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In Re: Bechara Victor Honein, Debtor. v. Bechara Victor Honein

UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY APPELLATE PANEL OF THE NINTH CIRCUIT


June 27, 2012

IN RE: BECHARA VICTOR HONEIN, DEBTOR.
MICHAEL HARRIS, APPELLANT,
v.
BECHARA VICTOR HONEIN, APPELLEE.

Appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nevada Honorable Gregg W. Zive, Bankruptcy Judge, Presiding Bankr. No. 05-51094-GWZ Adv. Proc. 05-05121-GWZ

SUSAN M SPRAUL, CLERK U.S. BKCY. APP. PANEL OF THE NINTH CIRCUIT

MEMORANDUM *fn1

Argued and Submitted on June 15, 2012, at Las Vegas, Nevada

Filed - June 27, 2012

Before: PAPPAS, DUNN and KIRSCHER, Bankruptcy Judges.

Although it may be cited for whatever persuasive value it may have (see Fed. R. App. P. 32.1), it has no precedential value. See 9th Cir. BAP Rule 8013-1.

Michael Harris ("Harris") appeals the bankruptcy court's judgment denying his motion for a partnership accounting and settling title to certain real property in his adversary proceeding against chapter 11*fn2 debtor Bechara Victor Honein ("Honein"). We AFFIRM.

FACTS

Unless otherwise noted, the parties do not dispute the underlying facts in this appeal.

In 2002, Honein and Harris entered into an oral partnership agreement to purchase real property on which a gas station would be operated. The parties never prepared a written partnership agreement. The partnership was to be equally owned by Honein and Harris, with each partner to have an equal responsibility to contribute the sums necessary to fund the partnership. While it was intended that the partnership acquire and own the real property, it would not own or operate the gas station business.

The parties agreed that, when acquired, title to the real property would be placed in Honein's name, because Harris had outstanding money judgments against him and was experiencing other problems with his creditors:

COUNSEL FOR HONEIN: And, in fact, sir, you told

Mr. Honein that you could put nothing in your name because of your problems with the creditors.

Am I correct?

HARRIS: Yes, sir.

Trial Tr. 107:17-21, April 26, 2007. It was agreed that Honein, alone, would own and operate the gas station business.

Harris' initial obligation to the partnership was to contribute $45,000, which the partners then expended on costs and offers on properties that were not ultimately purchased. Harris was also primarily responsible for obtaining the financing for any real property purchase.

From 2002 to 2003, Honein and Harris inspected various properties and made offers to acquire them. Ultimately, one offer proposed by Honein was accepted for a property in Carson City, Nevada (the "Property") owned by BP West Coast Products LLC

("BP/ARCO").*fn3 Honein and BP/ARCO executed a sale contract for $550,000. Although it is not clear in the record the date when the offer was accepted, on March 25, 2003, BP/ARCO informed Honein that if the sale of the Property did not close within five business days, the sale contract would be rescinded. Harris was unable to obtain commercial financing for this purchase. Instead, Harris arranged for a short-term loan from his brother, Lee

Harris, in the amount of $450,000 to close the sale. Honein alone signed a promissory note in favor of Lee Harris, with no reference to any partnership with Harris.

Although the parties do not dispute that the amount owed on this promissory note was $450,000, the note executed by Honein was for $850,000. The bankruptcy court later found that both Honein and Harris intended that this false document would be used to inflate the value of the Property to induce banks to provide a 2 much higher commercial loan. Then, through this scheme, after 3 paying off the $450,000 to Lee Harris, the parties could pocket 4 the fraudulently obtained surplus in loan proceeds. See Amended 5 Findings of Fact no. 21, November 3, 2010.

6 The sale of the Property closed on May 23, 2003; all 7 documents were signed by Honein with no reference to a partnership 8 with Harris; title vested in Honein. At some point not clear in 9 the record, Honein gave a grant deed to Lee Harris for a 50 10 percent interest in the Property, which deed was never recorded.

11 Lee Harris, in turn, provided a quitclaim deed to Harris, again at 12 a time not clear in the record, which was also not recorded. 13 A condition on title to the Property was that it be used to 14 operate a BP/ARCO service station. At closing of the sale, Honein 15 applied for a BP/ARCO franchise to operate a service station and 16 convenience store on the Property. Honein then attended and 17 successfully completed the mandatory franchise holder "training 18 school," paying the $15,000 tuition, and was awarded the franchise 19 in his own name. Harris never attended the training school or 20 attempted to obtain the status of a franchise holder. Indeed, 21 because Harris never qualified as a BP/ARCO franchise holder, the 22 terms of the deed to the Property prevented him from ever owning 23 it.

