MARTIN P. SHEEHAN, Trustee - Appellant, and U.S. TRUSTEE, Trustee,
KEITH DOYLE ASH; PHYLLIS JEAN ASH, Debtors - Appellees.
Argued: March 20, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of West Virginia, at Clarksburg. Irene M. Keeley,
Senior District Judge. (1:16-cv-00109-IMK)
Patrick Sheehan, SHEEHAN & NUGENT, PLLC, Wheeling, West
Virginia, for Appellant.
Robert Wedoff, Oak Park, Illinois, for Appellees.
B. Johnson, JOHNSON LAW, PLLC, Morgantown, West Virginia, for
NIEMEYER and KING, Circuit Judges, and Leonie M. BRINKEMA,
United States District Judge for the Eastern District of
Virginia, sitting by designation.
by published opinion.
P. Sheehan, as the bankruptcy trustee, appeals from the
district court's affirmance of the bankruptcy court's
ruling that denied Sheehan's objection to exemptions
claimed by the debtors. See Sheehan v. Ash, No.
1:16-cv-109 (N.D. W.Va. June 27, 2017), ECF No. 25 (the
"Opinion"). Sheehan maintains on appeal that the
district court erred in deciding that the applicable
bankruptcy statute authorized the debtors to utilize
Louisiana's state law statutory scheme to exempt personal
property in West Virginia from the debtors' bankruptcy
estate. As explained below, we agree with the district court
appeal arises from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding
initiated by Keith and Phyllis Ash in July 2015 in the
Northern District of West Virginia. Their bankruptcy was
complicated by the fact that the Ashes had recently changed
their residence - moving from Louisiana to West Virginia in
March 2015 - and owned property located in both states. The
West Virginia property is in dispute here, and includes a
checking account, two television sets, items of clothing, a
wedding band, two firearms, and a well- used vehicle.
See J.A. 96. The total value of the debtors'
property in West Virginia - subject to their claimed
exemptions - is approximately $3, 450. Id. To better
understand Sheehan's appeal, a brief review of some
pertinent legal provisions is warranted.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding, the debtor's legal and
equitable property interests become part of the bankruptcy
estate. See 11 U.S.C. § 541(a)(1). When the
bankruptcy estate is placed under the control of a trustee,
he must "collect and reduce to money" the assets of
the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of creditors.
Id. § 704(a)(1). To prevent the debtor from
becoming destitute, the debtor is entitled to exempt certain
property from the bankruptcy estate. See Clark v.
Rameker, 134 S.Ct. 2242, 2247 n.3 (2014). Those property
exemptions can be derived from either federal or state law,
and we are ...