ON APPEAL FROM ORDERS OF THE UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY Sat Below: Judge Gloria M. Burns [Case No. 01-14740].
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle
This matter is before the Court upon appeal from two Orders of the Bankruptcy Court taken by the Appellant, Geoffrey L. Steiert, pro se. In his first appeal, Appellant disputes the correctness of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Gloria Burns' March 2, 2006 Order [Civil No. 06-3793 Docket Item 1-2], which awarded fees and disbursements to Giulano, Miller & Co., accountants for the Bankruptcy Trustee Joseph Marchand. In his second appeal, Appellant disputes the Bankruptcy Court's March 15, 2006 Order, which reduced his general unsecured non-priority claim to $40,000. [Civil No. 06-3794 Docket Item 1-2.]*fn1
The district court has jurisdiction to review orders entered by the bankruptcy court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158. For the reasons explained below, the Court shall affirm the decisions of the Bankruptcy Court.
II. WHETHER THE BANKRUPTCY COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY AWARDING ACCOUNTANT FEES & COSTS
The accounting firm of Giulano, Miller & Company, LLC ("Giulano" or "accountants"), was appointed to assist the Trustee in the bankruptcy action below. Accordingly, these accountants filed tax returns, reviewed proofs of claim, and prepared for trial regarding Appellant's submitted claim. Giulano's work resulted in a significant reduction of claims submitted against the estate -- from over $6 million to approximately $600,000. The accountants filed a fee application with the Bankruptcy Court seeking payment for their services pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 330 (a)(1)(A) and Appellant objected.*fn2 Judge Burns held a hearing on February 28, 2006 and on March 2, 2006 awarded Giulano $16,979.50 in fees and $603.57 in expenses. Appellant contests this payment again in his appeal to this Court of Judge Burns' decision.
11 U.S.C. § 330(a) permits the Bankruptcy Court to award compensation to accountants and other professionals who are employed by the bankruptcy trustee to assist with the trustee's duties:
(1) After notice to the parties in interest and the United States Trustee and a hearing, and subject to [11 U.S.C. §§ 326, 328, and 329], the court may award to ... a professional person employed under section [11 U.S.C. § 327 or 1103]--
(A) reasonable compensation for actual, necessary services rendered by the . . . professional person . . . ; and
(B) reimbursement for actual, necessary expenses.
(2) The court may, on its own motion or on the motion of the United States Trustee, the United States Trustee for the District or Region, the trustee for the estate, or any other party in interest, award compensation that is less than the amount of compensation that is requested.
(3) In determining the amount of reasonable compensation to be awarded to [a] professional person, the court shall consider the nature, the extent, and the value of such services, taking into account all relevant factors, including --
(A) the time spent on such services;
(B) the rates charged for such services;
(C) whether the services were necessary to the administration of, or beneficial at the time at which the service was rendered toward the completion of, a case under this title [11 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq.];
(D) whether the services were performed within a reasonable amount of time commensurate with the complexity, importance, and nature of ...