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Man gets money for not paying into pension

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In a strange twist in a bankruptcy case, a businessman actually benefited financially by not paying into a pension fund for his company.

In the appeal of Barry G. Radcliffe's bankruptcy case by International Painters and Allied Trades Industry Pension Fund, No. 08-2885, International Painters appealed an order from the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, which affirmed the judgment of the bankruptcy court finding International violated bankruptcy law and had to pay damages to Radcliffe for withholding his pension payments.

Radcliffe owned a company in which he had a labor agreement to contribute to the fund; he stopped making payments, but personally guaranteed to pay. When he didn't, International got a declaratory judgment against him; before it could recover, Radcliffe filed for bankruptcy. Prior to filing bankruptcy, Radcliffe requested his pension benefits from the fund. International withheld part of his payments in order to satisfy his debt arising from the default judgment, despite his notification he believed the setoff violated the automatic stay that took effect when he filed for bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy court, which the District Court affirmed, ordered International to pay compensatory damages, interest, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

Despite being "somewhat uneasy" with the end result that affirming the lower courts' decisions means Radcliffe gets a seemingly undeserved windfall, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

The federal appellate court found the setoff by the fund - withhold some pension benefits to satisfy the default judgment - violated the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. Section 362(a)(6). International argued the benefits weren't property of the estate, so the offset was proper, and it didn't violate the statute because the letter it sent Radcliffe informing him of the offset wasn't coercive or harassing. The 7th Circuit judges disagreed, writing the letter did violate the statute because it made the decision to withhold funds without first seeking court approval, wrote Judge Terence Evans.

The fund acted willfully in its violation and Radcliffe is therefore entitled to damages.

The 7th Circuit agreed with the lower courts that the stay shouldn't have been lifted under Employment Retirement Income Security Act's anti-alienation provisions. None of the exemptions under the anti-alienation provisions apply to International and its reliance on Kennedy v. Plan Administrator for DuPont Savings and Investment Plan, 129 S. Ct. 865 (2009), is misplaced, wrote the judge. The bankruptcy judge was well within his discretion in refusing to lift the stay and to act otherwise would have been an exercise in futility, wrote Judge Evans.

The federal appellate judges also affirmed the bankruptcy court's calculation of compensatory damages for pre-petition pension benefits, the award of punitive damages, and the interest rate applied to the damage award.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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