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Flanders v. Lawrence (In re Flanders)

Flanders v. Lawrence, et al. (In re Flanders), Case No. 15-1327 (10th Cir. August 5, 2016) Unpublished
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars a Federal Court from hearing claims that collaterally attack state court judgments but does not bar claims raised and decided in the State Court from being raised in the Federal Court as long as such claims do not attack the State Court’s decision. The latter claims, however, are likely barred by issue preclusion. Since decisions based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine raise jurisdictional defects, summary judgment is not the appropriate disposition; rather, such claims should be dismissed without prejudice.
Procedural context:
The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment in favor of Lawrence and her attorneys, concluding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine precluded jurisdiction over some of the claims, that other claims were subject to issue preclusion, and that Flanders either lacked standing to pursue, or simply lost on, the rest of his claims. The Tenth Circuit BAP affirmed and this appeal followed. The 10th Circuit concluded that Flanders’ claims fail based on the either the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, issue preclusion, or lack of standing but determined summary judgment was not the appropriate disposition for the claims barred by Rooker-Feldman and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice. All other respects of the bankruptcy court’s decision were affirmed. The bankruptcy court’s decision was reviewed rather than the BAP’s and was reviewed de novo.
Flanders filed an individual chapter 11 case in 1998 which was converted to chapter 7 in 1999. In 2000, Lawrence, Flanders’ non-debtor spouse, filed for divorce. A divorce decree was entered in 2001 but litigation over martial property and debt continued. The chapter 7 trustee brought fraudulent transfer claims against Flanders, Lawrence and others and in 2001, the trustee and Lawrence entered into a settlement agreement and release. Flanders received a discharge in 2002. In 2006, the trustee filed his final report showing a $231,000 surplus and in 2007, the state court determined that the surplus was marital property and issued final orders dividing the marital property and debt and entered judgment against Flanders in the amount of $563,000. Flanders appealed and in 2011, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed. In 2013, Flanders brought the adversary proceeding arguing that the state court erroneously divided marital assets. Flanders asserted eleven overlapping claims for alleged violation of the discharge injunction; for contempt and sanctions, and for breach of a settlement agreement between Lawrence and the chapter 7 trustee.
Briscoe, Bacharach, McHugh

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