A brief coda: Having endeavored along the way to meet our dissenting colleague’s specific objections, we must respond briefly to his more sweeping charge that we have “disregard[ed]” or cavalierly “passe[d] by” settled procedural rules in a conscious effort to “move to the merits”—only, he says, to adopt a rule that “undermines long-established principles of bankruptcy law and the Code itself, and runs contrary to the purpose of Chapter 13 bankruptcy.” Dissenting Op. at 29– 30, 47. With the utmost respect, none of that is true. The former intimation—that we’ve somehow bent normal procedures in a
headlong rush to parse the U.S. Bankruptcy Code—seems to us to refute itself.
That’s not how courts should operate, and it’s not how we operate—and, let’s just say, the temptation to cut corners is not particularly strong (which is to say nonexistent) when the reward for doing so is an exhaustive assessment of Chapter 13, Georgia’s “pawn” statute, and those laws’ combined import for the fate of a 2006 Dodge Charger. (If anything, the incentives would seem to run in the other direction, but we digress.) Here as always, we’re just doing our best to call ’em like we see ’em. And needless to say, we find no particular joy in concluding that a pawnbroker now owns the car that Mr. Wilber once drove. For better or worse, that’s simply the result that, on our reading, the law requires.
And Wilson responds:
This should be an easy case. The Bankruptcy Code provides—and the Supreme Court and this Circuit agree—that a confirmed Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan enjoys a preclusive, binding effect. A creditor may only escape treatment under a plan if it objects to plan confirmation and then appeals the overruling of that objection. Title Max admitted to the bankruptcy judge, on the record, that it did not object, and the bankruptcy judge confirmed the plan. Title Max now says that it did object and that it therefore can elude the plan’s terms. But the law required an objection before plan confirmation, not a retroactive recasting of motions as objections. Therefore, Title Max remains bound by the confirmed plan.
The majority disregards these simple facts, choosing instead to move to the merits. In doing so, the majority rewards Title Max—by allowing it to sidestep the preclusive effects of a confirmed bankruptcy plan—for changing litigation positions on appeal. I am troubled that we would incentivize an attorney’s inconsistent representations before the courts of this Circuit, including before the judges of this panel, and I thus cannot join the majority’s opinion. Aside from these concerns, I am skeptical of the majority’s holding that state law may operate to divest a federally-created bankruptcy estate of a piece of property that all parties, and the majority, admit entered that estate pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code. Such a holding undermines long-established principles of bankruptcy law and the Code itself, and runs contrary to the purpose of Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Therefore, I respectfully dissent.