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In re Edwards

United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Eighth Circuit

July 3, 2019

In re: Teresa Cedreca Edwards Debtor
v.
The City of Ferguson, a municipal corporation Defendant - Appellee Teresa Cedreca Edwards Plaintiff- Appellant

          Submitted: June 18, 2019

          Appeal from United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis

          Before SALADINO, Chief Judge, NAIL and SANBERG, Bankruptcy Judges.

          SALADINO, CHIEF JUDGE.

         The Appellant, Teresa Cedreca Edwards, appeals the order of the bankruptcy court[1] granting defendant City of Ferguson's motion for summary judgment and denying Appellant's motion for summary judgment in an adversary proceeding alleging, among other allegations, that the defendant willfully violated the automatic stay provisions of 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)(1), (a)(6) and (k)(1); and for discrimination under 11 U.S.C. § 525(a). We have jurisdiction over this appeal. See 28 U.S.C.§ 158(b). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review a bankruptcy court's grant of summary judgment de novo, Mwesigwa v. DAP, Inc., 637 F.3d 884, 887 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Durham D & M, L.L.C., 606 F.3d 513, 518 (8th Cir. 2010)). When an appellate court reviews a trial court's entry of summary judgment de novo, it uses the same standard applied by the trial court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). Bremer Bank v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co., 601 F.3d 824, 829 (8th Cir. 2010). Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, affidavits, and other evidence show there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Fed.R.Bankr.P. 7056. Once the moving party has met this initial burden of proof, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial and may not rest on its pleadings; self-serving allegations or mere assertions of disputed fact are insufficient to defeat the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Bass v. SBC Commc'n, Inc., 418 F.3d 870, 872-73 (8th Cir. 2005).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The relevant facts are not in dispute. Appellant was issued a traffic citation on April 16, 2010, by the City of Ferguson for driving thirty-nine miles per hour in a twenty-five miles per hour school zone. Appellant failed to appear for her court date so the municipal judge issued a warrant for her arrest on June 18, 2010. Appellant was subsequently arrested and released on her own recognizance on March 26, 2015, and a new court date was set. Appellant appeared in court on May 7, 2015, pleaded guilty to speeding in a school zone, and agreed to pay a fine of $149.00.

         Appellant did not pay the fine, and the court re-issued a warrant for her arrest. The City of Ferguson also notified the proper Missouri entities of the outstanding fine, which Appellant contends is impeding her ability to renew her driver's license.[2]Since the re-issuance of the arrest warrant on July 15, 2015, the City of Ferguson has not taken any affirmative action to enforce the warrant or collect the fine.

         On February 24, 2016, appellant filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code and listed the City of Ferguson as a creditor in her bankruptcy schedules. On February 25, 2016, Appellant's attorney notified the City of Ferguson's Municipal Court of the bankruptcy filing and included a letter requesting release of the arrest warrant and issuance of a compliance letter to reinstate Appellant's driver's license. On February 26, 2016, a municipal prosecutor for the City of Ferguson responded to Appellant's attorney stating the Municipal Judge had the authority to recall the warrant and suggested that counsel file an entry of appearance and an appropriate motion.

         Appellant did not seek relief from the Ferguson Municipal court. Instead, she filed an adversary proceeding against the City of Ferguson. The complaint alleged the City of Ferguson willfully violated the automatic stay by refusing to release the warrant for Appellant's arrest and refusing to release Appellant's driver's license without payment of the fine. Appellant also asserted that since she is insolvent and unable to pay the fine, the City of Ferguson is discriminating unfairly against her due to her bankruptcy filing and is denying her a fresh start. Appellant sought actual damages, attorney fees, and punitive damages.

         The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and on November 7, 2018, the bankruptcy court granted the City of ...


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