency notice told you to do. . . .
Say because it is discharged. Stop saying that. . . . This
discharge argument is completely frivolous. . . . The lien is
still attached to the property and [Wells Fargo has] the
right to enforce it. And the case law on that is absolutely
legion, it is beneath Bankruptcy 101.
ECF 2-120 at 5:6-6:4. The Bankruptcy Court's May 6, 2019
Opinion and Order allowed Wells Fargo's POC and granted
Wells Fargo relief from the stay. ECF 2-140; 2-141. The
Opinion noted that the Claim Objection the Debtor filed after
the November hearing included the same “frivolous
assertion that because the indebtedness included in the POC
had been discharged, the POC was filed in contempt and was
‘unenforceable.'” ECF 2-140 at 7. The Opinion
described the contention as “wholly and completely
without merit, ” cited the governing Supreme Court
decision, and noted that it “has been settled
bankruptcy law for ...