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Sabine Lives On (and On): Bankruptcy Court Rejects Immediate Appeal to Second Circuit and Motion for Stay

July 4, 2016

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Editor’s Note:  On June 16, 2016, The Bankruptcy Cave gave you our summary of the controversial Sabine decision.  At that time, post-hearing motions were pending.  As luck would have it (we at The Bankruptcy Cave should start wagering on college football, or who will win JoJo’s heart, with this luck!), just a few days later the drama continued with some important rulings on the timing of any final resolution of these important issues.  Here’s the skinny:

On June 15, 2016, Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman of the Southern District of New York issued a follow on decision concerning rejection of certain midstream contracts in Sabine Oil & Gas Corporation’s (“Sabine”) Chapter 11 case.[i]  In its decision, the Court rejected Nordheim Eagle Ford Gathering, LLC’s (“Nordheim”) request for an immediate appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Court also refused to stay enforcement

Sabine – A New York Bankruptcy Judge’s Interpretation of Texas Property Law Encourages Compromise and Leaves an Industry in Limbo

June 17, 2016

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On March 9, 2016, Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman of the Southern District of New York issued her decision on the Debtor’s motion to reject certain contracts in Sabine Oil & Gas Corporation’s Chapter 11 case.[i]  The decision, which allowed Sabine to reject “gathering agreements”[ii] between it and two “midstream operators,”[iii] Nordheim Eagle Ford Gathering, LLC and HPIP Gonzales Holdings, LLC, under Section 365(a) of the Bankruptcy Code, sent shockwaves through the midstream energy sector and leveled the playing field for bankrupt production companies.  Yet, the case leaves undecided the ultimate question – what midstream contracts are protected as real covenants running with the land?  That question may be months, or even years, away from any resolution.[iv]  In the interim, energy companies are left with Sabine, which implies producers can renegotiate midstream contracts in a slumping energy market, using the threat of bankruptcy and

When Going “All In” Pays Off: The Third Circuit Upholds The Decision of the Bankruptcy Court in In re Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc.

In an appeal certified directly from the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware (the “Bankruptcy Court”) to the Court of Appeals, the Third Circuit issued a ruling upholding Judge Kevin Gross’s decision that a chapter 11 debtor-employer may reject the continuing terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) under 11 U.S.C. § 1113, despite that the CBA expired post-petition.

The Bankruptcy Court’s Decision

In December 2014, the Bankruptcy Cave first reported on the Bankruptcy Court’s decision in In re Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc. (the “Bankruptcy Opinion”).  The controversy centered around whether provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) that maintain the status quo of an expired CBA during negotiations for a new CBA mean that the expired CBA still exists as a contract that can be “rejected” under section 1113 of the Bankruptcy Code.  The Bankruptcy Opinion held in the affirmative –

I Want to Use My Licensed Intellectual Property in My Company’s Chapter 11 Case by Assuming My Already Existing License, but My Lawyer Tells Me We Are in the Wrong State to Do It. Really?

Editor’s Note: Our good colleagues at Willamette Management Associates were kind enough to feature a Bryan Cave Article in its Spring 2016 issue of Insights.  If you are a bankruptcy attorney, then no doubt at some point you have had to deal with the mind-numbing exercise of determining when IP contracts or licenses (or government contracts, remember West Electronics, folks?) can be assumed, or assumed and assigned, or neither.  This analysis can, in some circuits, result in a potentially huge loss of value to debtors and creditors, a la Sunterra.  Your editorial team at the Bankruptcy Cave is annoyed that this problem, and this circuit split, has existed for over 30 years; but we are relieved to have an up-to-date Bryan Cave article on this.  The article also includes a discussion of how the ABI Commission is planning to solve this problem.  The Insights article by can be found by clicking

It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: Circuits are Limiting the Use of Equitable Mootness

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Over the summer, four appellate court decisions addressed the doctrine of equitable mootness: In re Tribune Media Co., 799 F.3d 272 (3d Cir. 2015); In re One2One Commc’ns, LLC, No. 13-3410, 2015 WL 4430302 (3d Cir. July 21, 2015); In re Sagamore Partners, Ltd., No. 14-11106, 2015 WL 5091909 (11th Cir. Aug. 31, 2015); and In re Transwest Resort Props., Inc., 801 F.3d 1161 (9th Cir. 2015). These decisions indicate a trend away from the doctrine’s application, or at least the presumption that it should be determinative.

“‘Equitable mootness’ is a narrow doctrine by which an appellate court deems it prudent for practical reasons to forbear deciding an appeal when to grant the relief requested will undermine the finality and reliability of

Rolling the Dice on Collective Bargaining Agreements in Bankruptcy: A Lesson From In re Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc.

In In re Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc., a bankruptcy case currently pending before the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware at Case No. 14-12103, the union at a famous Atlantic City casino made a bet on its ability to “hold up” the casino’s bankruptcy process and force hard line negotiations on an expired collective bargaining agreement. Ultimately, this gamble did not pay off, as the Honorable Judge Kevin Gross held that the casino was permitted to reject the expired collective bargaining agreement as an “executory contract” under the Bankruptcy Code. Put succinctly, the union’s negotiation tactics resulted in the loss of all benefits under the collective bargaining agreement for union members

While the holding in Trump is predicated on extreme factual circumstances, it serves as a reminder that parties seeking to “stiff-arm” negotiations may face serious repercussions, particularly in the context of bankruptcy.

Introduction

The circuits are

A debtor’s “increasing” burden of proof in the face of a motion for relief from stay

In Ryerson, the court held that a debtor’s burden of showing a successful reorganization changes depending on the timing in the case. The court found that early in the case, a debtor must show that reorganization is “plausible,” near the expiration of the exclusivity period a debtor must show that reorganization is “probable,” and, after expiration of the exclusivity period, the debtor must show reorganization is “assured.”

I. Short Factual Background.

In 2003, the debtor, a real estate developer, used funds from a line of a credit to purchase acres of contiguous lakefront land on Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. The debtor’s obligations under the line of credit were restated and evidenced by three promissory notes secured by liens on the property. In 2013, the debtor defaulted on his obligations and filed for chapter 11 relief less than two weeks prior to the scheduled foreclosure sale for the property. Twenty-six

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