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Black v. Eggmann

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 22, 2016

GEORGE JAMES BLACK, Appellant,
v.
ROBERT E. EGGMANN, Bankruptcy Trustee, Appellee.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge.

         A. Introduction

         Now before the undersigned District Judge is George James Black's appeal from a ruling by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Illinois dismissing his bankruptcy petition. Black, an inmate in the Bureau of Prisons (FCI Greenville), filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June 2016. At the time of filing, he sought exemption from the bankruptcy rule requiring a debtor to complete credit counseling and a financial management course on the premise that he was unable to do so while incarcerated. The Bankruptcy Court denied his request to be exempt, but did ultimately grant him a 45-day extension to file proof of his completion of those requirements. On July 22, 2016, after the 45-day extension had run, the Bankruptcy Court dismissed Black's petition for want of prosecution because he failed to supply the requisite proof of completion. Black then filed a notice of appeal with this Court seeking review of the Bankruptcy Court's ruling.

         Black asks this Court to reverse the Bankruptcy Court's ruling dismissing his case for failing to file the required certificates of completion. He also requests that this Court remand the case with directions that the Bankruptcy Court assist him in taking an oath to properly complete his bankruptcy filings.

         In response to Black's appeal, the trustee (Robert Eggmann) filed a motion to dismiss this action because Black failed to supply a proper record on appeal, as is required by Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 8009(a). Though Black did not respond to that motion or otherwise supply a record for the appeal, the trustee ultimately supplied the pertinent documents (Docs. 13 and 14).

         In addition to the motion to dismiss, the trustee has also submitted a brief asking this Court to affirm the Bankruptcy Court's disposition of the case on the merits (Doc. 13). Black replied (Doc. 15). For the reasons described below, the Court rejects Black's appeal and affirms the Bankruptcy Court's ruling.

         B. Summary of Key Facts

         On June 6, 2016, Black filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, Title 11 of the United States Code. The petition proceeded through the Bankruptcy Court as In Re George Black (Inmate No. 12653-027), Case No. BK 16-30892. In Black's initial petition he sought a waiver of the credit counseling and financial management requirements based on his status as an inmate-alleging that due to ‘disability' he was unable to satisfy those prerequisites. His only alleged disability was his status as an inmate at FCI Greenville. Black also submitted a separate motion seeking waiver of the credit counseling requirement based upon his incarceration.

         On June 29, 2016, Bankruptcy Judge Laura K. Grandy issued an Order denying Black's motion for permanent waiver of the credit counseling requirement and directing satisfaction of the requirement within 14 days. Judge Grandy reasoned that 11 U.S.C. § 109(h)(4) of the Bankruptcy Code did not classify incarceration as a “disability, ” and multiple courts had interpreted the code to exclude incarceration as a “disability” for purposes of the credit counseling requirement. Judge Grandy extended the deadline for filing the certificate of completion to July 21, 2016, per Black's request.

         On July 22, 2016, having received nothing from Black, the Bankruptcy Court dismissed the matter for want of prosecution, noting that Black failed to submit the certificate of completion for a budget and credit counseling course. On August 1, 2016, Black appealed the Bankruptcy Court's July 22nd Judgment.

         C. Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

         This appeal is taken from a final order of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The undersigned District Judge enjoys jurisdiction to hear this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a). This Court reviews the Bankruptcy Court's findings of fact for clear error, and the findings of law de novo. Arlington LF, LLC v. Arlington Hospitality, Inc., et al., 637 F.3d 706, 713 (7th Cir. 2011), citing In re Resource Tech. Corp., 624 F.3d 376, 382 (7th Cir. 2010).

         D. Analysis

         Black argues that the Bankruptcy Court erred by refusing to relieve him of the credit and financial management prerequisites to voluntary bankruptcy. His argument relies on two primary tenets-that his incarceration constitutes a ‘disability' for purposes of waiving the prerequisites, and that the bankruptcy court requirements are in essence denying him ...


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