Land Ventures for 2, LLC v. Fritz et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: it is ORDERED that, pursuant to 28 USC § 636(c)(4) and General Order No. 3156, the erroneous primary assignment of this matter to the magistrate judge is VACATED; further ORDERED that the orders previously entered by the magistrate judge are ADOPTED and AFFIRMED; DIRECTING the Clerk to annotate the docket to reflect the primary assignment of this case to the undersigned district judge. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 10/9/2015. (wcl, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
LAND VENTURES FOR 2, LLC,
MICHAEL A. FRITZ, SR., et al.,
CASE NO. 2:12-CV-240-WKW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Land Ventures for 2, LLC (“Land Ventures”), commenced this
legal malpractice action against its former bankruptcy attorney, Michael Fritz, and
his law firm (collectively, “Fritz”), invoking the court’s diversity jurisdiction, see
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).
Chief Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker has been
presiding over this action pursuant to the parties’ consent and a general order of the
court regarding the primary assignment of a percentage of specified civil cases to
the magistrate judges. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1); In re: Assignment of “Regular
Civil Cases” to United States Magistrate Judges, General Order No. 3156 (M.D.
Ala. Aug. 29, 2003), as amended. But that consent and assignment do not stand on
solid legal ground. As this opinion explains, because this malpractice action is
“otherwise related to a case under title 11,” the authority to enter a final judgment
resides solely in “the district judge after considering the bankruptcy judge’s
proposed findings and conclusions and after reviewing de novo those matters to
which any party has timely and specifically objected.” 28 U.S.C. § 157(c)(1).
Additionally, this court has in place a general order that precludes the referral and
primary assignment of bankruptcy cases to the magistrate judges. See General
Order 3156 (excluding bankruptcy cases from its provisions governing primary
assignment of civil cases to the magistrate judge).
For these reasons, which
constitute good cause, the primary assignment of this matter to Judge Walker is
VACATED sua sponte pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(4).1
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
When Land Ventures filed this malpractice action in March 2012, it was in
the midst of a bankruptcy proceeding in this district. See In re Land Ventures for
2, LLC, No. 10-30651 (M.D. Ala. Bankr. Mar. 16, 2010). Because the propriety of
the primary assignment of this case to the magistrate judge and the parties’ ensuing
consent to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge hinges upon whether the
proceedings before this court are related to the bankruptcy proceeding, it is helpful
Section 636 authorizes a full-time magistrate judge to conduct proceedings in civil
matters, including entry of judgment, “when specially designated to exercise such jurisdiction by
the district court” and upon the consent of the parties. § 636(c)(1). It further provides that “[t]he
court may, for good cause shown on its own motion, . . . vacate a reference of a civil matter to a
magistrate judge.” Id. § 636(c)(4).
to begin with a summary of the pertinent procedural history in the bankruptcy
The Bankruptcy Case
Michael A. Fritz, an attorney, filed a Chapter 11 voluntary petition on behalf
of Land Ventures in March 2010.2
By September 2011, the attorney-client
relationship had soured, however, and Mr. Fritz moved to withdraw as counsel.
The day prior to moving to withdraw, Mr. Fritz also filed an application for
(See B. Ct. Doc. # 234 (Fritz’s 8/31/11 application for
Mr. Windham T. Pittman – Land Ventures’ manager, 99%
owner,3 and an unsecured creditor of the estate – filed a pro se objection to Mr.
Fritz’s application, contending that Mr. Fritz had “not progressed on this matter as
a reasonable competent attorney would proceed,” and the bankruptcy judge
conducted a hearing on the application in November 2011. (B. Ct. Doc. # 308
(Pittman’s 11/7/11 objection).)
A month after the hearing, Nicholas Wooten, Esq., filed a notice of
appearance on behalf of Land Ventures in the bankruptcy case. (B. Ct. Doc. # 334
(Wooten’s 12/16/11 notice of appearance).) On the same date, Mr. Wooten also
The bankruptcy case was filed under Chapter 11, but later was converted into a Chapter
7 liquidation proceeding. (B. Ct. Doc. # 180.)
