- Category: Judge Somers
- Published on 04 October 2013
- Written by Judge Somers
SIGNED this 3rd day of October, 2013.
For on-line use but not print publication
IN THE UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
SCHUPBACH INVESTMENTS, CASE NO. 11-11425
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT
ALLOWING DEBTOR’S FOURTH, FIFTH, SIXTH, AND SEVENTH
APPLICATIONS FOR ALLOWANCE OF ATTORNEY FEES AND EXPENSES,
AND GRANTING DEBTOR’S APPLICATION FOR FINAL ALLOWANCE OF
FEES AND EXPENSES AS ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES
The matters before the Court are:
(1) the disputed portion (fees of $3,000) of Debtor’s Fourth Application for
Allowance of Attorney Fees and Expenses;1
1 Dkt. 344.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 1 of 32
(2) the disputed portion (fees of $1,180) of Debtor’s Fifth Application for
Allowance of Attorney Fees and Expenses;2
(3) Debtor’s Sixth Application for Allowance of Attorney Fees and Expenses3
requesting allowance of fees of $3,560 (17.8 hours at $200 per hour) and expenses
of $95.75 for the time period beginning December 6, 2012, through January 12,
2013, as an administrative expense;
(4) Debtor’s Seventh and Final Application for Allowance of Attorney Fees and
Expenses4 requesting allowance of fees of $2,760 (13.8 hours at $200 per hour)
and expenses of $119.25 for the time period beginning January 14, 2013, through
February 15, 2013, as an administrative expense; and
(5) the Supplemental Seventh and Final Application by Debtor for Allowance of
Attorney Fees and Expenses to its Counsel,5 in which Debtor requests attorney fees
and expenses for defending the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and final fee
applications, and that all Debtor’s allowed attorney fees and expenses be allowed
as administrative expenses on a final basis.6
2 Dkt. 376.
3 Dkt. 397.
4 Dkt. 422.
5 Dkt. 424.
6 This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 157(a) and 1334(a) and (b) and the
Standing Order of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas that exercised authority
conferred by § 157(a) to refer to the District’s bankruptcy judges all matters under the Bankruptcy Code
and all proceedings arising under the Code or arising in or related to a case under the Code, effective July
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 2 of 32
Creditor Rose Hill Bank objected to the disputed portion of the fees requested in the
fourth application. Rose Hill objected to the disputed portion of the fifth application, and
Carl B. Davis, the Liquidating Trustee, also objected in part to the fifth application.
Creditors Rose Hill, Bank of Commerce & Trust Co., and Central National Bank objected
to the sixth application. Creditors Rose Hill, Bank of Commerce, Central National, and
Community Bank of Wichita, Inc., and the Liquidating Trustee objected to the seventh
application and its supplement. An evidentiary hearing was held on these applications on
March 14, 2013. After due consideration, the Court is now ready to rule, and for the
reasons stated below, grants the fees and expenses requested as administrative expenses
of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy estate.
I. History of Fee Applications and Relevant Proceedings in the Chapter 11 Case.
Debtor’s counsel, Mark J. Lazzo, began work on this case on March 17, 2011. In
April 2011, Debtor paid him a fee retainer of $10,000. On May 12, 2011, five days
before filing the Chapter 11 petition, Debtor’s counsel prepared his initial billing to
Debtor for fees incurred between March 17 and May 11, 2011, of $9,760. Counsel
applied $9,760 from the retainer in payment of this bill. Mr. Lazzo was appointed
counsel for the debtor-in-possession by an order entered on November 15, 2011.
Prior to the March 14, 2013 hearing on the matters now before the Court, five
orders had been entered allowing interim fees and expenses in the amount of $88,358.54
10, 1984. A debtor’s motion for allowance of fees and expenses is a core proceeding which this Court
may hear and determine as provided in 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)(2)(A). There is no objection to venue or
jurisdiction over the parties.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 3 of 32
in this case:
November 15, 2011 (Dkt. 234)
January 17, 2012 (Dkt. 273)
August 20, 2012 (Dkt. 307)
November 29, 2012 (Dkt. 362)
January 14, 2013 (Dkt. 399)
4th app in part
5th app in part
The last two orders granted the fourth and fifth applications except for those entries to
which there were objections.
The applications for allowance of fees and expenses before the Court at the time of
the March 14, 2013 hearing were:
Dkt. 344 $ 3,000.00 4th app in part
Dkt. 376 $ 1,180.00 5th app in part
Dkt. 397 $ 3,655.75 app Dec. 6, 2012 to Jan. 12, 2013
Dkt. 422 $ 2,879.75 app Jan. 14, 2012 to Feb. 15, 2013
Dkt. 424 $ 3,980.00 supp 7th app Feb. 16, 2013 to March 11, 2013
$ 600.00 supp 7th app March 14, 2013 hearing
The last of these pleadings requests, in addition to an award for fees in defending against
the objections to the pending applications, final approval of all the fees and expenses
awarded to Debtor’s counsel in the case.
Debtor Schupbach Investments, LLC, was engaged in the purchase, renovation,
rental, and sale of residential real properties in the low income areas of Wichita, Kansas.
Jonathan Schupbach was a 50 percent owner, and was the manager of the company. His
wife, Amy Schupbach, owned the other 50 percent and was active in the business.
Schupbach Investments filed this case under Chapter 11 on May 16, 2011. Jonathan
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 4 of 32
Schupbach and his wife filed for relief under Chapter 13 on July 16, 2011, but the case
was later converted to Chapter 11.7 A different attorney and his law firm were retained as
counsel for the Schupbachs in their personal case, and Mr. Lazzo continued to represent
the limited liability company.
