Not what you're
looking for? Try an advanced search.
Buy This Entire Record For
In re Romanzi
United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
March 28, 2017
In re Craig S. Romanzi, Debtor.
Kenneth A. Nathan, Appellee. Fieger & Fieger P.C., et al., Appellants,
Steven Whalen United States District Court Judge
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO WITHDRAW THE
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE 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.
matter is presently before the Court on Appellants'
Motion to Withdraw the Reference. Dkt. No. 1. Upon 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 pleadings. See E.D.
Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons explained fully below,
Court DENIES Appellants' motion without
Factual And Procedural Background
Facts related to these proceedings were recited in a parallel
appeal of a Bankruptcy Court order. See In re
Romanzi, No. 16-CV-13986, 2017 WL 395289, at *1-2 (E.D.
Mich. Jan. 30, 2017). For the sake of uniformity, the Court
will repeat those facts again here:
Debtor, Craig Romanzi, previously worked as a partner in the
law firm of Romanzi & Nardicchio, PLLC. On February 12,
2014, Debtor joined the law firm of Fieger & Fieger, PC.
On March 10, 2014, Debtor filed a wrongful death action in
Wayne County Circuit Court (hereinafter, the “Thomas
Litigation”). Debtor left the Fieger firm on February
The Fieger firm retained the Thomas Litigation on behalf of
the plaintiffs. 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. On August
16, 2015, Debtor filed a notice of claim of lien in the
Thomas Litigation. 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. 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.
On 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. 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. 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. 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.” Debtor did not seek
reconsideration or appeal the orders entered regarding fees
in the Thomas Litigation.
On 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. 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.
An 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”). Kenneth A.
Nathan was appointed trustee over the bankruptcy estate.
Among the assets allegedly owed to the estate is an amount
equal to one-third (1/3) of the attorney fee of $3, 547,
541.242 from the Thomas Litigation.
On July 6, 2016, Debtor's lawsuit in Oakland County
Circuit Court was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. 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”). The
Adversary Proceeding, No. 16-04672-mbm, includes claims for
Buy This Entire Record For