See Exhibit 48 to Fritz’s summary judgment motion at 2 (Pittman’s testimony at the
April 23, 2010 meeting of the creditors in the underlying bankruptcy case).
filed a notice advising the bankruptcy court of a potential malpractice claim against
Mr. Fritz and his firm and requested that the trustee abandon the claim.
Ultimately, after learning of the debtor’s potential lawsuit against Mr. Fritz and his
law firm for malpractice, the bankruptcy judge permitted Mr. Fritz to withdraw in
December 2011.4 (B. Ct. Doc. # 345 (12/20/11 order granting Fritz’s motion to
Subsequently, on February 15, 2012, the trustee filed notice of her intent to
abandon the malpractice claim. On March 15, 2012, the bankruptcy judge entered
an order approving the trustee’s abandonment of the claim. On May 31, 2012,
concluding that “the attorneys for the debtor are entitled to a reasonable fee for
their services,” the bankruptcy judge entered an order granting Mr. Fritz’s
application and awarding fees in the amount of $16,272.00 and expenses in the
amount of $3,255.22. (B. Ct. Doc. # 309 (11/8/11 order setting hearing); B. Ct.
Doc. # 333 (transcript of 11/15/11 hearing); B. Ct. Doc. # 335 (Land Ventures’
12/16/11 notice of potential malpractice claim against Fritz and request for
abandonment); B. Ct. Doc. # 338 (Fritz’s 12/19/11 motion to withdraw); B. Ct.
Doc. # 355 (trustee’s notice of intent to abandon the malpractice claim against
Fritz); B. Ct. Doc. # 360 (3/15/12 order approving trustee’s abandonment of
On September 15, 2011, the bankruptcy judge had denied without prejudice Mr. Fritz’s
earlier motion to withdraw, filed on September 1, 2011. (B. Ct. Docs. # 236, 256.)
malpractice claim); B. Ct. Doc. # 378 (5/31/12 order awarding fee).) Several
months later, on September 13, 2012, Land Ventures successfully moved the
bankruptcy court to vacate the order awarding fees to Mr. Fritz. (B. Ct. Docs.
# 403–08). However, the fee already had been paid to Mr. Fritz, and the order of
the bankruptcy court did not order disgorgement.
In July 2013, the bankruptcy case was closed, and the trustee was
discharged. (B. Ct. Doc. # 452.) The bankruptcy court retains the authority,
however, to reopen the bankruptcy case to resolve the fee petition, if necessary.
See 11 U.S.C. § 350(b) (“A case may be reopened in the court in which such case
was closed to administer assets, to accord relief to the debtor, or for other cause.”);
§ 554(d) (“Unless the court orders otherwise, property of the estate that is not
abandoned under this section and that is not administered in the case remains
property of the estate.”).
The District Court Malpractice Action
On March 15, 2012, the same date that the bankruptcy court had approved
the trustee’s abandonment of the malpractice claim, Land Ventures commenced the
present action in the district court as a regular civil case within the court’s diversity
jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). This action was assigned to Judge Walker
pursuant to General Order No. 3156, which provides that the magistrate judges
shall be given primary assignment of a specified percentage of regular civil cases.
The order defines “regular civil cases” as “civil cases which are not pro se or
bankruptcy cases” and “primary assignment” as “presumptive assignment of a case
to a Magistrate judge for all purposes including entry of judgment unless a party
declines consent.” General Order No. 3156, at 2. Thereafter, the parties consented
to have a magistrate judge conduct all proceedings including the trial and entry of
On July 25, 2012, which was during the pendency of the bankruptcy court’s
short-lived Order awarding Mr. Fritz attorney’s fees, Mr. Fritz moved for summary
judgment on the malpractice claim, arguing that the claim was “barred under the
doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel due [to] the final order issued by
the bankruptcy court concerning the quality, nature and extent of the legal services
provided by the Defendants to [Land Ventures].” (D. Ct. Doc. # 19, at 1; D. Ct.
Doc. # 18.) The magistrate judge denied the summary judgment motion without
prejudice based upon the pendency of Land Ventures’ pending motion in the
bankruptcy court to vacate the order awarding Mr. Fritz attorney’s fees, and, as
indicated above, the bankruptcy court ultimately granted Land Ventures’ motion
and vacated the order awarding attorney’s fees.