Debtors’ Schedule A lists 165 parcels of real property, valued at $4,616,900,
mortgaged to 11 different creditors. Debtor sought to consolidate this case with the
Schupbachs’ personal bankruptcy, and submitted a proposed Chapter 11 plan premised
upon consolidation. A group of secured creditors filed a competing liquidating Chapter
By an order dated November 21, 2012, the Court confirmed the secured creditors’
liquidating plan, which transferred the collateral securing their claims to the respective
creditors and all other assets to a liquidating trust. The plan provides that all allowed
administrative expenses of the case shall paid by the trust, with the secured creditors
making contributions to pay such claims if, as anticipated, the assets of the trust are
insufficient to satisfy all administrative claims. Carl B. Davis was appointed as the
trustee of the liquidating trust.
II. Applicable Standard for Allowance of Fees and Expenses.
The award of professional fees to attorneys for a debtor in a bankruptcy case is
governed by § 330. Under § 330(a)(1), “bankruptcy courts have wide discretion in
7 Case no. 11-13633.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 5 of 32
awarding compensation to attorneys, trustees, and professionals so long as it is
reasonable.”8 The Tenth Circuit has described the § 330 statutory standard as follows:
The statute . . . provides, that “[i]n determining the amount of
reasonable compensation to be awarded, the court shall
consider the nature, the extent, and the value of such
services. . . .” In order to do this, the court must take
into account all relevant factors, including —
(A) the time spent on such services; (B) the
rates charged for such services; (C) whether the
services were necessary to the administration of,
or beneficial at the time at which the service
was rendered toward the completion of, a case
under this title; (D) whether the services were
performed within a reasonable amount of time
commensurate with the complexity, importance,
and nature of the problem, issue, or task
addressed; and (E) whether the compensation is
reasonable based on the customary
compensation charged by comparably skilled
practitioners in cases other than cases under this
Section 330(a)(4) further provides that, except in circumstances not applicable here,
compensation shall not be allowed for “(i) unnecessary duplication of services; or (ii)
8 In re Commercial Financial Services, Inc., 427 F.3d 804, 810 (10th Cir. 2005) (citing Connolly
v. Harris Trust Co. (In re Miniscribe Corp.), 309 F.3d 1234, 1244 (10th Cir. 2002)).
9 Id. (quoting 11 U.S.C. § 330(a)(3)). About the time the Tenth Circuit issued its decision, a new
amendment to § 330(a)(3) took effect, which redesignated subsection (E) as subsection (F) and added a
new subsection (E), directing a court reviewing a professional person’s fee application to consider
“whether the person is board certified or otherwise has demonstrated skill and experience in the
bankruptcy field.” Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, Pub. L. 109-8,
119 Stat. 23, § 415 (effective Oct. 17, 2005). The Court’s decision in this case takes this amendment into
account. After this opinion had been drafted but not yet finalized, the Tenth Circuit issued a decision
concerning an award of attorney fees in a bankruptcy case, In re Market Center East Retail Property, Inc.,
___ F.3d ___, 2013 WL 5273135 (Sept. 19, 2013), which the Court has reviewed. The Court concludes it
does not require any change in the analysis of this case.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 6 of 32
services that were not — (I) reasonably likely to benefit the debtor’s estate; or
(II) necessary to the administration of the case.”
The Court has carefully reviewed each of the billing statements filed in support of
each request for allowance. In general, and without prejudging the objections addressed
below, the Court finds the requests to be appropriate and the fees to be reasonable. The
billing statements are well constructed and have appropriate detail. Mr. Lazzo is an
experienced bankruptcy practitioner, and his hourly rate is reasonable. The time spent on
each item was commensurate with the complexity, the importance, and the nature of the
matters addressed. There is no duplication of services. The total amount of time devoted
to the case is reasonable.
III. Objections that Fees and Expenses for Certain Services Should Be Disallowed
as a Matter of Law Are Rejected.
In addition to complaining about specific time entries, the objecting creditors
assert that the attorney time for certain services requested in more than one application
should not be allowed as a matter of law. The Court will discuss these objections before
turning to the fact-specific objections to particular time entries.
A. The confirmation of the Creditors’ Plan of Liquidation dated July 24,
2012, does not bar the allowance of attorney fees and expenses incurred by
Debtor for post-confirmation services.
After the March 14, 2013 hearing, following which the issue of allowance of fees
was taken under advisement, Rose Hill filed a supplemental objection to the allowance of
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 7 of 32
fees to Debtor’s attorney.10 It argues that as a matter of law, an award of fees and
expenses as an administrative claim is barred for all services after November 21, 2012,
the date of confirmation of the creditors’ liquidating plan. Most of the entries in the fifth
application and all of the entries in the sixth and seventh applications, as well as the fees
for defending the fee applications, were for post-confirmation services.
Rose Hill relies upon Lamie, 11 where the United States Supreme Court held that
§ 330(a) does not allow a Chapter 7 debtor’s attorney to be compensated from the
Chapter 7 estate unless employment of the attorney by the trustee is approved by the court
under § 327. In Lamie, the case was initially filed under Chapter 11, the employment of
counsel for the debtor-in-possession under § 327 was approved by the court, and fees
were allowed under § 330 for services provided while the debtor was the debtor-inpossession.
