The opinion of the court was delivered by: OWEN
On April 29, 1991, Karen de Kleinman, a licensed real-estate broker,
filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the Bankruptcy Court, and thereby obtained a stay of creditors' efforts against her, the causes of which are detailed hereafter. The case was originally assigned to Bankruptcy Judge Prudence Abram.
At that time Debtor de Kleinman resided in an apartment at the Olympic Tower at 641 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, valued in the area of $ 1,000,000. She did not own the apartment, but occupied it as an "equitable beneficiary" pursuant to a questionable transaction with the prior owner. She also was the owner of a second similar apartment at the said Olympic Tower, and a less valuable cooperative apartment at 185 West End Avenue, New York, New York.
Bankruptcy Judge Abram in 1993 described the first two years of this case as follows:
The debtors in these Chapter 11 cases are mother [Karen de Kleinman, the Debtor] and daughter [a debtor in a separate proceeding pending in the Bankruptcy Court]. Both pre- and post-petition the mother has attempted to fend off foreclosure of her interest in various apartments located in New York City through prolific litigation which the mother has stated has all but consumed her life. This matter appears to be a garden variety motion to lift the automatic stay to permit foreclosure of a lien on a residential cooperative apartment. In another case, the matter would have long ago been resolved. However the mother has undertaken to embark on a scorched earth campaign of litigation, including making numerous attacks on the court's integrity.
As soon as this court has heard and rendered a decision on one matter in these cases, the mother has filed motions for reargument, appeals, and even a corporate bankruptcy case.
What taken individually could be viewed as a reasonable exercise of right, taken collectively, reflects an abject unwillingness to be bound by the rulings of any court, if she deems these rulings to be adverse to her.
De Kleinman, through these efforts managed to continue as a debtor-in-possession under Chapter 11 for approximately 31 months until a Conversion Order was entered in November 1993 converting the proceeding to one under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. No Plan of Reorganization or Disclosure Statement had ever been filed in the 31 months prior to the Conversion Date. At that time Albert Togut was named, and is today, the Trustee of de Kleinman's estate. A few days later, on December 9, 1993, this case was assigned to Bankruptcy Judge Stuart M. Bernstein, where it remains.
As the Bankruptcy Court's and District Court's dockets reveal, Debtor de Kleinman has, throughout the course of this case, appealed from virtually every order entered by the Bankruptcy Court, even from a ministerial act of one of its clerks, and from many actions taken by the attorneys, the Trustee, and by many other third-party participants in this case. She then endeavored to use these appeals as the basis of contesting the jurisdiction for, and consequent lack of enforceability of, subsequent orders of the Bankruptcy Court and this Court. Accordingly, her response to virtually every order over four years has been that she need not respond to the order because it is "void ab initio." She summed this up succinctly in her final lengthy address to this Court on the very last hearing on March 28, 1996:
[Citibank's] motion to lift the automatic stay . . . was null, void ab initio. . . for a lack of the lower court's subject matter jurisdiction.
The conversion order is likewise void ab initio because Olympic Tower has no claim in these proceedings and could not move to convert because they are not a party in interest under any shape or imagination of any judge.
Everything is null, void ab initio and of no legal effect.
This obviously impeded, if not virtually stymied, the Trustee's ability to administer the estate and to effectively investigate her financial affairs. He eventually sought an order of the Bankruptcy Court to compel the Debtor's cooperation, and on March 9, 1994, following a hearing attended by de ...