Land Ventures also sought an order from the magistrate judge withdrawing
the reference of Mr. Fritz’s application for compensation from the bankruptcy
court. Land Ventures argued that permissive withdrawal of the “admittedly core”
fee petition from the bankruptcy court was appropriate because it was “related to
this attorney malpractice action.” Land Ventures contended that an order resolving
Mr. Fritz’s fee petition “might affect the debtor’s rights in the . . . malpractice
matter” and that the bankruptcy court lacked jurisdiction over the malpractice
action because it had been “abandoned by the Bankruptcy Estate.” (D. Ct. Doc.
# 26, at 1, 5; D. Ct. Doc. # 27.) On February 14, 2013, the magistrate judge denied
the motion for permissive withdrawal and referred the malpractice action to the
bankruptcy court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 157 for pretrial proceedings, “including
entry of any required orders and/or proposed findings of fact and conclusions of
law, as appropriate.”5 (D. Ct. Doc. # 28.) The magistrate judge also directed the
bankruptcy court to refrain from ruling on Mr. Fritz’s pending fee petition until the
malpractice claim was resolved, noting that “disposition of the malpractice claims
may inform the Bankruptcy Judge’s decision on the defendant’s pending
application for compensation.” (D. Ct. Doc. # 28.)
Discovery proceeded, and the parties filed cross-motions for summary
judgment. The bankruptcy court has entered a Recommendation on the pending
motions for summary judgment, recommending that Mr. Fritz’s summary
judgment motion be granted, that Land Ventures’ summary judgment motion be
denied, and that this malpractice action be dismissed with prejudice.
In the bankruptcy court, the referred malpractice action was assigned Miscellaneous No.
Recommendation, to which Land Ventures objected, remains pending and will be
addressed in a separate Order.
Part III addresses three issues.
The first two issues – whether the
malpractice action relates to the bankruptcy case and whether the district court
must enter judgment in the malpractice action – reveal why the primary assignment
of this malpractice action to the magistrate judge and the parties’ ensuing consent
to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge cannot stand. The third issue addresses
and confirms that the referral of this action to the bankruptcy court for a
recommendation was proper.
Whether the District Court Malpractice Action Relates to Title 11
The first issue is whether the malpractice action relates to a title 11 case. By
statute, the court is authorized to refer to the bankruptcy judges for this district
“any or all cases under title 11 and any or all proceedings arising under title 11 or
arising in or related to a case under title 11,” § 157(a), i.e., cases that fall within the
original jurisdiction granted to the district courts by 28 U.S.C. § 1334. Consistent
with the permission granted by § 157(a), the court has entered a general order
permitting referrals to the bankruptcy judges to the full extent permitted by the
statute. General Order of Reference, Bankruptcy Matters, No. M-32 (M.D. Ala.
Apr. 25, 1985).6
Land Ventures commenced the present action in the district court as a
regular civil case within this court’s diversity jurisdiction, apparently in reliance on
the general rule that bankruptcy jurisdiction ceases to exist over property
abandoned by the trustee.7 This court initially must decide whether the trustee’s
abandonment of Land Ventures’ malpractice action means the malpractice action is
not related to the bankruptcy case within the meaning of § 157(a).
Upon the bankruptcy judge’s approval of the trustee’s abandonment of the
malpractice claim, the estate relinquished its interest in the claim. See Old W.
Annuity & Life Ins. Co. v. Apollo Group, 605 F.3d 856, 863 (11th Cir. 2010)
(“When a bankruptcy trustee abandons estate property, the estate is completely
The operative language of the general order is as follows:
[I]t is ORDERED, pursuant to the authority granted to this United States District
Court by 28 U.S.C. 157(a), that all cases under title 11, United States Code, and
all proceedings arising under title 11 or arising in or related to a case under title
11 shall be referred to the Bankruptcy Judges for this District.
It is further ORDERED that papers in all cases under title 11, United States Code,
and all proceedings arising under title 11 or arising in or related to a case under
title 11 shall be filed with the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court for this District.
General Order of Reference, Bankruptcy Matters, No. M-32 (M.D. Ala. Apr. 25, 1985).