However, counsel for the debtor-in-possession continued to provide services
after the conversion to Chapter 7 and sought allowance of such fees from the Chapter 7
estate. The Supreme Court held that the Bankruptcy Code does not allow a Chapter 7
debtor’s counsel to be compensated from the estate for legal fees incurred during the
Chapter 11 phase of the case and after conversion. The Court reasoned that the granting
of the motion to convert the Chapter 11 case to a proceeding under Chapter 7 terminated
the debtor’s “status as a debtor-in-possession and so terminated [counsel’s] services under
10 Dkt. 451.
11 Lamie v. United States Trustee, 540 U.S. 526 (2004).
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 8 of 32
§ 327 as an attorney for the debtor-in-possession.”12 It construed the Code to provide that
a debtor’s attorney not engaged as provided by § 327 is not included within the class of
persons eligible for compensation under § 330(a)(1).
Rose Hill argues that in this case, the confirmation of the liquidating plan
terminated Debtor’s status as a debtor-in-possession and terminated the attorney’s
services as attorney for the debtor-in-possession, so that as a matter of law, fees for the
post-confirmation period are not entitled to treatment as an administrative expense, or
even an unsecured claim. Although this argument is superficially appealing, closer
scrutiny shows that it should be rejected.
In this case, confirmation of the creditors’ liquidating plan of reorganization did
not terminate Debtor’s status as a debtor-in-possession. Section 1101 defines “debtor in
possession” to mean the “debtor except when a person that has qualified under section
322 of this title is serving as trustee in the case.” For purposes of a Chapter 11 case,
§ 322 addresses the qualification of a person selected under § 1104 for appointment as
trustee to take over the duties of the debtor-in-possession. The confirmed liquidating plan
did not appoint a trustee under § 1104.
The transfer of all or any part of the property of the estate to a liquidating trust is
authorized by § 1123(a)(5)(B) as a means of implementing a plan. Such a trust is an
extra-bankruptcy entity, and the duties and powers of the trustee of the liquidating trust
12 Id., at 532.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 9 of 32
are defined by the trust, not the Code. The trustee of the liquidating trust is not a
replacement for a Chapter 11 trustee. “‘Under the Code, the debtor remains the debtor in
possession unless and until a trustee is appointed by court order under Section 1104.’”13
When the liquidating plan was confirmed and the liquidating trust created, Debtor as the
debtor-in-possession was not relieved of the duties specified in § 1106 that are made
applicable to debtors-in-possession by § 1107(a).
The liquidating trust did not convert this case to one under Chapter 7. The
requests for allowance of fees and expenses seek payment as administrative expenses of
the Chapter 11 case. The liquidating plan provides that all allowed administrative
expenses will be paid by the trust, with the secured parties providing funds if, as
anticipated, the trust assets are insufficient.
Further, as stated in § 1141(a), the effect of confirmation in general is to bind the
parties to the terms of the plan. Debtor and the liquidating trust, an entity organized for
carrying out the plan, are both obligated by § 1142(a) to “carry out the plan and . . . [to]
comply with any orders of the court.” Section 330(a)(3)(C) provides that in determining
the amount of reasonable compensation for professional persons appointed under § 327,
the court should consider “whether the services were necessary to the administration of,
or beneficial at the time at which the service was rendered toward the completion of, a
case under this title.” Assuming but not deciding that the confirmation of the liquidating
13 In re Bresnick, 406 B.R. 582, 585 (Bankr. E.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting In re Footstar, Inc., 323
B.R. 566, 571 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 2005)).
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 10 of 32
plan terminated Debtor’s ability as the debtor-in-possession to take actions beneficial to
the estate, the Code nevertheless allows for compensation for the post-confirmation
services of counsel appointed under § 327 that are necessary for the administration of the
The Court finds that fees and expenses may be awarded to Debtor’s counsel for the
time period following confirmation of the liquidating plan.
B. Fees and expenses may be awarded for services in defending the objections
to the requests for allowance.
When opposing the sixth and seventh applications,14 Rose Hill argues that services
in defense of objections to an allowance of fees and expenses are noncompensable. It is
true that “the issue of compensation for time spent defending against an objection to a fee
application . . . is left open by section 330(a)(6),” which was added to the Code in 1994
and provides for compensation for preparation of fee applications.15 Courts therefore
decide the issue of compensation for defense of fee applications by reference to the
general standards for the allowance of compensation as stated in § 330(a). But
application of these standards has not produced uniform results,16 and there appears to be
no decision from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on the question. Fees have been
14 Dkt. 408 at 2; dkt. 433 at 1-2.
15 3 Collier on Bankruptcy, ¶ 330.03[a][ii] (Alan N. Resnick & Henry J. Sommer, eds.-inchief,
16th ed. 2013); id., ¶ 330.LH at 330-72 to 330-73 (stating § 330(a)(6) was added by Bankruptcy
Reform Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-394, § 224 (1994)).
