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In Re: Land Conservancy of v. the Dominican Congregation of Saint Catherine De' Ricci

February 11, 2013

IN RE: LAND CONSERVANCY OF ELKINS PARK, INC.,
LAND CONSERVANCY OF ELKINS PARK, INC., APPELLANT,
v.
THE DOMINICAN CONGREGATION OF SAINT CATHERINE DE' RICCI, ET AL., APPELLEES.



BANKRUPTCY NO. 10-19522 ADVERSARY NO. 10-499

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rufe,j.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Debtor-Appellant Land Conservancy of Elkins Park, Inc. appeals from the Bankruptcy Court's Order dated February 21, 2012. For the following reasons, and having considered fully the briefs and the record on appeal, and determined that oral argument is not necessary in this case,*fn1 the Court will affirm the order of the Bankruptcy Court.

I. BACKGROUND

On November 1, 2010, Debtor filed voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code*fn2 in the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.*fn3 On November 30, 2010, Debtor initiated an adversary proceeding against

Defendant/Appellee the Dominican Congregation of Saint Catherine de' Ricci ("the Congregation"), concerning real property located at 1750 Ashbourne Road in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania ("the Property"), which Debtor purchased from the Congregation.*fn4 Debtor and the Congregation reached a settlement of the adversary proceeding in April 2011.*fn5 However, Debtor defaulted under this initial settlement agreement and the Congregation retained ownership of the property.

Following this default, the parties continued their attempts to resolve the dispute without litigation and on December 9, 2011, Debtor filed a motion on behalf of Debtor and the Congregation, requesting that the Bankruptcy Court approve a second settlement ("Revised Settlement" or "Revised Settlement Agreement").*fn6 On December 22, 2011, after a hearing on the motion, the Bankruptcy Court approved the Revised Settlement, which required Debtor to pay the Congregation $300,000 by December 31, 2011.*fn7 Debtor failed to make this payment. On January 18, 2012, Debtor filed a motion to vacate the December 22, 2011 Order approving the Revised Settlement and the Congregation filed a motion for relief from the automatic stay to permit it to file an action to eject Debtor from the property.*fn8 The Bankruptcy Court held a hearing on both motions on February 15, 2012, and on February 21, 2012, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order denying Debtor's motion to vacate and granting the Congregation's motion for relief from the stay.*fn9 Debtor has appealed, seeking review of this February 21, 2012 Order.*fn10

II. JURISDICTIONAL STATEMENT

Bankruptcy courts have jurisdiction to hear and determine all core proceedings under Title 11 of the United States Code.*fn11 An adversary proceeding which concerns, inter alia, administration of the estate, property of the estate, and dischargeability of particular debts is a core proceeding under 28 U.S.C. §§ 157(b)(2)(A), (E), and (I); the Bankruptcy Court had jurisdiction under these sections. This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 158(a) to consider Debtor's appeal from the final order of the Bankruptcy Court entered February 21, 2012.*fn12

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A district court reviewing the decision of a bankruptcy court on appeal "may affirm, modify, or reverse a bankruptcy judge's judgment, order, or decree or remand with instructions for further proceedings."*fn13 The Court reviews the bankruptcy court's "legal determinations de novo, its factual findings for clear error, and its exercise of discretion for abuse thereof."*fn14

"Findings of fact, whether based on oral or documentary evidence, shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the bankruptcy court to judge the credibility of the witnesses."*fn15 A finding of fact is "clearly erroneous" when it is "completely devoid of minimum evidentiary support displaying some hue of credibility or bears no rational relationship to the supporting evidentiary data."*fn16 "A bankruptcy court abuses its discretion when its ruling is founded on an error of law or a misapplication of law to the facts." *fn17

A district court's review of a bankruptcy appeal is limited to the record before the bankruptcy court.*fn18 In its recitation of the facts, Debtor fails to cite to the record in this case and some of the facts stated are not evident from the record. This Court considers only ...


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