United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
In re Craig S. Romanzi, Debtor.
Kenneth A. Nathan, Appellee. Fieger & Fieger P.C., et al., Appellants,
Steven Whalen United States Magistrate Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS APPEAL
FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION 
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN United States District Court Judge.
case stems from an involuntary bankruptcy proceeding filed
against Craig S. Romanzi (“Debtor”) on March 16,
2016. The bankruptcy trustee of Romanzi, Kenneth A. Nathan
(“Appellee” or “Trustee”) seeks
recovery of an attorney fee that he alleges Fieger &
Fieger, P.C. and Geoffrey N. Fieger (“Appellants”
or “Defendants”) wrongfully retained. Appellee
claims the attorney fee is an asset of the bankruptcy estate.
On August 30, 2016, Appellants filed a Motion for Abstention
concerning the Adversary Proceeding. The Bankruptcy Court
denied this motion on October 26, 2016.
filed a Notice of Appeal with this Court on November 10,
2016, Dkt. No. 1. Appellee, the Chapter 7 trustee, has moved
to dismiss this appeal from the denial of a motion for
abstention because it constitutes an improper interlocutory
appeal and appellants did not properly seek leave to appeal.
Dkt. No. 4. Appellants oppose the motion on the ground that
district courts are permitted to hear appeals under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1334. Dkt. No. 6.
review of the pleadings, the Court finds that oral argument
will not aid in the disposition of this matter. Accordingly,
the Court will decide the matter on the submitted brief.
See E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons
stated below, the Court will GRANT
Appellee's Motion to Dismiss  the appeal.
Factual And Procedural Background
Craig Romanzi, previously worked as a partner in the law firm
of Romanzi & Nardicchio, PLLC. Dkt. No. 10, p. 25 (Pg. ID
235). On February 12, 2014, Debtor joined the law firm of
Fieger & Fieger, PC. Id. On March 10, 2014,
Debtor filed a wrongful death action in Wayne County Circuit
Court (hereinafter, the “Thomas Litigation”).
Id. Debtor left the Fieger firm on February 9, 2015.
Id.; Dkt. No. 10, p. 78 (Pg. ID 288).
Fieger firm retained the Thomas Litigation on behalf of the
plaintiffs. Dkt. No. 10, p. 25 (Pg. ID 235). In August 2015,
the Fieger firm filed a motion for approval of settlements
and for an order authorizing the payment of attorney fees and
costs. Id. at 25-26 (Pg. ID 235-36). On August 16,
2015, Debtor filed a notice of claim of lien in the Thomas
Litigation. Id. at 26 (Pg. ID 236). In that notice,
Debtor alleged that he brought the case to the Fieger firm
and that he was entitled to a lien in the amount of one-third
of the net recovery obtained in the case. Id. On
August 19, 2015, the Fieger firm filed a “Notice of
Fraudulent Pleading, ” alleging that Debtor's claim
of lien was fraudulent and that he had no interest in any of
the attorney fees owed as a result of the settlement in the
Thomas Litigation. Id.
September 3, 2015, the state court in the Thomas Litigation
entered an order approving wrongful death settlements and
approving fees and costs in the case. Id. In total,
the Fieger firm was awarded $74, 862.54 in costs and $3, 547,
541.10 in fees for the estates of Tracey Thomas, William
Thomas, and Dorothy Thomas. Id. The state court also
entered an order absolving the state court defendants and
their insurance carriers from any responsibility or liability
relating to attorney liens. Id. That order directed
that the settlement checks shall be issued to the estates and
the Fieger firm, “except for payments to fund any
structures which are to be issued to or at the direction of
the structure provider.” Dkt. No. 10, p. 81 (Pg. ID
291). Debtor did not seek reconsideration or appeal the
orders entered regarding fees in the Thomas Litigation.
Id. at 27 (Pg. ID 237).
September 29, 2016, Debtor filed a complaint in Oakland
County Circuit Court against the Fieger firm, Case Number
2016-151745-CB, alleging breach of contract,
misrepresentation, fraud, conversion, and negligence.
Id. The complaint sought compensation for attorney
fees Debtor believed the Fieger firm owed to him as a result
of his involvement in the Thomas Litigation. Id.
involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy case was filed against
Debtor Craig S. Romanzi on March 16, 2016 in Case Number
16-43857-mbm (the “Bankruptcy Case”). Dkt. No.
10, p. 203 (Pg. ID 413). Id. Kenneth A. Nathan was
appointed trustee over the bankruptcy estate. Id.
Among the assets allegedly owed to the estate is an amount
equal to one-third (1/3) of the attorney fee of $3, 547,
541.24from the Thomas Litigation. Dkt. No. 10,
pp. 202-13 (Pg. ID 413-23).
6, 2016, Debtor's lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court
was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. Dkt. No. 10, p.
148 (Pg. ID 358). On July 12, 2016, Trustee filed a
five-count adversary complaint against the Fieger firm and
Geoffrey Fieger (hereinafter referred to as the
“Adversary Proceeding”). See Dkt. No.
10, pp. 203-13 (Pg. ID 413-23). The Adversary Proceeding, No.
16-04672-mbm, includes claims for breach of contract, quantum
meruit, misrepresentation, fraud, conversion, negligence, and
a lien. Id. Appellants filed a motion for abstention
on August 29, 2016. Dkt. No. 10, p. 95 (Pg. ID 305). The
bankruptcy court held a hearing on the motion on October 25,
2016 and issued an order denying the motion the following
day. Dkt. No. 10, p. 11 (Pg. ID 221); Dkt. No. 10, p. 10 (Pg.
November 10, 2016, Appellants filed a Notice of Appeal. Dkt.
No. 1. Shortly thereafter, Trustee filed a Motion to Dismiss
Appeal on the ground that this is an improper interlocutory
appeal and Appellants neither had sought nor had received
leave to appeal. Dkt. No. 4. Appellants have ...