16 Id., ¶ 330.03[a][ii].
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 11 of 32
denied on the basis that the estate was not benefitted by such a defense, and reliance on
the American Rule for attorney fees, under which parties must generally bear their own
litigation costs absent specific fee-shifting legislation.17 Those courts allowing
compensation have found “that to do otherwise would dilute the fee award in violation of
§330(a), thus impermissibly reducing the effective compensation of bankruptcy attorneys
to levels below that of attorneys generally.”18
The Court finds persuasive three recent decisions finding such services
compensable. The first is Engman, 19 a district court opinion reversing a bankruptcy
court’s denial of fees for defending an application because the court was “‘not satisfied
that there is sufficient authority under Section 330(a) to warrant such fees.’”20 The
district court stated:
The bankruptcy court erred in its construction of 11
U.S.C. § 330(a). . . . To hold [that such fees must be
disallowed as a matter of law] would allow a litigious
objecting party to negotiate unwarranted reductions in a fee
award simply because the attorney is faced with a no win
situation: even if the attorney fights the objections and
prevails, the time and resources spent on the issue often will
outweigh the value of the amount in dispute. . . . Such a
scenario would undoubtedly compromise a bankruptcy
attorney’s ability to represent the estate, and might also deter
competent attorneys from specializing in bankruptcy law. . . .
17 In re Millennium Multiple Employer Welfare Benefit Plan, 470 B.R. 203, 217 (Bankr. W.D.
19 Boyd v. Engman, 404 B.R. 467 (W.D. Mich. 2009).
20 Id. at 482 (quoting In re Engman, 389 B.R. 36, 48 (Bankr. W.D. Mich. 2008)).
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 12 of 32
This is precisely the problem that Section 330(a) was
designed to combat. . . . Preparing and defending attorney fee
applications is part and parcel with the attorney’s role in the
administration of the bankruptcy process and is therefore
compensable under 11 U.S.C. § 330(a).21
In Millennium, a bankruptcy court in Oklahoma found “compelling the rationale of
the Engman case that allowing fees for defense of a fee application is consistent with the
overall purpose of § 330 of the Bankruptcy Code, and provides a benefit to the
bankruptcy estate and to the bankruptcy system.”22 In Lupo, a bankruptcy court in
Massachusetts found the reasoning of Millennium and Engman persuasive.23 It reasoned
that where the objection to the requested fees lacked merit but contained damaging
allegations, a refusal to allow fees for defending against the objection would reward the
objecting party for proffering an unmeritorious objection, while penalizing counsel by, in
effect, reducing the fees awarded with respect to the application.24
In this case, the Court finds that to disallow fees for defense of the fee applications
against objections as a matter of law would not be consistent with § 330(a). It would
reduce the effective compensation of Debtor’s counsel and unjustly reward the objecting
creditors. Defense against objections to fee allowances is a part of the administration of
the case. In this case, the objecting creditors have a direct pecuniary interest in reducing
21 Id. at 483.
22 Millennium Multiple Employer Welfare Benefit Plan, 470 B.R. at 217.
23 In re Lupo, 2012 WL 1682571, *3 (Bankr. D. Mass. 2012).
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 13 of 32
the fee award and fully availed themselves of the opportunity to accomplish that end.
Based upon its familiarity with the case and parties involved, the Court also finds that
personal animosity has contributed to the escalation of the controversies before the Court.
The Code’s provisions for retaining and compensating professional persons should be
applied in a manner that promotes retention and adequate compensation for debtor’s
IV. The Objection to Debtor’s Fourth Application for Fees and Expenses Is
Debtor’s Fourth Application for Allowance of Attorney Fees and Expenses25
requests allowance of fees of $14,100 (70.5 hours at $200 per hour) for the time period
beginning June 7, 2012, through October 24, 2012, as an administrative expense. Rose
Hill objected to specific entries totaling $3,000. By an order entered on November 29,
2012,26 the Court allowed the fourth request, except for the $3,000.
All of the time entries to which Rose Hill objects involve counsel’s evaluation of
and attempt to settle an objection to the dischargeability of a claim filed by Bank of
Commerce in the bankruptcy of Jonathan and Amy Schupbach, the owners and managers
of Debtor. At the time of the challenged entries, there were two competing proposed
Chapter 11 plans before the Court, one proposed by Debtor and one proposed by
creditors. Counsel for Debtor was attempting a global settlement of the competing plans,
25 Dkt. 344.
26 Dkt. 362.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 14 of 32
and evaluation of the dischargeability complaint was required for meaningful settlement
discussions. The time spent on the dischargeability complaint benefitted the estate. The
fees are therefore properly allowed as an administrative expense.
The $3,000 requested in the fourth application and not previously approved is
V. The Objections to Debtor’s Fifth Application for Fees and Expenses Are
Debtor’s Fifth Application for Allowance of Attorney fees and Expenses27 requests
allowance of fees of $12,030 (60.15 hours at $200 per hour) for the time period beginning
September 20, 2012, through December 6, 2012, as an administrative expense.28 Rose
Hill and the Liquidating Trustee objected to time entries totaling $1,180. By an order
entered on January 14, 2013,29 the Court allowed the request except for the $1,180.
Rose Hill objects to an award of fees for .3 hours on October 26, 2012, for review
of an e-mail from counsel for Bank of Commerce “regarding rejection of global
settlement term to resolve competing Chapter 11 Plans by dismissal of adversary” and
forwarding the same to the client. In Rose Hill’s view, since the time entry concerns the
dischargeability complaint filed in the Schupbachs’ personal bankruptcy, compensation
27 Dkt. 376.
28 The time period covered by this fifth application overlaps the time period covered by the fourth
application for one month, September 20, 2012, through October 24, 2012, but the only entries in the
fifth application for this month are for expenses which were not requested in the fourth application.
There is no duplication of requests for attorney fees.
