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Susan M. Eastman v. Knight Adjustment Bureau

February 4, 2011

SUSAN M. EASTMAN
v.
KNIGHT ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stewart Dalzell, J.

ORDER

AND NOW, this 4th day of February, 2011, upon consideration of plaintiff Susan M. Eastman's complaint filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ("Bankruptcy Court") (Bankr. Case No. 10-14202, docket entry # 41; Adv. Case No. 10-364, docket entry # 1), defendant Knight Adjustment Bureau, Inc.'s answer filed in Bankruptcy Court (Adv. Case No. 10-364, docket entry # 4), and Bankruptcy Judge Bruce I. Fox's Report and Recommendation in this matter (docket entry # 1), and the Court finding that:

(a) On May 21, 2010, Danyll L. and Susan M. Eastman filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy in Bankruptcy Court under Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code (Bankr. Case No. 10-14202, docket entry # 1);

(b) On September 17, 2010, Susan M. Eastman filed a complaint in Bankruptcy Court against Knight Adjustment Bureau, Inc., alleging that the defendant had violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., Pl.'s Compl. ¶¶ 14-15, and the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Uniformity Extension Act ("FCUEA"), 73 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 2270.1 et seq., id. ¶¶ 16-18, and asserting that "this adversary proceeding is a core proceeding," id. ¶ 2;

(c) In its October 20, 2010 answer, defendant agrees "that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims," Def.'s Answer at 1, but "demands a jury pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 28 for all isues so triable," id. at 3;

(d) On November 12, 2010, Bankruptcy Judge Bruce I. Fox filed a Report and Recommendation finding that plaintiff's claims are non-core and that "there are claims alleged against the defendant that may be heard by a jury," Recommend'n at 3-4;

(e) Judge Fox consequently "recommended that the district court withdraw the reference in this proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 157(d)," id.;

(f) In reviewing a bankruptcy court's determinations, "we review the bankruptcy court's legal determinations de novo, its factual findings for clear error and its exercise of discretion for abuse thereof," In re Trans World Airlines, Inc., 145 F.3d 124, 131 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing In re Engel, 124 F.3d 567, 571 (3d Cir. 1997)), so that we will set out the relevant law and apply it to the facts at hand ourselves, guided by Judge

Fox's excellent canvass of the issues;

(g) 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)(2) distinguishes between core and non-core proceedings, listing examples of the former*fn1 ;

(h) Under § 157(b)(1), "[b]ankruptcy judges may hear and determine all cases under title 11 and all core proceedings arising under title 11, or arising in a case under title 11, referred under subsection (a) of this section, and may enter appropriate orders and judgments, subject to review under section 158 of this title," and § 157(c)(1) allows "bankruptcy judge[s] [to] hear a proceeding that is not a core proceeding but that is otherwise related to a case under Title 11";

(i) Section 157(c)(1) also requires, though, that in any non-core "proceeding, the bankruptcy judge shall submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the district court, and any final order or judgment shall be entered by the district judge after considering the bankruptcy judge's proposed findings and conclusions and after reviewing de novo those matters to which any party has timely and specifically objected";

(j) As our Court of Appeals explained in Beard v. Braunstein, 914 F.2d 434, 443 (3d Cir. 1990),

The Seventh Amendment limitations on the review of jury findings are not compatible with section 157(c)(1), which requires that any contested finding by the bankruptcy court must be reviewed de novo. By the Seventh Amendment, any fact found by a jury cannot be reviewed de novo. ...


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