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In Re Jones Case No. 06-01093 Doc 153 Supplemental Memorandum Opinion 29 Aug 2007

In Re Jones Case No. 06-01093 Doc 153 Supplemental Memorandum Opinion 29 Aug 2007

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This is the opinion originally awarding sanctions in the case In Re Michael L. Jones, Case No. 06-01093, a bankruptcy matter before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The opinion is dated August 29, 2007, and was signed by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Magner. Debtor Michael L. Jones was awarded $67,202.45 in sanctions for his attorneys' fees and costs against Wells Fargo Bank in respect of that entity's willful violation of the automatic stay and other violations. The judgment also directed that Wells Fargo implement corrective reforms of its accounting and bankruptcy claims procedures nationally.
This is the opinion originally awarding sanctions in the case In Re Michael L. Jones, Case No. 06-01093, a bankruptcy matter before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The opinion is dated August 29, 2007, and was signed by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Magner. Debtor Michael L. Jones was awarded $67,202.45 in sanctions for his attorneys' fees and costs against Wells Fargo Bank in respect of that entity's willful violation of the automatic stay and other violations. The judgment also directed that Wells Fargo implement corrective reforms of its accounting and bankruptcy claims procedures nationally.

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Published by: William A. Roper Jr. on Apr 08, 2012
Copyright:Public Domain

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01/16/2013

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April 13, 2007, Judgment (P-68) and Memorandum Opinion (P-69).1
UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURTEASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANAIN RE:(NO. 03-16518, SECTION A(MICHAEL L. JONES(CHAPTER 13DEBTOR((MICHAEL L. JONES(ADVERSARY PROCEEDINGPLAINTIFF((CASE NO. 06-01093VERSUS((WELLS FARGO HOME MORTGAGE(DEFENDANT(SUPPLEMENTAL MEMORANDUM OPINION
A trial on the merits was conducted on January 5, 2007. At the conclusion of the trial, the parties requested and were granted time to file post-trial briefs, after which the Court took the matter under advisement.On April 13, 2007, this Court rendered a partial judgment on the merits of the Complaint(“Partial Judgment”). In the Partial Judgment, the Court reserved for later determination, the claimsof Michael L. Jones (“Debtor”) against Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (“Wells Fargo”) seekingdamages and sanctions.
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The Court directed Debtor’s counsel to submit, prior to the hearing onDebtor’s request for sanctions and damages, an affidavit of legal fees and costs incurred inconnection with the proceeding. Counsel were given the opportunity to brief the issues, and ahearing on Debtor’s request for sanctions and damages was held on May 29, 2007.On May 10, 2007, Wells Fargo filed a Notice of Appeal of the Partial Judgment (“Notice of Appeal”).
Case 06-01093 Doc 153 Filed 08/29/07 Entered 08/29/07 14:54:42 Main DocumentPage 1 of 16
Posted To Scribd as a Public Service by William A. Roper, Jr.
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Imposed pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 362.
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Trial Transcript, January 5, 2007. 127:3-128:6.
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Filed April 25, 2007 (P-77).
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The original hearing was continued at the request of Wells Fargo in order toaccommodate the availability of witnesses. This Supplemental Memorandum Opinion wasfurther delayed at the request of the parties while settlement negotiations were explored. Havingtried unsuccessfully to amicably resolve their differences, the parties informed the Court that a judicial decision would be required.2Subject Matter JurisdictionDebtor’s request for sanctions and damages is based on allegations, which this Court has previously found to be true, of Wells Fargo’s willful violation of the automatic stay
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and theconfirmation order entered in this case. Wells Fargo begins its defense by averring that subjectmatter jurisdiction is lacking as a result of its appeal of the Partial Judgment.At the trial on the merits, both parties requested that the presentation of evidence on theamount of damages incurred or the availability of sanctions be deferred. The Court granted therequest, severing for later determination the appropriateness of assessing sanctions and awardingdamages .
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Upon finding that a violation of the automatic stay had occurred, the Partial Judgmentdirected Debtor to file an affidavit itemizing all fees and costs incurred in connection with the stayviolation. The Partial Judgment also set forth a schedule for additional briefing on the issue and setan evidentiary hearing.Prior to the final hearing on this matter, Wells Fargo filed its Notice of Appeal. Upon thefiling of the Notice of Appeal, Debtor filed a Motion for Sanctions,
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separate and apart from therequest already pending in its Complaint. Both were heard on May 29, 2007.
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Case 06-01093 Doc 153 Filed 08/29/07 Entered 08/29/07 14:54:42 Main DocumentPage 2 of 16
 
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Trial Transcript, May 29, 2007, 18:3-21.
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28 U.S.C. §158(a);
 In re Moody
, 817 F.2d 365, 366 (5
th
Cir. 1987);
Matter of U.S. Abatement Corp.
, 39 F.3d 563, 566 (5
th
Cir. 1994).
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 In re Morrell 
, 880 F.2d 855, 856-57 (5
th
Cir. 1989);
 Abatement,
F.3d at567.3In response to the Motion for Sanctions, as well as in its memorandum on the severed issues,Wells Fargo avers that the Notice of Appeal deprives this Court of subject matter jurisdiction over any determination as to the amount of damages or sanctions available.
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The Bankruptcy Code requires the entry of a final judgment before an appeal may be lodgedunless the district court grants leave to appeal an interlocutory order.
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In
 In re Morrell 
, 880 F.2d 855(5
th
Cir. 1989), the Fifth Circuit held that a civil contempt order is not “final” for purposes of appealunless two actions occur: (1) a finding of contempt is issued, and (2) an appropriate sanction isimposed.
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Determinations of liability without an assessment of damages are as likely to causeduplicative litigation in bankruptcy as they are in civil litigation, and because bankruptcy litigants may appeal to district as well as to appellate courts, the wasteof judicial resources is likely to be greater. The rule for appeals from bankruptcydecisions determining liability but not damages under 28 U.S.C. §158(d) must...bethe same as the rule under [28 U.S.C.] §1291.
Morrell 
, at 856-57.The holding was further solidified by
 In the Matter of United States Abatement Corporation,
39 F.3d 563 (5
th
Cir. 1994). The facts of 
 Abatement 
are almost directly on point.
 Abatement 
involved a claim against a creditor for a stay violation. After finding that the creditor’s conductviolated the automatic stay, the Court ordered the debtor to file an itemization of damages, butconditioned further hearing on request of any party. The creditor filed a motion for reconsideration,followed by a notice of appeal. Thereafter, the Court granted the creditor’s motion for 
Case 06-01093 Doc 153 Filed 08/29/07 Entered 08/29/07 14:54:42 Main DocumentPage 3 of 16

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