HAWES v. GLEICHER

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United States Court of Appeals,Eleventh Circuit.

George T. HAWES, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Michael J. GLEICHER, Intervener–Appellant,

Michael J. GLEICHER, Intervener–Appellant, v. Madison Ave. Media, Inc., Defendant.

No. 12–14464.

Decided: March 21, 2014

Before TJOFLAT, WILSON, Circuit Judges, and PROCTOR,District Judge.* Jonathan O. Hafen, Robert Jeremy Adamson, Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, Salt Lake City, UT, for Plaintiff–Appellee. David Leacock, Leacock Law Office, Jupiter, FL, for Intervener–Appellant.

I.

On September 12, 2011, George T. Hawes (“Hawes”), a New York citizen, brought this action against Madison Avenue Media, Inc. (“MAM”), a Delaware corporation based in Boca Raton, Florida.1 Hawes is a MAM secured creditor. He holds two Convertible Promissory Notes: one executed on February 18, 2011, in the principal amount of $500,000 and due on February 17, 2012, the other on July 29, 2011, in the principal of $500,000 and due on demand. Each note is secured by a Security Agreement having a lien on certain items of MAM's property. Hawes's complaint contains four “Claims for Relief.” Claim One alleges that the February 18, 2011 note is in default; Claim Three alleges that MAM has refused Hawes's demand for payment on the July 29, 2011 note. Both claims seek a judgment for “actual and consequential damages, interest, attorneys' fees, costs, and such other relief as may be just and equitable in the circumstances.” Claims Two and Four allege that MAM breached certain promises contained in the Security Agreements and seek judgment for the same relief as Claims One and Three.2

MAM failed to respond to Hawes's complaint, and on October 11, 2011, Hawes obtained a Clerk's Default.3 Two weeks later Hawes moved the District Court for entry of a Default Judgment against MAM.4 Before the court ruled on Hawes's motion, however, Michael Gleicher moved to intervene in the case—either as a matter of right5 or in the alternative, permissively.6 Gleicher sought leave to intervene in two capacities: (1) as a MAM general creditor holding two Convertible Promissory Notes, one for $88,000 due on June 1, 2011, and in default, the other for $30,000 due on December 1, 2011; and (2) as a MAM shareholder. He sought intervention for the purpose of standing in MAM's shoes and defeating Hawes's claims. If successful, and MAM remained solvent (because it wouldn't have to pay Hawes), Gleicher represented that MAM would be able to retire the two notes and his shares would retain value.

The District Court granted Gleicher intervention7 over Hawes's objection, though it was “not entirely convinced that Gleicher's intervention as a defendant in this action is the most appropriate or strategic course of action.” The court also vacated the Clerk's default.8 The District Court granted Gleicher intervention as MAM's codefendant even though Hawes's claims were brought only against MAM. As MAM's codefendant, Gleicher filed an answer to Hawes's complaint denying its allegations on behalf of MAM.

On March 5, 2012, Hawes moved the District Court for summary judgment. His motion briefly stated that

[t]he grounds for this motion are that there are no genuine issues of material fact as to whether (1) the defendant, Madison Avenue Media, Inc. (“MAM”), entered into the contracts with Hawes as alleged in Hawes' Complaint in this action; (2) MAM materially breached each of those contracts; and (3) Hawes has been damaged by MAM's breaches.

At the same time, Hawes moved the court to appoint a receiver, without bond, to represent the interest of MAM in the litigation. The motion stated that it was being brought “pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 66.” The memorandum Hawes filed in support of the motion stated that “[t]he appointment of a receiver in a civil case is authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 754 and Rule 66 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Neither Rule 669 nor § 75410 provided Hawes with the right to obtain the appointment of a receiver in this in personam case prejudgment.11 The District Court nonetheless granted Hawes's motion.12 In its order, the court assumed exclusive jurisdiction and possession of MAM'S assets, and a person recommended by Hawes and Gleicher was appointed receiver, without bond.

