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Lewis v. Long

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

March 17, 2016

CRYSTAL D. LEWIS, Appellant,
v.
CLYDE A. LONG, JR., Appellee

          In Re: Clyde Alexander Long, Jr., Marshall M. Slayton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Boyle Bain Reback & Slayton, Charlottesville, VA.

         In Re: Latoya Lyniese Long, Debtor, Marshall M. Slayton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Boyle Bain Reback & Slayton, Charlottesville, VA.

         For Crystal D. Lewis, Appellant: J. Michael Sharman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Commonwealth Law Offices, PC, Culpeper, VA.

         For Clyde Alexander Long, Jr., Appellee: Marshall M. Slayton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Boyle Bain Reback & Slayton, Charlottesville, VA.

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Hon. Glen E. Conrad, Chief United States District Judge.

         Crystal D. Lewis filed this appeal from a decision of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia, in which the bankruptcy court held that Lewis failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that a debt owed to her by Clyde A. Long was nondischargeable pursuant to § 523(a)(6) of the Bankruptcy Code, which excepts from discharge any debt incurred " for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity." 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6). The bankruptcy court's decision was initially affirmed by this court on November 24, 2014. However, in response to a petition for rehearing filed by Lewis, the court found it appropriate to remand the case to the bankruptcy court for clarification of its decision with respect to Lewis's assertion that willful and malicious injury should be inferred in the instant case. On remand, the bankruptcy court issued a supplemental memorandum opinion clarifying its decision on this issue. For the following reasons, the bankruptcy court's decision will be affirmed in full.

         Background

         Lewis and Long were involved sexually at various times in 1999 and 2000. During the course of their sexual relationship, Lewis was only 12 or 13 years old, and Long was 22 or 23 years old. They conceived a child, who was born in November of 2000.

         In August of 2001, Long pled guilty to two counts of carnal knowledge of a child between thirteen and fifteen years of age, in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-63. He was sentenced to a total term of imprisonment of ten years, with seven years suspended.

         Thereafter, Lewis filed a civil suit against Long in the Circuit Court of Culpeper County, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual assault and battery, and carnal knowledge of a minor. Long did not make an appearance in the case until he appeared pro se at a default judgment hearing. The Circuit Court entered a default judgment on liability and set the matter for a jury trial to determine damages. Prior to trial, Long, proceeding pro se, and Lewis, through counsel, executed a promissory installment note with a confession of judgment in favor of Lewis in the amount of $1,254,000.00. That judgment is the underlying debt in the instant matter.

         On January 10, 2013, Long filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Lewis then brought the underlying adversary proceeding, seeking a determination that the debt owed to her by Long is nondischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6).

         The parties appeared before the bankruptcy court for a bench trial on October 21, 2013. Lewis called Long as her only witness. On direct examination, Long admitted that he and Lewis conceived a child when Lewis was 13 years old, but Long indicated that it was not until " after the fact" that he was told her age. Oct. 21, 2013 Trial Tr. 19. Long also admitted that he pled guilty to two counts of carnal knowledge of a minor in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-63. When asked about the civil proceedings in state court, Long testified that he appeared in court on the day that the default judgment was entered against him, and that the state court judge asked him some questions. However, the contents of those questions and Long's answers thereto were not elicited or otherwise presented by Lewis. Long testified that after answering the state court judge's questions, the judge entered the default judgment because Long lacked any statutory basis to prevent entry of default.

         At the close of Lewis's evidence, Long made a motion to strike. The bankruptcy court construed the motion as a motion for judgment on partial findings under Rule 52(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The bankruptcy court took the motion under advisement and allowed Long to put on evidence in his defense.

         On January 28, 2014, the bankruptcy court issued a memorandum opinion and order granting Long's Rule 52(c) motion. The bankruptcy court rejected Lewis's argument that the state court proceedings against Long were entitled to preclusive effect under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, and held that Lewis's evidence was insufficient to establish that Long's debt to her arose from a willful and malicious injury. Accordingly, the bankruptcy court ruled that the debt ...


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