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In re George

United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Sixth Circuit

April 17, 2017

In Re: Rick St. George, Debtor.
v.
Rick St. George, Defendant-Appellant. Daniel M. McDermott, United States Trustee, Plaintiff-Appellee,

         Appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 14-16075; Adv. No. 15-01063-Arthur I. Harris, Judge.

         ON BRIEF:

          Lee R. Kravitz, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Amy L. Good, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

          Before: DELK, HARRISON, AND PRESTON, Bankruptcy Appellate Panel Judges.

          OPINION

         MARIAN F. HARRISON, Bankruptcy Appellate Panel Judge. Rick St. George ("debtor") filed this appeal from the bankruptcy court's order granting additional time for the United States Trustee ("UST") to file a complaint objecting to discharge of the debtor, and from the bankruptcy court's judgment on the UST's complaint, denying the debtor a discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 727(a)(3) and (a)(5).

         STATEMENT OF ISSUE

         Whether the bankruptcy court erred in granting the UST's second request for additional time to file a complaint objecting to discharge, and if this was error, whether the bankruptcy court's judgment denying discharge should be reversed.

         JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio has authorized appeals to the Panel, and no party has timely elected to have this appeal heard by the district court. 28 U.S.C. § 158(b)(6), (c)(1). A final order of the bankruptcy court may be appealed as of right pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1). For purposes of appeal, a final order "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment." Midland Asphalt Corp. v. United States, 489 U.S. 794, 798, 109 S.Ct. 1494, 1497 (1989) (citations and internal quotations omitted). A judgment determining dischargeability is a final order. Trudel v. U.S. Dep't of Educ. (In re Trudel), 514 B.R. 219 (B.A.P. 6th Cir. 2014). In this case, the order granting additional time to file a dischargeability complaint was an interlocutory order that became final once the bankruptcy court entered the final order denying the debtor's discharge.

         Equitable determinations, such as whether cause exists to extend the filing deadline for dischargeability complaints, are reviewed for abuse of discretion. LPP Mortg., Ltd. v. Brinley, 547 F.3d 643, 647 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). See also In re Nowinski, 291 B.R. 302, 305 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2003) (citations omitted) (The determination of whether cause exists to extend the filing deadline set by Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 4004(b) rests within the bankruptcy court's discretion.).

         "An abuse of discretion occurs only when the [bankruptcy] court 'relies upon clearly erroneous findings of fact or when it improperly applies the law or uses an erroneous legal standard.'" Bank One, N.A. v. Bever (In re Bever), 300 B.R. 262, 264 (B.A.P. 6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Corzin v. Fordu (In re Fordu), 209 B.R. 854, 857-58 (B.A.P. 6th Cir. 1997)).

An abuse of discretion is defined as a "definite and firm conviction that the [court below] committed a clear error of judgment." Soberay Mach. & Equip. Co. v. MRF Ltd., Inc., 181 F.3d 759, 770 (6th Cir. 1999); Bowling v. Pfizer, Inc., 102 F.3d 777, 780 (6th Cir. 1996)). The question is not how the reviewing court would have ruled, but rather whether a reasonable person could agree with the bankruptcy court's decision; if reasonable persons could differ as to the issue, then there is no abuse of discretion. See Washington v. Sherwin Real Estate, Inc., 694 F.2d 1081, 1087 (7th Cir. 1982); see also In re Carter, 100 B.R. 123, 126 (1989).

Mayor of Baltimore v. West Virginia (In re Eagle-Picher Indus. Inc.), 285 F.3d 522, 529 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting Barlow v. M.J. Waterman & Assocs., Inc. (In re M.J. Waterman & Assocs., Inc.), 227 F.3d ...


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