In July 2019, Bienert | Katzman’s client obtained a judgment and attorney’s fee award under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of more than $3 million against a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detective after a jury trial. Bienert | Katzman’s client presented evidence at trial, including video recordings, demonstrating that the baseless arrest was orchestrated by the detective and the culmination of a multi-year campaign of harassment against Bienert | Katzman’s client.
A few months after the judgment was entered, the detective filed a chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Through the bankruptcy, the detective sought to discharge the entire judgment, or at a minimum pay pennies on the dollar. Shortly after the bankruptcy case was filed, Bienert | Katzman’s team moved to dismiss the bankruptcy case as being filed in bad faith. The bankruptcy court agreed with the arguments Bienert | Katzman presented and dismissed the detective’s bankruptcy case, with an express finding of bad faith. A copy of the bankruptcy court’s decision granting Bienert | Katzman’s motion to dismiss can be found here.
After prevailing on the motion to dismiss, Bienert | Katzman filed a motion for attorney’s fees and costs for all amounts their client incurred in connection with the detective’s bankruptcy case. The court initially issued a tentative ruling indicating it would deny the motion based on a lack of jurisdiction. During oral argument, Bienert | Katzman raised arguments and authority the bankruptcy court had not considered. After considering Bienert | Katzman’s arguments, the bankruptcy court reversed its tentative ruling, granted the fee motion, and entered judgment in favor of Bienert | Katzman’s client for nearly $50,000. A copy of the bankruptcy court’s decision granting Bienert | Katzman’s fee motion can be found here.
“We get many clients who get dragged into bankruptcy court after winning a large judgment or while litigating a case where the opposing side has substantial exposure,” says Bienert | Katzman partner Tony Bisconti, who worked on the matter along with attorneys Ali Matin and Nathaniel Reinhardt. Bisconti added, “Unfortunately, in a number of cases, the bankruptcies are filed by parties who try to change the playing field to bankruptcy court as a litigation strategy, particularly if they are unhappy with the results they are getting in the other forum. In those situations, a proactive and aggressive approach is critical to avoid prolonging the litigation for years and threatening the viability of any judgment or impending judgment.”
Bienert | Katzman’s experienced bankruptcy group represents clients’ rights in all aspects of the bankruptcy process. Our unique backgrounds include the former United States Trustee for five judicial districts, federal prosecutors, federal public defenders, and former judicial clerks for bankruptcy judges across the Central District of California. If you have any questions or concerns, please give us a call at (213) 528-3400 so we can better understand your situation and how we can help.