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Ex-mayor argues $108 million judgment can be discharged in bankruptcy

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The ex-East Chicago mayor hit with a $108 million racketeering judgment because of public corruption wants a federal bankruptcy court to dismiss a civil complaint against him that questions whether the judgment is dischargeable under bankruptcy code.

In a brief filed earlier this week, former mayor Robert Pastrick contends that the Indiana attorney general’s adverse action doesn’t prove that he acted willfully or maliciously as required to make the multi-million dollar judgment nondischargeable.

On March 25, the state agency filed a 22-page complaint against Pastrick in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Indiana, alleging that five provisions of the federal bankruptcy law exempt this debt from being eligible for discharge through bankruptcy. This came in response to the 2010 judgment against Pastrick and his former aids, who admitted their roles in a “sidewalk for votes” scheme that funneled $24 million in public money to pay for sidewalks and concrete paving in exchange for votes in the city’s 1999 primary election. The AG’s office has been trying to collect that money for the past year, but Pastrick in December filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying the amount.

In the civil complaint, the AG’s office contends that Pastrick’s theft, abuse of power while in office, and federal racketeering means the $108 million can’t be dismissed through bankruptcy proceedings. The five counts spell out the arguments that the debt shouldn’t be discharged because of Bankruptcy Code sections 523(a)(6), 523(a)(4), 523(a)(7), 523(a)(13), and 523(a)(2)(A).

But Pastrick argues that bankruptcy code requires his conduct have been “willful” or “malicious,” and that isn’t the case here.

“There is a clear distinction between an act that is intentional and an act that is intentional and ‘malicious,’” the brief says. “The Plaintiff’s response did not address this distinction and relies on the findings and suggestion that Defendant’s actions were ‘intentional.’”

Pastrick also argues that he didn’t receive any financial benefit from the alleged activities, and that’s a requirement under bankruptcy code in classifying the debt as nondischargeable. He also points out the judgment was compensatory as well as punitive, and that it doesn’t include any specific restitution order so the debt can be written off.

“The mere allegations or findings of morally repugnant activity does not guarantee that any civil judgment resulting therefrom would qualify as nondischargeable,” Pastrick’s brief says.

How the court decides this issue of dismissal could determine how the underlying bankruptcy case proceeds against Pastrick, and ultimately how the AG’s office is able to pursue collecting the $108 million judgment.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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