Land Ventures brought this action on the basis of diversity of citizenship, and the
bankruptcy judge concluded in his pending Recommendation that diversity jurisdiction is proper.
(D. Ct. Doc. # 1, 34-1). This court analyzes bankruptcy jurisdiction, not because it is necessary
to sustain this court’s exercise of subject matter jurisdiction, but to determine the applicability of
the statutes and general orders governing referral to the bankruptcy judges and magistrate judges
of this court.
divested of any interest in the abandoned property.”); Martin v. Pahiakos (In re
Martin), 490 F.3d 1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2007) (“[T]he Trustee’s abandonment was
a ministerial act pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code which divested the Trustee, and
Martin’s estate, of any remaining interest in the state court litigation. However,
this abandonment “in no way affected either the bankruptcy court’s order
approving the settlement or the court’s jurisdiction to enforce that order.”
(emphasis omitted)). Generally, bankruptcy jurisdiction over estate property lapses
upon its abandonment. An abandoned civil claim falls within an exception to the
general rule, however, and remains “related to a case under title 11” and within the
court’s bankruptcy jurisdiction if its disposition could affect the administration of
the estate in bankruptcy. Elscint, Inc. v. First Wis. Fin. Corp. (In re Xonics, Inc.),
813 F.2d 127 (7th Cir. 1987). This is such a case.
A civil proceeding is “related to” a case under title 11 if its outcome “‘could
conceivably have an effect on the estate being administered in bankruptcy.” Miller
v. Kemira, Inc. (In re Lemco Gypsum, Inc.), 910 F.2d 784, 788 (11th Cir. 1990)
(quoting Pacor, Inc. v. Higgins, 743 F.2d 984, 994 (3d Cir. 1984), overruled on
other grounds by Things Remembered, Inc. v. Petrarca, 516 U.S. 124 (1995)). In
other words, “‘[a]n action is related to bankruptcy if the outcome could alter the
debtor’s rights, liabilities, options, or freedom of action (either positively or
negatively) and which in any way impacts upon the handling and administration of
the bankrupt estate.’” Id. (quoting Pacor, Inc., 743 F.2d at 994). When Land
Ventures commenced the present action in the district court, the action was at least
“related to a case under title 11” within the meaning of the statute and the court’s
general order of reference of bankruptcy matters. This is so – despite the court’s
approval, several hours earlier, of the bankruptcy trustee’s abandonment of the
malpractice claim – because Mr. Fritz’s fee petition remained pending.
The bankruptcy code precludes the bankruptcy judge from awarding any
compensation for “services that were not . . . reasonably likely to benefit the
debtor’s estate,” 11 U.S.C. § 330(a)(4)(A)(ii), and mandates that the bankruptcy
judge consider the “nature, the extent, and the value” of Mr. Fritz’s professional
services in determining “the amount of reasonable compensation to be awarded,”
§ 330(a)(3); id. at subsection (3) (listing relevant factors). Evaluating the “nature”
and “value” of the professional services rendered by Mr. Fritz implicates the
quality of his legal representation. See Grant v. George Schumann Tire & Battery
Co., 908 F.2d 874, 880 (11th Cir. 1990) (stating, in reviewing a fee award under
§ 330(a), that, “[e]ven exceptional results do not warrant enhancement ‘unless
there is specific evidence in the record to show that the quality of representation
was superior to that which one would reasonably expect in view of the [rates]
claimed’”)8 (quoting Norman v. Housing Auth. of City of Montgomery, 836 F.2d
1292, 1302 (11th Cir. 1988)); Norman, 836 F.2d at 1302 (“[T]he reasonable
hourly rate . . . should reflect the skill demonstrated by the advocate.”).