24 Honein has owned and operated the service station and 25 convenience store since 2003. Harris was employed there at times, 26 receiving total wages of $38,400.

The bankruptcy court would ultimately determine, and the 28 parties do not dispute, that the partnership between Honein and 1 Harris ended in June 2004. Harris alleges that Honein punched 2 him; Honein alleges that Harris threatened his children. Honein 3 obtained a restraining order against Harris.

4 Apparently in response to a continuing dispute with Lee 5 Harris over repayment of the $450,000 loan, Honein filed a 6 chapter 11 petition on April 15, 2005. Honein's Schedule D lists 7 a disputed secured claim of $450,000 in favor of Lee Harris. 8 Neither Honein's schedules nor statement of financial affairs 9 makes any reference to any partnership with Harris, or in any way 10 lists Harris as a creditor.

11 Harris filed a complaint commencing the subject adversary 12 proceeding against Honein on December 6, 2005. The complaint was 13 amended on June 19, 2006 (the "First Amended Complaint"). The 14 First Amended Complaint sought an order from the bankruptcy court 15 declaring that the Property was held in trust by Honein for the 16 benefit of Harris; adjudging Harris to have an equitable lien for 17 the value of 50 percent of the Property; quieting title to, and 18 determining that Harris is the beneficial and legal owner of, 19 50 percent of the Property; and monetary damages. Honein filed an 20 Answer and Counterclaim on September 15, 2006, seeking an award of 21 money damages from Harris for his alleged fraud, and a declaratory 22 judgment that Honein was the sole owner of the Property.

The bankruptcy court conducted a trial in the adversary 24 proceeding on April 26 and 27, 2007. Honein, Harris and Lee 25 Harris testified. At the end of trial, the bankruptcy court 26 orally ruled on the record that both parties were in pari delicto, 27 because they had established and pursued the partnership business 28 for an illegal purpose and, therefore, the bankruptcy judge 1 stated, "I am finding against both parties and all their claims 2 for relief." Trial Tr. 30:19-21, April 27, 2007. The bankruptcy 3 court entered Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on 4 January 6, 2009.

Regarding the counterclaim, the court ruled that 5 Honein was prevented from recovery under the doctrine of in pari 6 delicto. As to Harris' claims, the court determined:

- Harris had breached the partnership agreement by failing to 8 contribute his 50 percent of the funds needed by the partnership, 9 and in fact "contributed nothing towards the purchase of the 10 Property, or its improvement and maintenance through June 2004."

11 - The grant deed from Honein to Lee Harris was intended for 12 security purposes only, and did not transfer any ownership 13 interest in the Property to him. As a result, the quitclaim deed 14 from Lee Harris to Harris also did not create an ownership 15 interest in the Property.

- Harris was not entitled to recover damages. 17 - The partnership was dissolved and neither the partnership, 18 Harris nor Lee Harris had any claim or ownership interest in the 19 Property.

The bankruptcy court made the following ruling at the end of 21 its conclusions, of importance in this appeal: "However, both 22 Harris and Honein are entitled to an accounting or a valuation of 23 their Partnership interests in this adversary proceeding pursuant 24 to the applicable provisions of the Nevada Revised Statutes."

In April 2010, apparently in response to the bankruptcy 26 court's indication that an accounting would be allowed, Harris 27 filed a Motion for an Accounting and Valuation of Partnership 28 Interests. Honein filed an opposition on August 27, 2010, arguing 1 that Harris was entitled to no relief under the court's finding 2 that he was in pari delicto, would not be entitled to any recovery 3 from an accounting, and that an extensive accounting had already 4 been provided to the court.

5 The bankruptcy court conducted a hearing on Harris' motion 6 for an accounting on September 10, 2010. After allowing brief 7 presentations by counsel, the court ruled that since the parties 8 were in pari delicto, neither of them were entitled to an 9 accounting, citing case law to support its position. Consistent 10 with its ruling, the bankruptcy court entered Amended Findings of 11 Fact and Conclusions of Law on November 3, 2010.