29 Dkt. 399.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 15 of 32
should not be paid by the Schupbach Investments’ estate. The Court rejects this
objection. The correspondence concerned a settlement of disputes regarding Debtor’s
Chapter 11 plan, which is by any standard compensable time. The fact that the potential
settlement included the dischargeability complaint filed in the Schupbachs’ personal
bankruptcy case does not negate the fact that the entry concerned the administration of
Rose Hill also objects to an entry for .3 hours on October 29, 2012, for “e-mail
exchange with client regarding cancellation of credit life insurance policies, modification
of creditor plan relative to same, whether Banks have insurable interest, recommended
action.” Both Rose Hill and the Liquidating Trustee object to time entries for 3.7 hours
on December 5, 2012, and 1.6 hours on December 6, 2012, regarding the life insurance
issue, contending that the time spent was for the benefit of Jonathan Schupbach, not
Debtor’s Chapter 11 estate. These time entries concern Debtor’s objection to a term in
the creditors’ liquidating plan that provided for the assumption and assignment to the
creditors of insurance policies owned by Debtor that insured the life of Jonathan
Schupbach, which policies had been assigned prepetition to the bank creditors as
collateral. When Debtor otherwise agreed to the creditors’ plan, this objection was
preserved by a provision in the order confirming the plan which states that “[t]he Debtor
or the Schupbachs may object to the assumption and assignment of any life insurance
policies owed by the Debtor within 21 days of Confirmation. If such an objection is filed,
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 16 of 32
the Court will determine the issue.”30
Debtor filed the objection, contending that assignment and assumption was
improper because under Kansas law the creditors lacked an insurable interest in the life of
Jonathan Schupbach who, as the insured, had the right to cancel the policies. Rose Hill
opposed the objection. By a memorandum opinion and judgment entered on June 20,
2013,31 the Court resolved the matter by finding that although Debtor was correct about
Kansas law, there was no evidence that the insured had exercised his right to cancel the
policies, which therefore remained available for assignment and assumption. Counsel for
Rose Hill, however, has subsequently made it clear that the bank will not oppose the
insured’s actions to cancel the policies and agrees that upon such cancellation, any
assignment or assumption will be null and void.
The Court rejects the objections to time spent on the life insurance issue. The
Code in § 330(a)(3)(C) directs the Court when reviewing compensation of attorneys to
consider if the services were necessary to the administration of or beneficial to the case.
The services rendered by Debtor’s counsel relating to the assignment of the insurance
policies were necessary to resolve the only objection to the liquidating plan which was
not decided by agreement between Debtor and its creditors. It concerned the disposition
of property of the estate. The creditors’ objections to the time entries are based upon
Debtor’s presumed motivation. That is not the question. The Court is directed to approve
30 Dkt. 355 at 3, amendments to Article 6 of the plan.
31 Dkt. 460.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 17 of 32
the fees unless they were not necessary to the administration of the case. The Court finds
that resolution of Debtor’s objection to a term of the plan was necessary before the plan
could be confirmed, and so was necessary to the administration of this case.
The Court therefore rejects the objections to Debtor’s request for an award of
$1,060 (5.3 hours at $200 per hour) for time devoted to the assignment of insurance
VI. The Objections to Debtor’s Sixth Application for Allowance of Attorney fees
and Expenses Are Overruled.
In the sixth application, Debtor requests allowance of fees of $3,560 (17.8 hours at
$200 per hour) for the time period beginning December 6, 2012, through January 12,
2013, as an administrative expense. Rose Hill objects to the entire request on procedural
grounds, and to specific time entries as unnecessary and providing no benefit to the estate.
Bank of Commerce adopts Rose Hill’s objections and also contends that “only fees
directly related to surrender of assets to creditors, or work expressly requested by the
Liquidating Trustee, should be subject to allowance as an administrative expense of the
Liquidating Trust.”33 Central National Bank’s objection incorporates the objections of
Rose Hill and Bank of Commerce.
Rose Hill’s initial objections are procedural. The first is that the sixth application
was filed on January 14, 2013, approximately one month after the filing of the fifth
32 The total spent on the assignment of insurance issue for which compensation is requested is 6.3
hours, 5.3 in the fifth application and 1 in the seventh application. This is not excessive.
33 Dkt. 409.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 18 of 32
application, in violation of § 331, which provides that a debtor’s attorney may apply for
fees not more than once every 120 days after an order for relief, unless the court
authorizes more frequent applications.34 The Court finds that the violation of the
limitations on the timing of applications is harmless. If the sixth application had not been
filed, the time periods it covers would have been included in the seventh, and final,
application, which is also now before the Court.
In a supplemental objection,35 Rose Hill complains because the sixth application
“fails to disclose the ‘amounts of all previous payments and amount of any allowed fees
and expenses remaining unpaid,’ as set out in the United States Trustee’s Guidelines for
Reviewing Applications for Compensation and Reimbursement of Expenses Filed under
11 USC § 330.”36 Any failure to comply with the guidelines is harmless, as all the
information required was included in subsequent applications and is now before the
As to the substantive objections to specific time entries, the objecting creditors
first contend that all of the time for which compensation is sought was spent after
confirmation, and most of the entries relate to inquiries from creditors and the Liquidating
Trustee concerning minor issues that could have been responded to directly by the
34 On February 15, 2013, one day after the filing of Rose Hill’s objection and approximately one
month after the filing of the sixth application, Debtor filed a motion under § 331 to allow monthly fee
applications. Dkt. 420. This motion and the objections thereto will be addressed by a separate order.
