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In re Baker

United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Eighth Circuit

November 16, 2017

In re: Ronald Stuart Baker Debtor
v.
Ronald Stuart Baker Defendant - Appellant Zahn Law Firm, P.A. Plaintiff- Appellee

          Submitted: October 2, 2017

         Appeal from United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before SCHERMER, NAIL, and DOW, Bankruptcy Judges.

          NAIL, BANKRUPTCY JUDGE.

         Ronald Stuart Baker ("Debtor") appeals the May 3, 2017 order of the bankruptcy court[1] remanding an adversary proceeding brought against Debtor by Zahn Law Firm, P.A. ("Law Firm").[2] We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         In August 2015, Law Firm commenced an action against Debtor in Minnesota state court, alleging breach of contract and account stated. Debtor answered and counterclaimed, alleging Law Firm's representation agreement was unenforceable and seeking recovery of sums Debtor had paid Law Firm. Law Firm replied, raising various affirmative defenses to Debtor's counterclaim.

         The state court action bumped along for many months. In June 2016, both parties filed motions to amend their respective pleadings, which were heard by the state court on June 24, 2016 and taken under advisement. In July 2016, Law Firm filed a motion for summary judgment, which was scheduled to be heard by the state court on August 24, 2016.

         The hearing on Law Firm's motion for summary judgment never took place. On August 10, 2016, Debtor filed a petition for relief under chapter 13 of the bankruptcy code. This stayed further proceedings in the state court.[3] Five days later, Debtor removed the state court action to the bankruptcy court.

         In April 2017, the bankruptcy court entered an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the adversary proceeding that was opened following the removal of the state court action should not be remanded to the state court. Both parties appeared and were heard. Debtor opposed remand; Law Firm did not. After hearing the arguments of counsel, the bankruptcy court determined remand was appropriate. The bankruptcy court memorialized its oral ruling in an order entered May 3, 2017. Debtor timely appealed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review a bankruptcy court's decision to remand for an abuse of discretion. Sears v. Sears (In re Sears), 539 B.R. 368, 370 (D. Neb. 2015).

A court abuses its discretion when a relevant factor that should have been given significant weight is not considered; when an irrelevant or improper factor is considered and given significant weight; or when all proper factors and no improper ones are considered, but the court commits a clear error of judgment in weighing those factors.

City of Duluth v. Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, 702 F.3d 1147, 1152 (8th ...


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