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In re Santiago-Monteverde

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 2, 2015

IN RE: MARY VERONICA SANTIAGO-MONTEVERDE, Debtor. MARY VERONICA SANTIAGO-MONTEVERDE, Debtor-Appellant,
v.
JOHN S. PEREIRA, CHAPTER 7 TRUSTEE, Trustee-Appellee

Argued September 23, 2013

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. No. 12 CV 4238.

P. Kevin Castel, Judge. Appeal fro a decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (P. Kevin Castel, J.) affirming the bankruptcy court's order striking the debtor's claim that the value of her rent-stabilized lease was exempt from her bankruptcy estate as a " local public assistance benefit" within the meaning of New York Debtor and Creditor Law § 282(2). We previously concluded that the application of section 282(2) to New York's rent stabilization laws raised an unresolved question of New York law and certified the question to the New York Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals has now responded that the value of a rent-stabilized lease is a " local public assistance benefit" under New York law. We therefore reverse the decision of the district court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

RONALD J. MANN, Columbia University School of Law, New York, NY, (Kathleen G. Cully, Kathleen G. Cully PLLC, New York, NY, on the brief), for Debtor-Appellant.

J. DAVID DANTZLER, JR. (John P. Campo, Eric L. Unis, on the brief) Troutman Sanders LLP, New York, NY, for Trustee- Appellee.

Ira L. Herman, Thompson & Knight LLP, New York, NY, for Amicus Curiae, New York City Bankruptcy Assistance Project, supporting Debtor-Appellant.

Carolyn E. Coffey (of counsel to Jeanette Zelhof), MFY Legal Service, Inc., New York, NY, for Amicus Curiae, MFY Legal Services, Inc., supporting Debtor-Appellant.

Before: SACK, PARKER, and RAGGI, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 127

Per Curiam:

Debtor-Appellant Mary Santiago-Monteverde appealed to this Court from a decision of the district court affirming the bankruptcy court's ruling that her residential lease, rent-stabilized under New York's Rent Stabilization Code, N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 9, § § 2520 et seq., was not exempt from her bankruptcy estate as a " local public assistance benefit" within the meaning of New York Debtor and Creditor Law (" DCL" ) § 282(2). We concluded that this question was an important one of unsettled New York law and certified it to the New York Court of Appeals, which accepted the certification. In re Santiago-Monteverde, 747 F.3d 153 (2d Cir. 2014), certified question accepted, 23 N.Y.3d 958 (2014). After considering the question, the Court of Appeals concluded that a debtor's interest in a rent-stabilized lease is a local public assistance benefit under the DCL. See In re Santiago-Monteverde, 24 N.Y.3d 283, 998 N.Y.S.2d 144, 22 N.E.3d 1012 (2014). We assume the parties' familiarity with the underlying facts, procedural history, and issues on appeal, which we briefly summarize below.

I.

Santiago-Monteverde has lived in a rent-stabilized apartment in Lower Manhattan for over forty years. After her husband's death, she experienced financial difficulties and, in November 2011, filed for Bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7. On Schedule G of her petition, she listed her apartment simply as an " unexpired lease." The Bankruptcy Trustee, John S. Pereira, determined that she had no assets. Shortly after he did so, Santiago-Monteverde's landlord, East 7th Street Development Corporation, approached the Trustee and offered to buy the lease to Santiago-Monteverde's apartment under terms that would permit her to remain in the apartment but would cause the apartment to lose its rent stabilized status.

Upon learning that the Trustee planned to accept the offer, Santiago-Monteverde amended her filing, treating the value of her rent-stabilized lease as personal property and claiming an exemption for the property as a " local public assistance benefit" ...


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