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ROBINSON v. BELOM

May 19, 2003

SIMEON ROBINSON, APPELLANT, VS. JOHN BELOM, AS TRUSTEE OF THE LFG LIQUIDATION TRUST, APPELLEE.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This is an appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court. On November 15, 2002, the bankruptcy court denied Simeon Robinson's motion for an extension of time to appeal an order issued by the court on October 16, 2002. The October 16 order denied Robinson's second motion to reconsider the court's May 7, 2002 decision to deny his claim against LFG's bankruptcy estate. Robinson now appeals from the bankruptcy court's November 15, 2002 order. John Belom, trustee of the LFG Liquidation Trust, and the appellee here, has moved to dismiss the appeal. Belom contends that Robinson is improperly seeking review of the court's May 7, 2002 denial of his bankruptcy claim, and that he has raised no issues on appeal relating to the court's November 15 decision denying Robinson's motion for extension of time. For the reasons stated below, we agree that Robinson's appeal is improper.

Factual Background

Though Robinson's appeal concerns only the issue of whether the bankruptcy court properly denied the Motion for Extension of Time to Appeal filed by Robinson on November 8, 2002, we cannot properly address Belom's motion to dismiss without reference to facts that have developed over the course of an ongoing dispute between Robinson and the former debtor in bankruptcy, LFG, LLC. The following facts provide some context for the appeal now before the court.

On May 24, 2000, Simeon Robinson filed a reparations complaint against LFG, LLC and several other defendants before the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. See R., Bankr. Dkt. #311, Ex. A (July 2, 2001 opinion of ALJ Levine dismissing with prejudice Robinson's reparations complaint) at 6. He alleged that LFG, as the guarantor for a commodities trading brokerage, mishandled an options and futures account that Robinson had maintained from September through December of 1999. Id. at 2. He sought over $359,000 in damages. Id. at 10. On April 9, 2001, however, LFG filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, and was dismissed from the case without prejudice. Belom's Mot. ¶¶ 1-2. On July 2, 2001, Robinson's reparations complaint was dismissed with prejudice as to all of the remaining defendants. R. Bankr. Dkt. #311, Ex. A.

In the meantime, Robinson pursued his claim against LFG in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. On May 17, 2001, he filed a proof of claim against LFG's estate, claiming that the CFTC had actually granted him a reparations award against LFG in the amount of $359,400.35. Supp. R., Ex. 21 (Robinson's Proof of Claim). LFG filed an objection, and on May 7, 2002, the bankruptcy court issued an order disallowing Robinson's claim and barring any future claim that he might file against the estate. Robinson did not seek to appeal the denial of his claim, and his last possible opportunity to do so (assuming extensions had been sought and granted) expired on June 6, 2002. See F.R.Bankr.P. 8002. On June 6, 2002, however, Robinson filed a motion for reconsideration of the May 7 order. That motion was denied on June 26, 2002. Robinson did not file a notice of appeal following the denial. On October 8, 2002, Robinson again moved for reconsideration of the court's May 7 order. That motion was denied on October 16, 2002.

On November 8, 2002, Robinson filed a notice of appeal from the court's October 16 order denying his second motion for reconsideration. Because the time for appealing the order had expired, Robinson also submitted a motion for extension of time to file his notice of appeal. Following a hearing, on November 15, 2002, the bankruptcy court denied Robinson's motion to extend time. The appeal currently before this Court concerns this last order: the bankruptcy court's November 15, 2002 order denying Robinson's motion for extension of time. In his response to Belom's motion to dismiss the appeal, however, Robinson raises issues related to some additional procedural history in this case which we should explore briefly.

