The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alvin K. Hellerstein, U.S.D.J.
ORDER OF THE BANKRUPTCY COURT, DISMISSING APPELLEE'S MOTION FOR CERTAIN RELIEF, AND DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE COUNSEL'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW
Appellants are retail car dealers that have had their dealership agreements rejected by the Debtors in a bankruptcy proceeding before Chief Judge Arthur J. Gonzalez. In an order dated June 9, 2009, and in a subsequent opinion in support of that order, the Bankruptcy Court approved the rejection of the dealership agreements. Appellants did not appeal the order or the opinion. However, approximately six months after the time to appeal expired, Appellants filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing in part that Chief Judge Gonzalez committed an intentional fraud on the court by mischaracterizing the testimony of a key witness. Chief Judge Gonzalez denied the motion on the merits and as untimely. The dealers now appeal the decision denying the motion for reconsideration. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Bankruptcy Court denying the motion for consideration is affirmed.
Prior to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Debtors operated a network of approximately 3,200 independent retail dealers under various agreements. In the bankruptcy proceedings, the Debtors transferred most of those agreements to the post-bankruptcy entity, "New Chrysler." The Debtors rejected the agreements with 789 of the retail dealers.
On May 3, 2009, the Debtors moved to approve a buyout by Fiat, Sp.A. (the "Fiat Transaction"). Hundreds of dealers filed objections to the Fiat Transaction and to a motion to reject the 789 dealer agreements. On May 27, 28, and 29, the Bankruptcy Court held hearings to consider the Fiat Transaction and, on May 31, 2009, approved the buyout. On June 4 and June 9, 2009, the Bankruptcy Court held hearings on the objections to the termination of the dealership agreements. On June 9, 2009, the court issued an order authorizing the Debtors to reject the dealership agreements (the "Rejection Order"), and on June 19, 2009, issued a written opinion in support of the Rejection Order ("Rejection Opinion"). In re Old Carco LLC, 406 B.R. 180 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2009).
The Rejected Dealers had ten days to appeal that order or to request additional time to file an appeal. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8002(a), (c)(2). Neither an appeal nor a motion requesting additional time was filed. In December 2009, approximately six months after the Rejection Order and the Rejection Opinion were issued, the rejected dealers filed a motion for reconsideration. The motion principally attacks the Bankruptcy Court's paraphrasing of a witness's testimony in a footnote in the Rejection Opinion. On February 2, 2010, Chief Judge Gonzalez denied the motion. In re Old Carco LLC, 423 B.R. 40 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2010).
Denials of motions for reconsideration are reviewed for abuse of discretion. Grace v. Bank Leumi Trust Co., 443 F.3d 180, 187 (2d Cir. 2006). "'An abuse of discretion exists where the district court's decision rests upon a clearly erroneous finding of fact, an errant conclusion of law, or an improper application of law to fact.'" In re Kurtzman, 220 B.R. 538, 540 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (quoting ACLU v. Black Horse Pike Reg'l Bd. of Educ., 84 F.3d 1471, 1476 (3d Cir. 1996)).
Appellants argue that reconsideration is appropriate under Rule 60(b)(1). Rule 60(b) "allows extraordinary judicial relief" and "may not be used as a substitute for a timely appeal." Nemaizer v. Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61 (2d Cir. 1986). Rule 60(b)(1), which is incorporated into the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, provides that "on motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party . . . from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for . . . mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." Rule 60(c) providesthat a motion under Rule 60(b)(1) "must be made within a reasonable time-and . . . no more than a year after the entry of the judgment or order or the date of the date of the proceeding."
In denying this part of the motion for reconsideration as untimely, Chief Judge Gonzalez held:
The Movants' arguments for reconsideration stem from the Rejection Order or the Court's statements in the supporting Opinion. All of the information contained in those documents was available to the parties immediately upon the issuance of those documents. . . . The Movants did not act until more than six months after the issuance of the Rejection Order and supporting Opinion. The Movants each had an opportunity to file a timely appeal. Having missed the deadline, they cannot use Rule 60(b)(1) as a way to circumvent that time restriction.
In re Old Carco LLC, 423 B.R. at 55.
Appellants also argued that reconsideration was appropriate under Rule 60(d) on the grounds that Chief Judge Gonzalez perpetrated an intentional fraud on the court by manipulating a witness's testimony in the Rejection Opinion. Rules 60(d)(1) and (3) allow a court, respectively, to "entertain an independent action to relieve a party from a judgment, order, or proceeding" and "set aside a judgment for fraud on the court." Rule 60(d) relief is equitable in nature. Campaniello Imports, Ltd. v. Saporiti Italia Sp.A., 117 F.3d 655, 661 (2d Cir. 1997) (citing Cresswell v. Sullivan & Cromwell, 922 F.2d 60, 71 (2d Cir. 1990)). To establish a claim under Rule 60(d), the Appellants must "demonstrate that [they] had no adequate remedy at law or that [their] 'fault, neglect, or carelessness did not create the situation for which [it] seek[s] equitable relief.'" LinkCo, Inc. v. Naoyuki Akikusa, 615 F. Supp. 2d 130, 135 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting Campaniello Imports, Ltd., 117 F.3d at 662).
In rejecting this part of Appellants' motion, Chief Judge Gonzalez held: If the Movants disagreed with the Court's characterization of the facts, the evidence, or the law, they had a ready avenue for redress in the ability to file an appeal to the Court's ruling. Any issues that may have been 'addressed through the unimpeded adversary process' are not appropriately attacked on the basis of fraud upon the court. Thus, any allegation concerning a mischaracterization of ...