While generally 12 consistent with the original findings and conclusions, the court 13 added two significant conclusions: "The doctrine of in pari 14 delicto prevents both Harris and Honein from recovering on their 15 Complaint and Counterclaim, because otherwise they would be 16 unjustly enriched." Conclusion of Law 9; and "Neither party is 17 entitled to an accounting based on the doctrine of in pari 18 delicto." Conclusion of Law 10.

19 Both of these conclusions were then incorporated in a 20 Judgment After Trial, entered by the bankruptcy court on 21 November 24, 2010. The Judgment also ruled that the Partnership 22 had been dissolved as of June 2004, and that the Property "shall 23 remain the sole and separate property of Bechara Victor Honein." 24 Harris filed this timely appeal of the Judgment on December 7, 25 2010.

JURISDICTION

The bankruptcy court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 28 §§ 1334(b)and 157(b)(2)(A), (C) and (O). We have jurisdiction 1 under 28 U.S.C. § 158.

ISSUE

Whether the bankruptcy court abused its discretion in denying 4 Harris' motion for a partnership accounting based on the doctrine 5 of in pari delicto.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A partnership accounting under Nevada law is an equitable 8 proceeding. Oracle USA, Inc. v. Rimini St., Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. 9 LEXIS 84254 * 19 (D. Nev. 2010); Bengoa v. Reinhart, 297 P. 506, 10 510 (Nev. 1931).

A trial court's decision to grant or deny 11 equitable relief is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Forest 12 Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A., 523 F.3d 1078, 1084 (9th Cir. 2010). 13 In determining whether a bankruptcy court abused its discretion, 14 we review whether the bankruptcy court applied the correct rule of 15 law de novo. United States v. Hinkson, 585 F.3d 1247, 1262 (9th 16 Cir. 2009) (en banc). We then determine whether the court's 17 application of that rule was illogical, implausible, or without 18 support in inferences that may be drawn from the facts in the 19 record. Id. (quoting Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N.C., 20 470 U.S. 564, 577 (1985)).

DISCUSSION

The bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in denying Harris' motion for accounting based on the doctrine of in pari 23 delicto.

24 In clear terms, the bankruptcy court indicated that "the 25 entire basis for my ruling is the [illegal] purpose of the 26 [partnership] agreement and the lack of credibility of these 27 witnesses and these parties. That's it." Hr'g Tr. 36:18-20. We 28 agree with the bankruptcy court that, on this record, and by 1 application of the doctrine of in pari delicto, Harris lacked any 2 right to an accounting from Honein.

3 The bankruptcy court determined that Honein and Harris had 4 both engaged in fraudulent activity in their partnership by 5 arranging with Lee Harris to execute a false promissory note to 6 indicate that they had borrowed $850,000 instead of $450,000.

7 They did this with the intention of scamming a bank to obtain a 8 commercial loan, paying off the $450,000 note, and pocketing the 9 surplus in fraudulently obtained funds. The bankruptcy court 10 found that they had, in fact, contacted banking institutions for 11 that fraudulent purpose:

12 In an attempt to obtain 100% financing for the Property, Harris and Honein had a secret agreement to overstate 13 the actual amount of the Lee Harris loan and attempt to mislead any potential lender into believing that the 14 amount borrowed had been $850,000 (instead of $450,000), and, together with the actual purchase price of 15 $550,000, showed the value of the Property to be approximately $1.4 million. The buyer (the Partnership) 16 would then obtain a refund from the seller, thereby inducing a bank to loan 100% of the actual purchase 17 price. Both Harris and Honein made representations to banks that they knew were not true in order to secure a 18 loan.

19 Amended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law no. 21, 20 November 3, 2010. On this basis, the bankruptcy court determined 21 that the partnership of Honein and Harris had been engaged in 22 unlawful activities, and justified its application of in pari 23 delicto to deny Harris' motion for a partnership accounting. 24 Harris has not challenged the bankruptcy court's factual findings 25 that he and Honein were, in fact, wrongdoers, who attempted to use 26 their partnership for an unlawful purpose.

A trial court's authority to deny relief on the basis of the 28 doctrine of in pari delicto is a well-known equitable concept applicable under both federal and Nevada state law. The Supreme Court explained its application in Bateman Eichler, Hill Richards, Inc. v. Berner, 472 U.S. 299 (1985):

The common-law defense at issue in this case derives from the Latin, in pari delicto potior est conditio defendentis: "In a case of equal or mutual fault . . .

the position of the [defending] party . . . is the better one." The defense is grounded on two premises:

first, that courts should not lend their good offices to mediating disputes among wrongdoers; and second, that denying judicial relief to an admitted wrongdoer is an effective means of deterring illegality. In its classic formulation, the in pari delicto defense was narrowly limited to situations where the plaintiff truly bore at least substantially equal responsibility for his injury, because "in cases where both parties are in delicto,

concurring in an illegal act, it does not always follow that they stand in pari delicto; for there may be, and often are, very different degrees in their guilt."

