Argued: January 6, 2015.
Civil action commenced in the Land Court Department on October 17, 2013.
The case was heard by Keith C. Long, J., on motions for summary judgment, and a motion for entry of judgment by default was also heard by him.
The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.
David G. Baker for the plaintiff.
Sandra M. Boulay for Jeanne D'Arc Credit Union.
John Pagliaro & Martin J. Newhouse, for New England Legal Foundation, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.
Present: Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.
The issue on appeal is whether judicial liens on real property remain valid after the owner of the property receives a discharge under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. We conclude that the judicial liens survive the discharge where, as here, the Bankruptcy Court judge did not avoid them.
The plaintiff, Pagona Christakis, filed a complaint in the Land Court to remove judicial liens that had attached to real property she owned in Billerica after three creditors obtained final judgments against her. Only one creditor defendant, Jeanne D'Arc Credit Union (credit union), filed an answer. The other two creditor defendants, Harvest Credit Management VII, LLC (Harvest), and Citibank (South Dakota), N.A. (Citibank), failed to respond. The plaintiff moved for entry of judgment by default against Harvest and Citibank and for summary judgment against the credit union; the latter cross-moved for summary judgment. In denying the plaintiff's motions and allowing the credit union's motion, the judge concluded that " [t]he defendants' liens remain, subject to potential review by the [B]ankruptcy [C]ourt to determine if they impair exempt property." The judge then entered judgment in favor of all the defendants, including the defaulting defendants. The plaintiff appealed, and we transferred the case to this court on our own motion.
We summarize the relevant facts in the summary judgment record, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. The defendants are creditors of the plaintiff, apparently for unpaid credit card bills. Each defendant sued the plaintiff to collect the unpaid debt and obtained a final judgment, based on which a writ of execution was issued, and a levy of ...