On January 17, 2003, the bankruptcy court issued an order imposing sanctions on Robinson and a third party, Ray Pratt, for their actions during the administration of LFG's bankruptcy case. The court determined that Robinson and Pratt had engaged in "vexatious, unreasonable, frivolous and serial bad faith behavior." Order of Jan. 17, 2003, Bankr. Dkt. #605. Robinson and Pratt were given 7 days to pay $58,927.50 in sanctions assessed against them jointly and severally. Id. On March 6, 2003, because they had failed to pay the sanctions, the court held both Robinson and Pratt in civil contempt, assessed against them an additional $2,500 in sanctions, and ordered a body attachment with bail set at $50,000. Order of March 6, 2003, Bankr. Dkt. #653. Additional sanctions were later issued against Pratt. On April 18, 2002, the court determined that Pratt, a layperson unauthorized to practice law, had provided legal assistance to Robinson in matters before the court. Order of April 18, 2002, Bankr. Dkt. #381. The order prohibited Pratt from preparing any "pleading, objection, motion, or other document" on behalf of Robinson or any other party in interest to the bankruptcy case. Id. On March 6, 2003, the court issued an order holding Pratt in contempt for his continued unauthorized practice of law. Order of March 6, 2003, Bankr. Dkt. #654. The court directed Pratt to pay $10,000 in sanctions and ordered a body attachment with bail set at $50,000. Id.

In his response to Belom's motion to dismiss, Robinson seeks to amend his notice of appeal to include a review of the bankruptcy court's January 17, 2003 order imposing sanctions. In addition, Pratt has filed several papers before this Court, adopting the caption and case number assigned to Robinson's appeal, and seeking relief from each set of sanctions and contempt orders entered against him.

Discussion

Belom's motion, along with the various papers filed by Robinson and Pratt in response, has brought to our attention several concerns related to Robinson's appeal. The primary issue before the Court, however, is whether the appeal should be dismissed, and we address that question first.

I. Robinson's Appeal

As the notice of appeal makes plain, Robinson has appealed the Bankruptcy Court's order of November 15, 2002. That order denied Robinson's November 8, 2002 motion for extension of time to file a notice of appeal from the court's October 16, 2002 order denying Robinson's second motion for reconsideration. The basis for the bankruptcy court's November 15, 2002 decision appears, in part, on the face of the order, which states: "For the reasons stated in open Court, including but not limited to Movant's failure to comply with Rules 8002(a) and 8002(c), the motion is denied." R., Bankr. Dkt. #568. Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 8002(a) provides that a "notice of appeal shall be filed with the clerk within 10 days of the date of the entry of the judgment, order, or decree appealed from." A motion to extend the time for filing a notice of appeal must be made before the time for filing a notice of appeal has expired, "except that such a motion filed not later than 20 days after the expiration of the time for filing a notice of appeal may be granted upon a showing of excusable neglect." F.R.Bankr.P. 8002(c). The record on appeal shows that Robinson's November 8, 2002 motion for extension of time to appeal the court's order of October 16 was filed after the 10 day period provided for by Rule 8000(a), but within the additional 20 day window provided for by Rule 8000(c) during which the bankruptcy court has discretionary authority to grant a motion to extend. See R., Bankr. Dkt. ##550, 564. A transcript of the hearing on Robinson's motion before Bankruptcy Judge Black, however, reveals that the bankruptcy court decided that Robinson had not shown excusable neglect and, therefore denied his motion to extend as untimely. Supp. R., Transcript of Proceedings Before Judge Black, November 13, 2002, pp. 6-7.

Given the basis for the bankruptcy court's order, there are a limited number of issues that Robinson might raise on appeal. The most obvious question would appear to be whether the bankruptcy court abused its discretion by deciding that Robinson did not satisfy his burden of showing excusable neglect. See, e.g., In re Singson, 41 F.3d 316, 320 (7th Cir. 1994) (applying abuse of discretion standard to review bankruptcy court's determination that a party failed to show excusable neglect); Pearson v. Gatto, 933 F.2d 521, 524 (7th Cir. 1991) ("[w]e review a district court's decision to grant or deny a motion for extension of time to file a notice of appeal for abuse of discretion"). In any event, to challenge the bankruptcy court's November 15 order, Robinson must direct this Court's attention to some alleged error in that ruling or the process that led to its issuance. He has failed to do so. Though Robinson has submitted a statement of issues on appeal as required by Bankruptcy Rule 8006, none of the 12 issues he identifies relates to the bankruptcy court's decision to deny his motion for extension of time. Rather, most of them concern the merits of his claim against LFG's bankruptcy estate. See Appellant's Stmt. of Issues, 1, 3-8, 11.*fn1 The remaining issues are really fraud allegations against LFG and its estate. Id. at 2, 9-10, 12.*fn2 Robinson's appellate brief does nothing to remedy this problem. Instead, the brief is devoted to lengthy ...


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