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County of Clinton v. Warehouse at Van Buren Street, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 15, 2013

COUNTY OF CLINTON et al., Appellants,
v.
WAREHOUSE AT VAN BUREN STREET, INC., Appellee.

Page 279

Maynard, O'Connor Law Firm, Robert A. Rausch, Esq., of Counsel, Albany, NY, for the Appellants.

Nolan, Heller Law Firm, Brendan J. Carosi, Esq., of Counsel, Albany, NY, for the Appellee.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief Judge.

I. Introduction

Appellants County of Clinton and Joseph W. Giroux, as the Clinton County Treasurer, (collectively " Clinton" ), appeal from an order of the Bankruptcy Court (Littlefield, C.J.), filed October 18, 2012, which denied Clinton's motion for summary judgment, and granted appellee Warehouse at Van Buren Street, Inc.'s cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Bankruptcy Court's order is affirmed.

Page 280

II. Background

To avoid redundancy, the facts recited in the court's prior Memorandum-Decision and Order are incorporated herein. ( See Dkt. No. 12.) By way of background, in November 2012, Clinton unsuccessfully sought a stay of Bankruptcy Court's order that required, among other things, that a certain piece of real property (" the Meridian Road Property" ) be reconveyed to Warehouse by virtue of 11 U.S.C. § 548. ( See generally Dkt. No. 12.)

III. Standard of Review

District courts have jurisdiction to hear both interlocutory and final appeals from orders of the bankruptcy court. See 28 U.S.C. § 158(a). In exercising its appellate jurisdiction, the district court distinguishes between findings of fact and conclusions of law; reviewing the former under the " clear error" standard, and the latter de novo. R 2 Invs., LDC v. Charter Commc'ns, Inc. (In re Charter Commc'ns, Inc.), 691 F.3d 476, 483 (2d Cir.2012); see United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395, 68 S.Ct. 525, 92 L.Ed. 746 (1948) (" A finding is ‘ clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." ). Where a finding is mixed— i.e., it contains both conclusions of law and factual findings— the de novo standard applies. See Travellers Int'l, A.G. v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 41 F.3d 1570, 1575 (2d Cir.1994). After applying these standards to the questions of law and fact, the district court " may affirm, modify, or reverse a bankruptcy judge's judgment, order, or decree or remand with instructions for further proceedings." Fed. R. Bankr.P. 8013.

IV. Discussion

Clinton urges the court to reverse Bankruptcy Court's order on two grounds. First, Clinton contends that the transfer of the Meridian Road Property to Clinton County following Warehouse's default in an in rem foreclosure proceeding " does not constitute a ‘ fraudulent conveyance’ avoidable under [11 U.S.C. § 548]." (Dkt. No. 4 at 11-20.) Second, Clinton asserts that, because Warehouse defaulted before filing its bankruptcy petition, the Meridian Road Property is not part of the bankruptcy estate, and, accordingly, Warehouse is without " standing to challenge the transfer in Bankruptcy Court." ( Id. at 21-23.) Because " standing imports justiciability," it is a threshold question that must be ...


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