United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
RONALD W. GRIGG Appellant/Debtor,
BLAINE J. CHANEY, Appellee/Creditor.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on Appellant/Debtor's Notice of Appeal of the Bankruptcy Court's October 23, 2013 Order on Summary Judgment Motions (Adv. Case No. 12-07008-JAD, Doc. No. 282). (ECF No. 1). Appellant has also submitted to this Court a Motion to Withdraw the Bankruptcy Reference for bankruptcy case 11-71206 and adversary case 12-07008. (ECF No. 24).
The Bankruptcy Court below ruled in favor of the Creditor Mr. Chaney in the adversary case (Adv. No. 12-7008) in finding that the debts owed by Mr. Grigg to Mr. Chaney were nondischargeable. Mr. Grigg now asserts that this District Court is the proper forum for all proceedings going forward. (ECF No. 24 at 1).
For the reasons set forth below, this Court will dismiss Mr. Grigg's appeal without prejudice and deny his motion to withdraw the bankruptcy reference.
This Court has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Bankruptcy Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a), which provides that:
The district courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction to hear appeals (1) from final judgments, orders, and decrees; [...] of bankruptcy judges entered in cases and proceedings referred to the bankruptcy judges under section 157 of this title. An appeal under this subsection shall be taken only to the district court for the judicial district in which the bankruptcy judge is serving.
The appeal in this case is taken from the decision rendered by the Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania. This Court therefore has jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the bankruptcy court's decision.
In addition, this Court may withdraw the bankruptcy reference pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 157(d), which states that:
The district court may withdraw, in whole or in part, any case or proceeding referred under this section, on its own motion or on timely motion of any party, for cause shown. The district court shall, on timely motion of a party, so withdraw a proceeding if the court determines that resolution of the proceeding requires consideration of both title 11 and other laws of the United States regulating organizations or activities affecting interstate commerce.
A. Factual background
A detailed background to this case is provided in the Bankruptcy Court's memorandum opinions regarding Appellant Grigg's motions for relief, dated October 19, 2012 (Adv. No. 12-7008-JAD, Doc. No. 100), September 20, 2013 (Adv. No. 12-7008-JAD, Doc. Nos. 138, 139), October 23, 2013 (Adv. No. 12-7008-JAD, Doc. Nos. 121, 122 and 208), and November 6, 2013 (Adv. No. 12-7008-JAD, Doc. No. 275).
This Court adopts the facts as set forth in the Bankruptcy Court's October 19, 2012 memorandum opinion (Adv. No. 12-7008-JAD, Doc. No. 100). This case arose out of the parties' execution of a contingency fee agreement in conjunction with Ronald Grigg's legal representation of Blaine Chaney in his marital dissolution settlement. ( Id. at 1). Mr. Chaney eventually became dissatisfied with Mr. Grigg's services and filed suit against Mr. Grigg and his employee Ms. Whitman in the Los Angeles Superior Court, with Judge Aurelio Munoz presiding. ( Id. at 2). Mr. Chaney filed a Motion for Writ of Attachment, which was granted by the Honorable Victor Greenberg on September 27, 2006. ( Id. ). Judge Greenberg subsequently denied Mr. Grigg's Motion to Vacate the Writ of Attachment by an order entered on January 17, 2007 (the "Ancillary Order"). ( Id. ).
Mr. Grigg brought a Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay the Litigation on October 6, 2006, which Judge Munoz granted on November 9, 2006. ( Id. ). Judge Munoz issued a Dismissal Order while arbitration was pending, holding that the case was ordered dismissed because it was in binding arbitration. ( Id. ). The Arbitrator issued its final arbitration award on November 20, 2008, stating that Mr. Grigg and Ms. Whitman's claims were denied, and awarding Mr. Chaney $2, 389, 969.31. ( Id. at 3). In addition, Mr. Chaney applied and was granted an order to vacate Judge Munoz's earlier Dismissal Order. ( Id. ). The trial court eventually confirmed the arbitration award. ( Id. ).
The trial court entered judgment against Grigg consistent with the arbitration award, and in June 2010 granted Mr. Chaney's motion for a permanent injunction to aid in the enforcement of the judgment. ( Id. ). The Court of Appeal of the State of California issued an order affirming the trial court judgment on October 18, 2011. ( Id. at 4). This order became final on November 17, 2011, pursuant to California Rules of Court, Rule 8.264(b)(1) ("a Court of Appeal decision in a civil appeal, including an order dismissing an appeal involuntarily, is final in that court 30 days after filing."). ( Id. at 5, FN 1).
Mr. Grigg did not file a petition for rehearing or review in the California Supreme Court, but instead filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition on December 5, 2011 in the Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania, after the deadline for filing for appeal or review had elapsed. ( Id. at 5). Mr. Chaney subsequently commenced an adversary proceeding in the bankruptcy court through the filing of a Complaint to Determine the Dischargeability of the Debt on April 17, 2012. ( Id. ). Mr. Chaney's complaint asserted that the debt owed by Mr. ...