EXECUTIVE BENEFITS INSURANCE AGENCY v. ARKISON
Bellingham Insurance Agency, Inc. (BIA) was a company owned by Nicholas Paleveda and his wife, Marjorie Ewing. Shortly before BIA filed for voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2006, the company assigned the insurance commission from one of its largest clients to Peter Pearce, a long-time employee. Additionally, Paleveda used BIA funds to incorporate the Executive Benefits Insurance Agency, Inc. (EBIA). Pearce then deposited over $100,000 into an account held jointly by EBIA and another company owned by Paleveda and Ewing. The Trustee, Peter Arkison, filed a claim against EBIA in the BIA bankruptcy proceeding. Arkison alleged fraudulent conveyances and that EBIA, as a successor corporation, was liable for BIA’s debts. The bankruptcy court granted summary judgment in favor of the Trustee and the district court affirmed.
On appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, EBIA argued, for the first time, that the bankruptcy judge’s entry of a final judgment on the Trustee’s claims was unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision. It held that, while a bankruptcy court may not decide a fraudulent conveyance claim, it may hear the claim and make a recommendation for review by a district court. Additionally, the Court of Appeals determined that EBIA, by failing to object to the bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction, waived its Seventh Amendment right to a hearing before an Article III court.
(1)May a bankruptcy judge hear a fraudulent conveyance claim and submit a report and recommendation to a district court for review?
(2) May a litigant consent to the entry of a final judgment by a non-Article III bankruptcy judge? And, if so, does the litigant’s failure to object to the bankruptcy judge’s entry of a final judgment amount to implied consent?