11 U.S.C. §362(a); Automatic Stay; Criminal Probation Hearing
Walker v. Gwynn, 157 Fed. Appx. 171, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 26399 (11th Cir. December 1, 2005)
Prior to filing bankruptcy, debtor was imprisoned for grand theft related to his debt to a creditor. After the filing of debtor’s Chapter 7 petition, a hearing was held in state court over the debtor’s failure to make restitution to the creditor. The creditor’s attorney appeared and made numerous comments to the court and objected to arguments made by the debtor’s criminal defense counsel. The debtor moved the Bankruptcy Court for an order holding the creditor’s lawyer in contempt for violating the automatic stay. The Bankruptcy Court denied the motion, and the District Court affirmed.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The enforcement of a criminal judgment at a restitution hearing is not a stay violation, and the creditor’s assistance in enforcing the judgment is also not a violation even where the primary motivation is the collection of a debt. The lawyer’s actions were not directed toward the collection of a civil judgment or to gain an advantage over other creditors.