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In re Robinson

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 22, 2014

In re: JAMES D. ROBINSON, JR., Debtor.
v.
JAMES D. ROBINSON, JR., Appellant UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,

Page 555

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis. No. 2:12-cv-03064--S. Thomas Anderson, District Judge.

ON BRIEF:

John E. Dunlap, THE LAW OFFICE OF JOHN E. DUNLAP, P.C., Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Barbara M. Zoccola, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: COLE, Chief Judge; GRIFFIN, Circuit Judge; PEARSON, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 556

COLE, Chief Judge.

After James Robinson defrauded more than one thousand victims in mail and wire fraud schemes, the district court ordered him to pay criminal restitution. Robinson

Page 557

did not comply with the court's order, and he later filed a petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy triggered the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay, which suspends all activities related to the collection and enforcement of prepetition debts. See 11 U.S.C. § 362(a). The government seeks to byepass the automatic stay by invoking 18 U.S.C. § 3613(a), which provides that the government may enforce a judgment imposing restitution " notwithstanding any other Federal law." Based on the plain meaning of § 3613 and the approach adopted by our sister circuits in interpreting this statute, § 3613 supersedes the automatic stay and allows the government to enforce restitution orders against property included in the bankruptcy estate. We therefore affirm the district court's judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

In 1996, Robinson pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aiding and abetting under 18 U.S.C. § § 1341 and 1342. The district court sentenced Robinson to 97.5 months of imprisonment followed by three months of supervised release and ordered him to pay criminal restitution in the amount of $286,875. A year later, Robinson pleaded guilty to a second set of criminal violations, resulting in convictions of wire fraud and aiding and abetting under 18 U.S.C. § § 1342 and 1343. The district court imposed a twenty-four-month term of imprisonment and once again ordered Robinson to pay restitution, this time in the amount of $100,000. Although required to pay both restitution orders " in full immediately," Robinson paid only $7,779.44 of the first judgment and $200 of the second. Before satisfying the restitution judgments, Robinson filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13.

The government, by virtue of the criminal restitution judgments, is a lien creditor. Thus, the Department of Justice is listed as a general unsecured creditor on Robinson's Bankruptcy Schedule F, with a $283,101 claim. Robinson's schedule of assets listed an IRA account valued at $47,000, a tax refund valued at $4,500, and three automobiles--a 2006 Toyota Highlander valued at $6,000, a 2001 Toyota Solara valued at $2,000, and a 1999 Infiniti valued at $900. Robinson claimed two exemptions under Tennessee law: the entire value of his IRA account and $1,500 in the 2006 Toyota.

The government moved for a declaratory judgment to determine whether the automatic stay prevented its actions to collect restitution. According to the government, it had the authority to enforce the restitution judgments under 11 U.S.C. § 362(b)(1) and alternatively under 18 U.S.C. § 3613(a), which provides that " notwithstanding any other Federal law . . . a judgment imposing a fine may be enforced against all property or rights to property of the person fined," with certain exceptions not relevant here. The government also sought to terminate the stay as to all of Robinson's assets, and specifically moved to allow for the enforcement and execution on Robinson's IRA account, pension fund, and two of his three automobiles under 11 U.S.C. § 362(d)(2)(B).

The bankruptcy court denied the government's " request to terminate the automatic stay as to all assets," but granted relief from the stay as to Robinson's IRA account and two of his three automobiles. With respect to the IRA account, the court found that " [i]t would be patently unfair . . . to allow [Robinson] to save for his retirement utilizing the IRA at the expense of his restitution creditors." See 11 U.S.C. ยง 362(d)(1). After ...


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