On May 23, 2012, the receiver filed a response to Hawes's motion for summary judgment on behalf of MAM. This response admitted that the Notes and Security Agreements described in the four claims of Hawes's complaint were valid, that the notes were in default, and that Hawes was due the sum of $3,302,783.33. Gleicher also filed a separate response to Hawes's motion for summary judgment, arguing that it “should be denied because no disclosure or discovery has occurred, and the motion is therefore premature.”

On July 24, 2012, the District Court granted Hawes's motion for summary judgment finding that the “matter [was] ripe for adjudication” and that there were “no issues of material fact with respect to [Hawes's] claims against MAM.” Hawes v. Madison Ave. Media, Inc., No. 11–cv–81025, slip op. at 1, 5 (S.D.Fla. July 24, 2012). The court also noted that “Gleicher [was] not authorized to speak on behalf of MAM,” and that he lacked “standing to challenge the Receiver's findings (or Plaintiffs claims, for that matter).” Id. at 5. Following the entry of final judgment for Hawes, Gleicher lodged this appeal. He asks that we vacate the District Court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings on the grounds that the court erred (1) in refusing to allow discovery before ruling on Hawes's motion for summary judgment; and (2) in concluding that Hawes was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

II.

Reduced to its bare bones, this case is simple, yet bizarre. We consider first Gleicher's status as a general creditor of MAM. Hawes, a general creditor,13 sues MAM, his debtor. Another general creditor, Gleicher, intervenes to prevent Hawes from recovering. Gleicher cites no source—either in common law or in a state statute—giving a general creditor the right to defend his debtor from another general creditor for the sole purpose of defeating the latter's claim. Presumably, Gleicher would have us assume that the general creditor who brought suit owed a duty to the intervening general creditor (and all of the debtor's general creditors) not to sue to the debtor. Hardly.

Consider Gleicher's status as a MAM shareholder. Again, Gleicher cites no source—either in common law or in a state statute—giving a corporation's shareholder the right to intervene in a suit brought against the corporation by one of its creditors for the sole purpose of defeating the creditor's claim. It requires no subtle analysis to conclude that a corporation's shareholder possesses no right to intervene in a lawsuit such as the one Hawes brought.

III.

Once this case is stripped to these bare bones the question becomes whether Gleicher has standing to appeal the District Court's final judgment, based on his capacities as a creditor and shareholder.

“Article III of the Constitution confines the reach of federal jurisdiction to ‘Cases' and ‘Controversies.’ ” Alabama–Tombigbee Rivers Coal. v. Norton, 338 F.3d 1244, 1252 (11th Cir.2003) (quoting U.S. Const. art. III, § 2); see also, Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 2136, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) (“[S]tanding is an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement of Article III.”). At an irreducible constitutional minimum, a plaintiff must show an injury-in-fact, a causal connection between the injury and the defendant's conduct, and a likelihood that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision from the court. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560, 112 S.Ct. at 2136. “In addition to these three constitutional requirements, the Supreme Court has held that prudential requirements pose additional limitations on standing.” Wolff v. Cash 4 Titles, 351 F.3d 1348, 1353 (11th Cir.2003). For example, a party “generally must assert his own legal rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to relief on the legal rights or interests of third parties.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2205, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975).

“The standing Article III requires must be met by persons seeking appellate review, just as it must be met by persons appearing in courts of first instance.” Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 64, 117 S.Ct. 1055, 1067, 137 L.Ed.2d 170 (1997). A party's ability “to appeal a trial court judgment is governed by a body of doctrine distinct from that which controls standing to bring suit as a plaintiff, although there is a significant overlap between the two.” Knight v. Alabama., 14 F.3d 1534, 1556 (11th Cir.1994). One aspect of this overlap is “the general rule that a party may not appeal to protect the rights of others.” Id (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Gleicher has not established, nor could he, that he suffered an injury-in-fact as a result of Hawes's filing of this lawsuit. Therefore, he lacked standing to intervene and he lacks standing to appeal the District Court's final judgment. On appeal, he is not asserting his own rights;14 rather, he is asserting, albeit indirectly, MAM's rights. This appeal is accordingly dismissed.

SO ORDERED.

TJOFLAT, Circuit Judge:

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