Additionally, Mr. Pittman, an unsecured creditor and 99% owner of Land
Ventures,9 had objected to the payment of fees to Mr. Fritz by the estate, asserting
that Mr. Fritz had not proceeded as a reasonably competent attorney would have
Whether Mr. Fritz committed malpractice in prosecuting the
bankruptcy case as alleged in the instant complaint was put at issue before the
bankruptcy judge by Mr. Pittman’s objection and by virtue of the bankruptcy
judge’s independent statutory mandate under § 330(a)(3).10
abandonment of the malpractice claim did not relieve the bankruptcy judge of his
statutory obligation to evaluate the nature and value of Mr. Fritz’s legal
Grant was decided before the 1994 amendment to the statute; however, the statutory
text then also required that fees be awarded “based on the nature, the extent, and the value of
such services.” Grant, 908 F.2d at 878; Pub. L. 103-393, § 224(b) (revising § 330(a), effective
Oct. 22, 1994). In Grant, the Eleventh Circuit held that reasonable compensation under § 330(a)
is determined by the lodestar method, taking into account the factors identified in Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717–19 (5th Cir. 1974). Grant, 908 F.2d at 877–
79. The 1994 amendment to § 330(a), in essence, codified a lodestar approach; it added a nonexclusive list of factors relevant in the bankruptcy context. See Pub. L. 103-393, § 224(b). The
most recent amendment modified the list slightly. 11 U.S.C. § 330(a)(3), as amended by Pub. L.
109-8, effective Oct. 2005.
See B. Ct. Doc. # 195, 369, 377; see also Exhibit 48 to Fritz’s motion for summary
judgment (D. Ct. Doc. # 34-11, at 11.)
See D. Ct. Doc. # 34-4, Land Ventures’ brief in opposition to Fritz’s motion for
summary judgment at 4 (“LV2’s challenges to the attorney fee applications of . . . Mr. Fritz again
arose directly from Mr. Fritz’s malpractice. . . . If Mr. Fritz had not committed malpractice[,]
there would have been no objection to his fees by LV2.”).
representation in resolving the application for compensation, a “core” matter that
remained pending before him.
When the malpractice complaint was filed,
therefore, resolution of its claims conceivably could have affected distribution of
the estate; a judgment in favor of Land Ventures on the malpractice claim may
very well have precluded re-litigation of the “value” of Mr. Fritz’s professional
services in his petition seeking the payment of fees from the estate, just as the
bankruptcy judge’s order granting the application for fees – had it remained a final
order – may have had preclusive effect on the malpractice claim.11 Accordingly,
the malpractice action was, at its inception, within this court’s bankruptcy
jurisdiction as a case related to a case under title 11.
Moreover, the malpractice claim continues to have a conceivable effect on
the bankruptcy estate based upon the bankruptcy judge’s order vacating his earlier
award to Fritz of compensation from the estate. Though Fritz had been paid by the
trustee before the bankruptcy judge vacated his order authorizing such payment,
the record of the hearing on the motion to set aside the fee award reveals that the
bankruptcy court did not require Fritz to disgorge the previously awarded fees.
Federal courts of appeals have found bankruptcy court orders granting fee petitions to
preclude malpractice claims against court-approved professionals. See, e.g., Capitol Hill Group
v. Pillsbury, Winthrop, Saw, Pittman, LLC, 569 F.3d 485 (D.C. Cir. 2009); Grausz v. Englander,
321 F.3d 467 (4th Cir. 2003); Iannochino v. Rodolakis, 242 F.3d 36 (1st Cir. 2001); Southmark
Corp. v. Coopers & Lybrand, 163 F.3d 925 (5th Cir. 1999). In its motion filed in the district
court after the bankruptcy judge vacated the order awarding fees, Land Ventures advanced the
interrelatedness of the “admittedly core” fee petition and the present malpractice claim as
grounds for permissive withdrawal of the reference (D. Ct. Docs. # 26, 27.)
The bankruptcy court advised the parties that it would leave the matter open for
later determination pending resolution of the malpractice action. (Bankruptcy Case
No. 10-30651, recording of 09/11/12 hearing at approximately 21:02–21:40 and
26:40 - 27:10) (not transcribed).) Thus, once the bankruptcy court vacated its
order, the fees paid previously to Fritz once again became property of the estate
(albeit in the hands of Fritz), subject to further order of the court regarding its
disposition. The bankruptcy court’s subsequent closing of the estate, approval of
the trustee’s final report, and discharge of the trustee did not effect a transfer of
this property to Fritz, in view of the prior orders of the court and the court’s ability
to reopen the bankruptcy case to resolve the fee petition, if necessary. See 11
U.S.C. §§ 350(b), 554(d).
