United States Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Sixth Circuit
Appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 16-15518-Jessica
E. Price Smith, Judge.
K. Jensen, LERNER, SAMPSON & ROTHFUSS, Cincinnati, Ohio,
Deborah Odell, Berea, Ohio, pro se.
Before: HARRISON, HUMPHREY, and PRESTON, Bankruptcy Appellate
KATHRYN PRESTON, BANKRUPTCY APPELLATE PANEL JUDGE.
Dean Odell ("Debtor") appeals the Bankruptcy
Court's decision lifting the automatic stay to allow a
mortgagee to pursue foreclosure proceedings in state court.
For the reasons explained below, we DISMISS
Debtor's appeal as moot.
filed her Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in the United States
Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio
("Bankruptcy Court") on October 10, 2016. Ten days
later, Debtor filed her schedules, in which she listed as an
asset her interest in a home that she inherited from her
mother (the "Property"). In her schedules, Debtor
stated that the value of the Property was $47, 000. Debtor
also listed HSBC Bank USA ("HSBC") as a mortgagee
of the Property and having a claim in the amount of $64,
382.64. On November 4, 2016, Debtor filed an amended Schedule
C, claiming a "homestead exemption" of her interest
in the Property in the amount of $136, 925. No objections to
Debtor's claim of exemption were made.
January 25, 2017, HSBC filed a Motion for Relief from Stay
and Abandonment (the "Motion"). In its Motion, HSBC
asserted that the amount of debt secured by the Property
exceeded the value of the Property. HSBC argued that relief
from the stay and abandonment were warranted because the
Property was of no value to the bankruptcy estate and was not
necessary for an effective reorganization. On February 16,
2017, Debtor filed an objection to the Motion and requested a
hearing. Debtor admitted that seventeen years prior, on
February 14, 2000, her mother had granted a mortgage on the
Property to CIT Group/Consumer Finance, Inc., to secure a
debt in the amount of $58, 288.50. However, Debtor denied
that the lien had been properly perfected and asserted that
the subsequent assignment of the lien was fraudulent by
virtue of a "robo-signature."
Bankruptcy Court held a hearing on the Motion on March 7,
2017. Debtor was not represented by an attorney. The
Bankruptcy Court explained to Debtor that the issue was that
the Property was subject to a mortgage securing a loan which
had not been paid. Following a discussion with HSBC regarding
the amount outstanding on the first mortgage and Debtor's
appraisal of the Property at $47, 000, the Bankruptcy Court
granted HSBC's Motion. On March 27, 2017, Debtor timely
filed a Notice of Appeal. Debtor received her Chapter 7
discharge on July 7, 2017.
ISSUE ON APPEAL
appeal, Debtor primarily argues that the Bankruptcy Court
erred when it granted HSBC's Motion. Because this Panel
finds that the automatic stay has terminated under 11 U.S.C.
§ 362(c), whether the Bankruptcy Court was correct in
granting the Motion is immaterial and the sole issue is
whether Debtor's appeal is moot. See BC Brickyard
Assocs., Ltd. v. Ernst Home Ctr., Inc. (In re Ernst Home
Ctr., Inc.), 221 B.R. 243, 247 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 1998)
("Mootness is a jurisdictional issue which can be raised
sua sponte[.]"). If so, there is no need to
discuss the merits. See Mills v. Green, 159 U.S.
651, 653, 16 S.Ct. 132, 133 (1895) ("The duty of this
court, as of every other judicial tribunal, is to decide
actual controversies by a judgment which can be carried into
effect, and not to give opinions upon moot questions or
abstract propositions, or to declare principles or rules of
law which cannot affect the matter in issue in the case
JURISDICTION & THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE
Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Sixth Circuit
("BAP") has jurisdiction to hear and decide
appeals. 28 U.S.C. § 158(b). A bankruptcy court's
decision to lift the automatic stay pursuant to 11 U.S.C.
§ 362(d) is an appealable final order. In re
Schaffrath, 214 B.R. 153, 154 (B.A.P. 6th Cir. 1997)
("Grants and denials of motions for relief from the
automatic stay are final, appealable orders."). However,
federal courts have "no authority to render a decision
upon moot questions or to declare rules of law that cannot
affect the matter at issue." Cleveland Branch, NAACP
v. City of Parma, 263 F.3d 513, 530 (6th Cir. 2001)
(citing Church of Scientology v. United States, 506
U.S. 9, 12, 113 S.Ct. 447, 449 (1992)). "[A] case is
moot when the issues presented are no longer 'live'
or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the
outcome." Cnty. of Los Angeles v. Davis, 440
U.S. 625, 631, 99 S.Ct. ...