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Coastal Band of Chumash Nation v. Native Energy Farms, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 22, 2017

COASTAL BANK OF THE CHUMASH NATION, Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIVE ENERGY FARMS, LLC, Defendants. No. BK-S-14-13482-ABL Bankruptcy Adversary No. 14-01131-ABL

          ORDER

         Presently before the court is appellant/defendant Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation's (“CBCN”) appeal from bankruptcy court regarding adversary no. 14-01131-abl. (ECF No. 1). This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158, and the notice of appeal was timely, per Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 8002(a). Appellee/debtor Native Energy Farms, LLC (“NEF”) filed an answering brief (ECF No. 12), and CBCN filed a reply brief. (ECF No. 14).

         I. Introduction

         In the underlying adversary proceeding, the bankruptcy court quieted title to a 78-acre parcel of vacant land in Goleta, California. See (ECF No. 13-18).

         NEF initiated that proceeding in bankruptcy court on August 26, 2014. (ECF No. 11-1). On August 27, 2014, that court issued a summons to CBCN with a September 26, 2014, deadline to file a motion or answer to the complaint. (Id.). That summons and other papers were sent to “the Coastal Band of Chumash Nation, Inc., attention an officer, manager, managing agent, or agent, 315 North Soledad Street, in Santa Barbara, California 93103.” (Id. at 16). The summons was also mailed to “Toni Cordero, care of Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, Inc., 4764 Ashdale Street, Santa Barbara, California 93110.” (Id.).

         The clerk submitted an entry of default against appellant on September 30, 2014; an amended entry of default on October 1, 2014; and a second amended entry of default on November 24, 2014. (Id.). Although there was entry of default, there was no default judgment. (Id.).

         Appellee submitted a motion for summary judgment to quiet title on December 2, 2014. (Id.). Appellee subsequently submitted a supplement to the motion on March 30, 2015. (Id.). The bankruptcy court approved that motion for summary judgment on May 1, 2015. (Id.).

CBCN first appeared in this case on August 28, 2015, when it submitted a motion to set aside the default and the order granting summary judgment. (Id.). CBCN submitted an amended motion for the same on September 1, 2015. (Id.).

         On March 24, 2016, the bankruptcy court rendered an oral ruling that was accompanied by a written order on March 28, 2016, denying appellant's motion to set aside default judgment and order on motion for summary judgment. (Id.). Regarding service of process and notice of proceedings, the bankruptcy court found as follows:

CBCN was actually aware of this adversary proceeding no later than December 8, 2014, as confirmed by the testimony of both Gino Altamirano, CBCN's current tribal chair and former legal liaison and an enrolled CBCN member since 2001, and Michael Cordero, who was CBCN's tribal chair in December of 2014 . . . .

(Id. at 18).

         Further, the bankruptcy court noted that “[a]ccording to the California Secretary of State's records, 315 North Soledad Street, Santa Barbara, California 93103 was the corporate address for CBCN when the certificate of service was executed” and that the California Secretary of State's documents indicated that “Toni Cordero was the CBCN's registered agent, and her mailing address was 4764 Ashdale Street, Santa Barbara, California 93110, when the certificate of service was executed.” (Id. at 16-17).

         On April 13, 2016, appellant filed a notice of appeal.[1] (ECF No. 1). CBCN appeals the bankruptcy court's decision restricting the scope of discovery for appellant's rule 60 motion to service of process, questioning inter alia the ruling that appellee's service of process satisfied due process and contending that appellee committed fraud on the court. (ECF No. 10 at 7).

         II. Legal Standard

         A bankruptcy court's factual findings are reviewed for clear error and its interpretation of bankruptcy law is reviewed de novo. See Blausey v. U.S. Tr., 552 F.3d 1124, 1132 (9th Cir. 2009).

         Next, a trial court's decision regarding sufficiency of service of process is reviewed for abuse of discretion, see Rio Properties, Inc. v. Rio Int'l Interlink, 284 F.3d 1007, 1014 (9th Cir. 2002), as is “denial of a motion under Rule 60(b).” In re M/V Peacock on Complaint of Edwards, 809 F.2d 1403, 1404 (9th Cir. 1987).

         “A bankruptcy court abuses its discretion if it applies the wrong legal standard or its factual findings are illogical, implausible or without support in the record.” In re Tevis, No. BAP EC-13-1211, 2014 WL 345207, at *3 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. Jan. 30, 2014) (citing TrafficSchool.com v. Edriver Inc., 653 F.3d 820, 832 (9th Cir. 2011)), aff'd, No. 14-60009, 2016 WL 4474817 (9th Cir. Aug. 25, 2016).

         III. Discussion

         As an initial matter, this is an appeal from an adversary proceeding, not the related bankruptcy case. See (ECF No. 1, 10). As the bankruptcy court granted a motion for summary judgment and then denied appellant's motion for relief under rule 60, the adversary proceeding has concluded and is subject to the present review. See Farraj v. Cunningham, 659 F. ...


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