Through several conceptual avenues, the malpractice action relates to the
Whether Judgment Must Be Entered by a District Judge
The second issue is whether the district court must enter judgment in the
malpractice action. The short answer is “yes.”
The statute that authorizes referral of bankruptcy matters to the bankruptcy
court provides that “[a] bankruptcy judge may hear a proceeding that is not a core
proceeding but that is otherwise related to a case under title 11.” 28 U.S.C.
“[I]n such a proceeding,” however, “the bankruptcy judge shall
submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the district court.” Id.
“[A]ny final order or judgment shall be entered by the district judge after
considering the bankruptcy judge’s proposed findings and conclusions and after
reviewing de novo those matters to which any party has timely and specifically
As to § 157(c)(1)’s first requirement, there is some authority that an action
against a court-appointed or court-approved professional for malfeasance in the
course of the bankruptcy proceeding is a “core” proceeding within the court’s
“arising in” jurisdiction. See Schultze v. Chandler, 765 F.3d 945, 948–49 (9th Cir.
2014) (collecting cases). The abandoned malpractice claim, however, is no longer
property of the estate, even though it is related to the application for attorney’s
The court concludes that the instant malpractice action is not a core
proceeding for purposes of § 157. Cf. Cont’l Nat’l Bank of Miami v. Sanchez (In
re Toledo), 170 F.3d 1340, 1348 (11th Cir. 1999) (observing that “engrafted upon
all of [the proceedings listed as ‘core’ in § 157(b)] is an overarching requirement
that property of the estate under § 541 be involved”).
As to § 157(c)(1)’s second requirement, the court already has determined
that the malpractice action is related to the title 11 bankruptcy proceeding, see
supra Part III.A. Because § 157(c)’s requirements are satisfied and this court has
not authorized its magistrate judges to enter final judgment in bankruptcy matters,
the district judge must enter judgment in the malpractice action. Cf. Minerex
Erdoel, Inc. v. Sina, Inc., 838 F.2d 781,786 (5th Cir. 1988) (referral of a § 158
appeal from a bankruptcy judge’s award of fees to debtor’s counsel to a United
States magistrate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the consent of the parties held
to be improper). Accordingly, the magistrate judge lacks authority to enter final
judgment in this malpractice action, and the referral of this case to the magistrate
judge as a primary assignment was erroneous.
Whether the Referral to the Bankruptcy Court Was Proper
The third issue is whether the referral of the malpractice action to
bankruptcy court was proper. This case falls within the terms of the court’s
general order of reference of bankruptcy matters. See General Order M-32, at 4.
By filing its malpractice action in the district court in contravention of the court’s
general order of referral, Land Ventures, in essence, had “withdrawn the reference”
of the malpractice action on its own, without obtaining the approval of the district
court. Accordingly, the magistrate judge’s subsequent referral of this action to the
bankruptcy court was proper. 12
Because Land Ventures presented the complaint to the district court clerk with a civil
cover sheet that did not identify the nature of the suit as a bankruptcy matter, the clerk assigned
the case to a magistrate judge pursuant to the court’s general order governing assignment of
“regular civil cases” to the magistrate judges. General Order No. 3156. If the malpractice
complaint had been filed originally in the bankruptcy court, and the case thereafter had come
before the district court on either the bankruptcy clerk’s transmittal of the bankruptcy judge’s
recommendation pursuant to § 157(c)(1) or a petition to withdraw the reference, the clerk would
not have identified the case or petition to withdraw for primary assignment to a magistrate judge.
For the foregoing reasons, and for good cause, it is ORDERED that,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(4) and General Order No. 3156, the erroneous
primary assignment of this matter to the magistrate judge is VACATED.
It is further ORDERED that the orders previously entered by the magistrate
judge are ADOPTED and AFFIRMED.
The Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to annotate the docket to reflect the
primary assignment of this case to the undersigned district judge.
DONE this 9th day of October, 2015.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
See General Order No. 3156 (excluding bankruptcy cases from primary assignment to a
magistrate judge). Hence, this case was assigned primarily to a magistrate judge under the
court’s consent procedures based upon Land Ventures’ error in commencing the action in the
district court, and, unfortunately, that error has continued unabated until now.
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