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Booker v. Myler

May 11, 2006

RALPH BOOKER, APPELLANT,
v.
CHARLES C. MYLER, NOT INDIVIDUALLY BUT SOLELY AS TRUSTEE, APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

This case is before us on appeal from a final judgment of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Appellant Ralph Booker challenges the Bankruptcy Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Charles C. Myler, trustee for the Chapter 7 estate ("Trustee") of Anthony Fields ("Debtor"). In the underlying adversary proceeding, Booker alleged that Debtor fraudulently induced him to convey a parcel of real property, entitling Booker to rescind the transaction and reclaim the deed for the land. The Bankruptcy Court held for Trustee, concluding that Booker's rescission action was untimely and barred by laches. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the decision of the Bankruptcy Court.

I. SUMMARY OF THE FACTS

The essential facts of this case are largely undisputed.*fn1 In June 1999, Booker arranged for execution of a trustee's deed from Cosmopolitan Bank and Trust to convey certain property located on East Oakwood Boulevard in Chicago, Illinois to Debtor. (See also Booker Initial Br. at 3.)

Several months later, in November 1999, Booker and Debtor entered into an oral agreement for payment of that property. Debtor promised to give Booker the following as consideration for the property: (a) $1,000,000 cash, with $100,000 due on June 15, 2000 and the remaining $900,000 payable within 60 days; (b) certificates representing 5% of the equity of Lakeview Real Estate Development Corporation, also due by June 15, 2000; and (c) additional cash payments of $100,000 per year for ten years, to begin upon completion of construction intended for the property. The value of this consideration totaled $2.8 million.

Debtor, however, "never paid Booker any of the purchase price." (Id. at 3.) On June 15, 2000, Debtor tendered a $100,000 check to Booker as "partial payment." On June 27, the check was returned for insufficient funds. Nearly three years later, on February 16, 2003, Debtor issued another check to Booker in the amount of $200,000, for a "deposit on 916 Oakwood." This check was also "Returned Not Paid Because NSF." After learning of the second bounced check, Booker filed a lawsuit in Illinois state court on July 24, 2003, seeking an equitable title rescission and return of the property based on Debtor's alleged fraud.

On May 23, 2003, Debtor filed a Chapter 11 petition, which was subsequently converted to a Chapter 7 proceeding. Trustee brought an adversary proceeding on February 5, 2004 to determine the validity of Booker's interest, along with the interests of other parties asserting liens on the property. Booker filed a counterclaim in early 2005. Trustee filed the motion for summary judgment on September 14, 2005, and the Bankruptcy Court granted that motion on January 11, 2006.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A Bankruptcy Court's grant of summary judgment is reviewed de novo by a district court.

United Air Lines, Inc. v. HSBC Bank USA, 322 B.R. 347, 350 (N.D. Ill. 2005); see Hoseman v. Weinschneider, 322 F.3d 468, 473 (7th Cir. 2003); Outboard Marine Corp. v. Moglia, 278 B.R. 778, 782 (N.D. Ill. 2002). Thus, we must make an independent examination of the Bankruptcy Court's judgment without giving deference to that court's analysis or conclusions. Eden v. Robert A. Chapski, Ltd., No. 03 CV 116, 03 CV 00116, at *2 (N.D. Ill. May 14, 2003). We also review de novo mixed questions of fact and law. See In re Rovell, 232 B.R. 381, 386 (N.D. Ill. 1998). Factual findings are reviewed for clear error. Hoseman, 322 F.3d at 473; United Air Lines, Inc., 322 B.R. at 350.

Summary judgment is proper only when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7056 (applying Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 to adversary proceedings). A genuine issue for trial exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986). This standard places the initial burden on the moving party to identify "those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986) (quotation marks omitted). Once the moving party meets this burden of production, the nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading" but rather "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue [of material fact] for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). In deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, we must accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true, and draw all inferences in that party's favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Timing of Summary Judgment Decision

Before substantively addressing the summary judgment arguments, we consider several related procedural issues. First, Booker seeks reversal of the Bankruptcy Court's order as premature because it "did not allow [him] any meaningful opportunity for discovery." (Booker Initial Br. at 9; see Booker Reply at 8-9; Booker Mem. Opp. Mot. for Summ. J. at 5.) The court, for example, "did not set any discovery cut-off deadlines." (Booker Reply at 8.) In addition, as soon as Booker completed several "procedural actions" -- including filing a counterclaim, answering ...


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