35 Dkt. 411.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 19 of 32
Schupbachs. The Court rejects this objection. As explained above in section (III)(A), the
Court rejects the argument that as a matter of law, all time spent by Debtor’s counsel after
confirmation of the liquidating plan is noncompensable. Inquiries to which counsel
responded were made to Debtor’s counsel, not to the Schupbachs. The creditors and the
Liquidating Trustee requested assistance in implementing the liquidating plan and
received it. It is disingenuous for them to now argue that the time spent responding is
noncompensable. Further, Jonathan Schupbach testified that he desired that counsel act
as a “middle man” with respect to obtaining information from him about Schupbach
Investments, since his experience in the case has resulted in his not trusting the creditors
or their counsel. Under § 330(a)(3)(C), compensation should be disallowed for services
that were not “necessary to the administration of . . . [the] case.” The challenged entries
were necessary to the administration of the case, and compensation shall be allowed.
Rose Hill objects to less than one hour of time for drafting a proof of an
administrative claim for postpetition federal taxes, on the premise that since Debtor is an
LLC, it has no tax liability. Testimony established that the time relates to employment
taxes owed by the estate and the provision of 1099 forms to those paid by Schupbach
Investments during the year. This is a matter concerning the administration of the case.
The objection is overruled.
The entries for December 13, 18, and 20, 2012, are objected to on the basis that the
matters to which they relate did not benefit the estate. But they did relate to the
implementation of the liquidating plan and the administration of the case. The times for
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 20 of 32
December 13 and 18 concerned the Van der Bloemen matters, which are addressed in the
liquidating plan and therefore concerned administration of the case. The entry for
December 20 is for an e-mail exchange with the Liquidating Trustee regarding the life
insurance issue. For the reasons stated above in section (V), the Court finds time spent on
this issue is compensable. The objections are overruled.
Finally, Rose Hill objects to the majority of the time entries starting on December
27, 2012, and continuing to January 12, 2013. This time was devoted to defending the fee
requests and status hearings on the same, and according to Rose Hill, is noncompensable
as a matter of law. This objection is overruled for the reasons discussed above in section
VII. Debtor’s Seventh and Final Application Is Granted.
A. Request for award of fees and expenses.
Debtor’s seventh application seeks an award of fees of $2,760 and expenses of
$119.25 incurred for the period beginning January 14, 2013, through February 15, 2013.37
This request was supplemented by a request for allowance of fees for time spent after
February 15, 2013, through the date of the hearing on March 14, 2013.38 At the hearing,
Mr. Lazzo presented evidence that the amounts were $3,980 for services prior to the
hearing,39 plus $600 for his appearance on March 14, 2013.
37 Dkt. 422.
38 Dkt. 424.
39 Dkt. 439-4.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 21 of 32
Rose Hill objects to specific time entries for the preparation of a 2012 tax return,
services relating to the fee applications, time spent on the life insurance issue, and
representation concerning an alleged housing code violation.40 Central National,41 Bank
of Commerce,42 and Community Bank43 joined in Rose Hill’s objection to these specific
The Court rejects the objection to the award of fees of $460 (2.3 hours reported in
nine separate entries) for services regarding the 2012 tax matters and post-confirmation
reports. The entries reflect services to respond to correspondence from the United States
Trustee’s Office and the Liquidating Trustee as to who was responsible for preparing tax
returns and to ask Debtor’s management to provide necessary information for the returns.
The objection states no reason why these services are noncompensable, and the Court
knows of none.
The second objection is to time entries (4.9 hours between January 14, 2013, and
February 15, 2013, 19.9 hours between February 18, 2013, and March 10, 2013, and 3
hours for the March 14, 2013, hearing) for services in opposing the objections to the fee
requests, including the preparation of a trial brief (which the Court has found helpful) and
appearance at the evidentiary hearing. As found above in section (III)(B), the Court has
40 Dkt. 433.
41 Dkt. 441.
42 Dkt. 443.
43 Dkt. 444.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 22 of 32
concluded that services for defending against the objections to the fee applications are
compensable. The Court does not find the time to be excessive.
The third group of challenged time entries is a total of one hour spread over three
days that was devoted to the life insurance assignment issue. For the reasons stated above
in section (V), the Court finds this time is compensable.
The final objection to specific entries is to 3.5 hours allegedly devoted to “housing
code issues which involved warrants against Mr. Schupbach personally.”44 But review of
the challenged time entries show that Debtor’s estate was involved. The first entry states
in part, “Teleconference with client regarding Wichita Police Officer Elding contact
relative to warrants issued by city for code violations on properties previously quit
claimed to creditors.” Most of counsel’s subsequent time entries regarding the code
violations relate to the filing of quit claim deeds by the creditors to which the properties
were transferred. These alleged housing code violations prompted the filing of Debtor’s
Motion to Compel Compliance by Petitioning Creditors with Confirmation Order, praying
for an order requiring the creditors to record quit claim deeds given to them by Debtor
and to contact the appropriate Wichita authorities to inform them about the ownership of
the properties involved in the alleged code violations.45 The Court finds that the time was
related to the administration of the case and is compensable.
B. Request for final allowance of fees and expenses.
44 Dkt. 433 at 2.
45 Dkt. 412.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 23 of 32
The second aspect of the seventh request for allowance is for final approval of the
fees previously approved on an interim basis and a final order allowing fees in the total
amount of $103,654.04 as an administrative expense. This request drew a whole new set
of objections, discussed below.
