Affidavits, judicial notice requests, motions … just pay the damn filing fee…
As a bankruptcy attorney in Mount Vernon, IL for over 25 years, I read through and analyze court rulings throughout the country, as they may be a harbinger of things to come in districts in which I practice and can be used to help Debtors get the financial relief they need.
Valentine v. JP Morgan Chase Bank Nat’l Ass’n (In re Valentine),
2018 WL 3005839 (5th Cir. Jun. 14, 2018).
The issue presented to the Fifth Circuit was whether the district court’s dismissal of a bankruptcy appeal, for want of prosecution, was an abuse of discretion. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, holding the court acted within its discretion.
Beginning in 2011, Dawna Valentine filed a number of lawsuits and initiated numerous bankruptcy proceedings to avoid foreclose and eviction from a property in Texas City, Texas. The issue on appeal derived from the relationship between the latest bankruptcy proceeding and an appeal of a judgement for possession. On January 13, 2017, a motion filed by JP Morgan Chase was granted to lift a bankruptcy stay, which Valentine appealed. On March 23rd, the district court entered a notice of deficiency notifying Valentine that certain required fees had not been paid or arranged to be paid and the failure to fix the deficiencies, within fourteen days, could result in dismissal.
On April 3rd, Valentine submitted a letter to the district court requesting the court consolidate the two cases. The letter also stated she could not afford to pay the fee, should be granted in forma pauperis status, and that all the necessary paperwork had already been submitted. Valentine’s in forma pauperis status request was denied pending the completion of the Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs form. Valentine never submitted the required form but continued to file affidavits, judicial notice requests, and additional motions previously treated as deficient by the district court. On June 21st, the district court denied the consolidation request and warned Valentine both cases would be dismissed for want of prosecution if the deficiencies were not cured by July 7th. Instead of curing the deficiencies, Valentine filed a response restating her position and filed her first notice of appeal to the Fifth Circuit. On July 11th, the case was dismissed and all pending motions were denied as moot.
The Supreme Court has recognized a district court’s “inherent power” to sua sponte dismiss cases to manage its caseload to ensure quick and efficient processing of its cases. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court acted well within its discretion. See Footnote 1
Starting with the March 23rd notice, the district court provided Valentine with two options, pay the required filing fees or submit the form required to continue in forma pauperis. Instead of complying with one of the two options, Valentine chose to file additional motions and judicial notice request that did not cure the deficiencies. The court also gave Valentine numerous warnings of dismissal if the deficiencies continued to go uncured. The record of the court’s continuous warnings and notifications shows that a lesser sanction did not and would not prompt diligent prosecution. Thus, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal and found no abuse of discretion.
Footnote 1 In the Fifth Circuit, dismissals will be affirmed only if there is a clear record of delay or willful conduct by the plaintiff and the district court has determined that a lesser sanction would not result in diligent prosecution or lesser sanctions were given that proved to be “futile”. In re Wood, 199 F. App’x 328, 332 (5th Circ. 2006). Typically, when a dismissal is affirmed there has been intentional conduct causing delay, the plaintiff personally caused a delay, or a defendant has been harmed by a delay. Id.
About the blogger:
Michael Curry of Curry Law Office in Mount Vernon, Illinois (https://michaelcurrylawoffice.com/) has helped thousands of individuals, family and small businesses in southern Illinois find protection under the Bankruptcy Code for almost twenty-five years. He is also available to help individuals and families with their estate planning (wills, power-of-attorney) and real estate and other sales transactions.
He is also the author of books on finance and bankruptcy available on Kindle through Amazon!
Whether you live in Mount Vernon, Salem, Centralia, McLeansboro or anywhere in Southern Illinois call Curry Law Office today at (618) 246-0993 and Finally Be Financially Free!
You can also access my website at https://www.mtvernonbankruptcylawyer.com