CLIENT SPOTLIGHT: Grillo's Pickles

If you haven't been to the Grillo's Pickles website, you should. There, you'll find the fantastic story of how this company began. We've copied part of it here to save you a click.

Grillo's Pickles began with a pickle cart, just a small wooden stand in downtown Boston, where Travis Grillo and his friends would sell two spears for one dollar. Travis would make the pickles by night using his family's 100-year old recipe - one he'd memorized from making pickles every summer as a kid. In the morning, Travis would bike to the Boston Common and set up the cart with his buddies. They'd hang out all day, urging people to try the simple Grillo family pickle. It was a small business but Travis worked hard for it. He made more pickles, biked more miles, and slept less hours than he ever had before.
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CLIENT SPOTLIGHT: Factory Five Racing

Factory Five Racing was founded in 1995. Over the years they have grown from a start-up business in a small garage to become the world's largest manufacturer of "build-it-yourself" component car kits. They employ a full-time crew of about 40 people, and are located in Wareham, Massachusetts (about an hour south of Boston). They make their products right here in the USA, in the heart of New England where American manufacturing was born.
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Fred and Danny Magnanimi grew up watching their father create beautiful, handcrafted jewelry in the family's Cranston, RI jewelry manufacturing business. When the boys grew up, Fred moved to New York and began working on Wall Street as an investment banker, while younger brother Danny, still enamored by the family business, stayed home. Increased competition from overseas businesses created significant challenges for the business, but Danny was confident he could find a way for the family business to evolve and thrive. This was his mission, this was his passion.
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        "Supreme Court Holds That Parties May Consent to Adjudication by Bankruptcy Court of "Stern-Type" Claims"

        On May 26, 2015, the Supreme Court in Wellness Int’l Network, LTD v. Sharif answered one of the foremost questions left open after its decision in Stern v. Marshall – is it permissible for litigants in a Bankruptcy Court to consent to a final adjudication of claims that are “‘core’ under the statute but yet prohibited from proceeding in that way as a Constitutional matter”? The Supreme Court in Stern ruled that Bankruptcy Courts lack authority under the Constitution to adjudicate such claims because bankruptcy judges are not “Article III” judges.

        Four years after deciding Stern, the Supreme Court has ruled that parties can consent to the bankruptcy court entering a final order on a “Stern-type claim”  and that implied consent may be found as long as consent is “knowing and voluntary.” As the law develops regarding the authority of the Bankruptcy Courts, it is important for litigants to make an assessment of these issues when litigation is commenced in the Bankruptcy Court. 

        Sharif was an individual debtor in Chapter 7.  A creditor objected to Sharif’s discharge and sought a declaratory judgment that certain assets held in trust by Sharif were actually property of the bankruptcy estate.  The creditor claimed that the trust was the alter ego of Sharif. After discovery violations by Sharif, the Bankruptcy Court entered default judgment against him. Sharif appealed.  While the appeal was pending, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Stern. Sharif then argued the judgment entered by the bankruptcy court was unconstitutional because the Bankruptcy Court lacked authority over the alter ego claims. The District Court upheld the judgment, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the parties could not consent to have the Bankruptcy Court enter final orders with respect to Stern-type claims.  The Supreme Court reversed the Circuit Court holding that parties can consent to have their disputes decided by a non-Article III judge.  The case was remanded for a finding as to whether Sharif had by his actions consented to adjudication by the Bankruptcy Court.  The Supreme Court advised in a footnote that the better practice would be for a Court to rely on express consent and that may be required in some cases.

        The majority opinion appeared to recognize the practicality of permitting Bankruptcy Courts to determine claims where the parties consent to such adjudication and the judicial efficiency that can be realized by that result.  Chief Justice Roberts vigorously dissented arguing that the majority had placed practicality over the separation of powers mandated by Article III of the Constitution.

        While issues remain in the wake of SternWellness Int’l Network, LTD v. Sharif  is a significant development in the evolving view of Bankruptcy Court authority and related practice. The decision will force litigants to make strategic decisions early in any case regarding whether to litigate claims in the Bankruptcy Court or to seek final adjudication in the District Court.  In practice, even where consent is not given by all parties, many cases involving Stern-like claims will remain with the Bankruptcy Court to conduct some or all of the litigation and either report and recommend findings and rulings to the District Court or hand off the case at the time of trial.  Our attorneys are uniquely qualified to advise on important procedural and strategic questions in bankruptcy litigation.