1. The Court will not reconsider its nunc pro tunc appointment of Mr.
When opposing the application for final award of fees, Rose Hill’s first objection
is to the nunc pro tunc appointment of Mr. Lazzo as counsel for Debtor. This case was
filed on May 16, 2011. The application for Mr. Lazzo’s employment was filed on June
17, 2011, and for the reasons stated on the record, was granted nunc pro tunc. The Court
declines to reconsider its prior order.
2. Compensation will not be denied or reduced because of alleged
failures to disclose the details of payments from the prepetition retainer
and the source of interim payments Debtor made, as permitted by
orders of the Court.
When opposing the final application, Rose Hill devotes several pages of its
pleading to complaints regarding alleged deficiencies in the disclosure and itemization of
prepetition services, the lack of a contemporaneous disclosure of details regarding the
application of the prepetition retainer, and speculation as to the source of postpetition
payments of fees approved on an interim basis. The Court finds these objections are
insufficient to deny or reduce the final award of fees.
First, the Court questions whether these deficiencies, even if accurate and not
corrected, would provide a basis to deny or reduce a final award of fees. The objecting
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 24 of 32
creditors provide no authorities in this regard. The alleged irregularities are insignificant
and have had no material effect on the case. The entire process of the allowance of fees
has been very transparent, and the alleged deficiencies do not cause the Court to have any
concerns about the integrity of the process. Second, the objecting creditors, although
involved in the fees-allowance process throughout this case, never objected
contemporaneously to these alleged deficiencies regarding the retainer, thereby requiring
them to set out very good reasons for their change of position. They have not done so.
As to the source of payment of allowed interim fees, the orders approving the fees also
authorized immediate payment. If the objecting creditors were concerned about the
source of payment, they should have brought the issue to the attention of the Court, but
they did not do so. Further, any possible disclosure deficiencies appear to have been
cured, as counsel for Debtor has provided a full itemization of his prepetition services,
and a full disclosure of all prepetition payments and his application of the retainer.
3. The Court’s prior order approving Debtor’s employment of counsel
will not be set aside based upon an allegation of lack of
When objecting to the final award, Rose Hill argues that “the pre-petition
payments of the $9,760.00 and the pre-petition fees due of $5,200.00 might well render
debtor’s counsel not ‘disinterested’ and therefore not eligible to be employed at all.”46
The Court disagrees.
46 Dkt. 433 at 3-4.
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When this case was filed on May 16, 2011, Mr. Lazzo, who was later appointed as
counsel for the debtor-in-possession, disclosed that he had agreed with Debtor to provide
legal services at the rate of $200 per hour and that Debtor had paid him a $10,000
retainer. When the debtor-in-possession applied for approval of the employment, Mr.
Lazzo filed the attorney’s affidavit required by District of Kansas Local Bankruptcy Rule
2014.1, stating under oath that he was disinterested and did not hold or represent an
interest adverse to the estate. In his first interim fee application, Mr. Lazzo requested
compensation from the estate for $5,200 in fees incurred in the four days just prior to the
filing of the case.47 There was no objection to the award of fees for this period and no
assertion that Mr. Lazzo was not disinterested.48 The request was approved.
Now, when objecting to the seventh and final applications, Rose Hill and those
other creditors joining in Rose Hill’s objection contend that because of the outstanding
obligation for $5,200 in fees due Mr. Lazzo on the date of filing, he was not disinterested
and therefore his request for allowance of all fees for his representation in the case should
The court rejects this argument. Section 328(c) allows the court to deny
compensation for the services of an attorney employed under § 327 “if, at any time during
such professional person’s employment under section 327 . . . , such professional person
47 Other pre-filing fees had been paid from the retainer. Dkt. 422 at 2.
48 Rose Hill and Central National objected to the request that the employment be allowed nunc
pro tunc, but not to the specific time entries.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 26 of 32
is not a disinterested person, or represents or holds an interest adverse to the interest of
the estate with respect to the matter on which such professional person is employed.”
Section 101(14) defines “disinterested person” to include a requirement that the person
not be a creditor, an equity security holder, or an insider. But § 1107(b) provides that
notwithstanding § 327(a), “a person is not disqualified for employment under section 327
of this title by a debtor in possession solely because of such person’s employment by or
representation of the debtor before the commencement of the case.”
The question is whether an attorney who on the date of filing is owed $5,200 in
fees for work performed to prepare for the filing of a Chapter 11 case within the week
prior to filing is disqualified because he is not disinterested or whether § 1107(b) applies.
Collier on Bankruptcy reports that although “[a] majority of courts have concluded that a
professional who is a creditor may not be retained,”49 “[a] minority of courts have taken a
more flexible approach and have attempted to balance potential risks associated with
employing a professional who is not disinterested with the costs of retaining a substitute
professional who is disinterested.”50 However, Collier on Bankruptcy also notes that
“[e]ven courts that adhere to the per se rule have held that professionals holding claims
for services rendered prior to the commencement of the chapter 11 case are not thereby
barred from representing the debtor in possession if the services were rendered in
49 7 Collier on Bankruptcy ¶ 1107.04[b] at 1107-14
50 Id. at ¶ 1107.04[c] at 1107-17.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 27 of 32
preparation for the bankruptcy filing.”51 The First Circuit has stated, “The performance
of standard prepetition services, i.e., preliminary work routinely undertaken to facilitate
an upcoming chapter 11 filing, will not serve to disqualify an otherwise eligible
attorney.”52 The court reasoned as follows:
At first blush, [§ 327(a)] . . . would seem to foreclose the
employment of an attorney who is in any respect a “creditor.”
But, such a literalistic reading defies common sense and must
be discarded as grossly overbroad. After all, any attorney
who may be retained or appointed to render professional
services to a debtor in possession becomes a creditor of the
estate just as soon as any compensable time is spent on
account. Thus, to interpret the law in such an inelastic way
would virtually eliminate any possibility of legal assistance
for a debtor in possession, except under a cash-and-carry
arrangement or on a pro bono basis. It stands to reason that
the statutory mosaic must, at the least, be read to exclude as a
“creditor” a lawyer, not previously owed back fees or other
indebtedness, who is authorized by the court to represent a
debtor in connection with reorganization proceedings —
notwithstanding that the lawyer will almost instantaneously
become a creditor of the estate with regard to the charges
endemic to current and future representation.53
This Court agrees with the First Circuit. To disqualify Mr. Lazzo because he was
owed $5,200 on the date of filing for services provided immediately prepetition to prepare
for Debtor’s bankruptcy filing would defy common sense. The Tenth Circuit appears not
have taken a position on the question, but the Court is confident that it would not find the
51 Id. at ¶ 1107,04b] at 1107-16.
52 In re Martin, 817 F.2d 175, 180 n.5 (1st Cir. 1987).
53 Id. at 180.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 28 of 32
existence of Mr. Lazzo’s claim sufficient to preclude appointment or deny allowance of
fees. The possibility that the claim would affect his representation of Debtor is
nonexistent. The amount owed is a very small portion of the total claims in this case, and
even a small percentage of the total cost for services Mr. Lazzo rendered to the debtor-inpossession.
4. The Court will not the deny the final application based upon the
argument that some services billed are not proper administrative
expenses of the case because they were not beneficial to the estate.
The objecting creditors argue that compensation should be excluded for services
which did not benefit the estate. Under this category, they take aim at services related to
Debtor’s failed motion to consolidate this case with the Schupbachs’ personal case,54 and
Debtor’s proposed, but rejected, plan of reorganization. They argue that it was evident
early in the case that Debtor could not propose a confirmable plan.
This objection requests the Court to examine the strategic decisions of Debtor’s
counsel during the case. Such an examination must be performed from the perspective of
whether the services were calculated to benefit the estate when they were performed, not
whether through the lens of hindsight, they resulted in a benefit to the estate.55 Further,
substantial deference must be given to the decisions of counsel, as this Court, like others,
54 They assert that Debtor’s counsel billed for 40.3 hours for this service between September 20,
2011, and January 19, 2012. Dkt. 433 at 6.
55 See Hansen, Jones & Leta, P.C., v. Segal, 220 B.R. 434, 445 (D. Utah. 1998) (“[T]he
bankruptcy court must assess whether the professional’s services benefit[t]ed or were reasonably
calculated to benefit the estate before addressing the question of reasonableness.”)
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 29 of 32
is “reluctant to second-guess an attorney’s choice about how best to represent the client’s
In this case, Debtor is a Kansas limited liability company, owned and managed by
two individuals, Jonathan Schupbach and his wife. No other persons have ever been
involved in the management or ownership of the company. The Schupbachs have
personal liability for a substantial amount of the LLC’s debts, and their individual
Chapter 11 case is also pending before this Court. The absolute priority rule presented an
obstacle to the Schupbachs’ continued ability to manage Debtor postpetition.
Consolidation of the Schupbachs’ business and personal bankruptcy estates was a
reasonable strategy for achieving rehabilitation of Debtor, and the time spent on that issue
was calculated to benefit the estate.
Debtor proposed a plan of reorganization which was not confirmed. The secured
creditors now assert that time spent seeking reorganization should be disallowed because
it was for the purpose of benefitting the Schupbachs, not Debtor. If the Court were to
examine the motivation for Debtor’s strategic decisions, it would feel compelled to
consider the motivation for the creditors’ strategic failure to pursue a motion to dismiss at
an appropriate time during the pendency of this case. The Court will not do so.
Proposing a reorganization plan is a fundamental duty of a Chapter 11 debtor’s counsel.
Many of the Chapter 11 cases in this district are filed by closely-held businesses where
56 In re A.W. Logging, Inc., 356 B.R. 506, 516 (D. Idaho 2006).
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 30 of 32
the affairs of the owners and the company are intertwined and successful reorganization is
doubtful. Nevertheless, the Chapter 11 process is available to such debtors. In such
cases, the possibility that the debtor’s counsel would not receive compensation if a
proposed plan is not confirmed would adversely impact representation of such debtors
and harm the bankruptcy process.
For the forgoing reasons, the Court allows the disputed portions of the fourth and
fifth applications, and the fees and expenses requested in the sixth, seventh, and
supplemental seventh applications. The Court also allows all fees and expenses, both
those previously awarded on an interim basis and the fees and expenses allowed by virtue
of this order, on a final basis as administrative expenses of the estate. The total allowed is
$103,654.04. Debtor’s counsel has received postpetition payments from Debtor of
$65,702.18,57 leaving a balance owed of $37,951.86.
The foregoing constitutes Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law under Rules
7052 and 9014(c) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, which make Rule 52(a)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applicable to this matter.
Judgment is hereby entered allowing Debtor's counsel, Mark J. Lazzo, an
administrative claim for fees and expenses in the amount of $103,654.04. The judgment
57 Dkt. 422 at 2.
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 31 of 32
based on this ruling will become effective when it is entered on the docket for this case,
as provided by Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9021.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
# # #
Case 11-11425 Doc# 498 Filed 10/03/13 Page 32 of 32
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