1 J. Story, EQUITY JURISPRUDENCE 304-305 (13th ed. 1886)

(Story). . . . Notwithstanding these traditional limitations, many courts have given the in pari delicto defense a broad application to bar actions where plaintiffs simply have been involved generally in "the same sort of wrongdoing" as defendants. Perma Life Mufflers, Inc. v. International Parts Corp., 392 U.S.

[134, 138 (1968).]*fn4

The Ninth Circuit recently reaffirmed its commitment to the doctrine of in pari delicto: Property delivered under an illegal contract cannot be recovered back by any party in pari delicto. The general rule, in its full Latin glory, is in pari delicto potior est conditio defendentis, or in case of equal fault the condition of the party defending is the better one. The doctrine has been restated to be that neither party to an illegal contract will be aided by the court, whether to enforce it or set it aside.

Kardoh v. United States, 572 F.3d 697, 700 (9th Cir. 2009) (although in a criminal case, the doctrine was applied to resolve a civil issue, that a party could not seek approval from the district court to recover fees voluntarily paid in furtherance of an illegal agreement).*fn5

The Nevada Supreme Court has taken a position consistent with the federal treatment of in pari delicto, in particular where, as here, when faced with the request by a plaintiff for an accounting arising from activities rooted in an illegal purpose:

When a party suffers injury from wrongdoing in which he engaged, the doctrine of in pari delicto often prevents him from recovering for his injury. The rationale underlying the doctrine is that there is no societal interest in providing an accounting between wrongdoers.

Kahn v. Dodds (In re AMERCO Derivative Litig.), 252 P.3d 681, 695 (Nev. 2011).*fn6 However, the Nevada Supreme Court has articulated 1 guidelines for its trial courts in considering whether to apply in pari delicto:

3 [T]he courts should not be so enamored with the Latin phrase "in pari delicto" that they blindly extend the 4 rule to every case where illegality appears somewhere in the transaction. The fundamental purpose of the rule 5 must always be kept in mind, and the realities of the situation must be considered. Where, by applying the 6 rule, [1] the public cannot be protected because the transaction has been completed, [2] where no serious 7 moral turpitude is involved, [3] where the defendant is the one guilty of the greatest moral fault and [4] where 8 to apply the rule will be to permit the defendant to be unjustly enriched at the expense of the plaintiff, the 9 rule should not be applied.

10 Shimrak v. Garcia-Mendoza, 912 P.2d 822, 827 (Nev. 1996) (quoting 11 Magill v. Lewis, 333 P.2d 717, 719 (Nev. 1958)). 12 The bankruptcy court explicitly acknowledged and reviewed 13 these Magill factors in reaching its decision to apply in pari 14 delicto in this case.

15 First, "[w]here, by applying the rule, the public cannot be 16 protected because the transaction has been completed." The 17 bankruptcy court observed that both parties were seeking damages 18 through the date of trial, and thus the "transaction" has not been 19 completed. Trial Tr. 23:19-20, April 27, 2007. Indeed, the 20 fraudulent transaction contemplated by the partners never was 21 consummated, despite their efforts.

22 Second, "where no serious moral turpitude is involved." Here 23 the bankruptcy court made an explicit finding that "there is 24 serious moral turpitude on behalf of both parties." Trial 25 Tr. 23:21-23. The court's finding of moral turpitude based on the 26 intent to defraud third party banking institutions is consistent 27 with Ninth Circuit law. Anastas v. Am. Sav. Bank (In re Anastas), 28 94 F.3d 1280, 1287 (9th Cir. 1996) ("Actual fraud is the type 1 involving moral turpitude, or intentional wrong.").

2 Third, "where the defendant is the one guilty of the greatest 3 moral fault." The bankruptcy court declined to find that either 4 party had greater moral fault than the other. Trial Tr. 24:10-11 5 ("I am not prepared to find that either has greater moral fault 6 than the other."). Of course, this is not a finding that Honein 7 had greater moral fault, either. Moreover, a fair reading of the 8 record shows that the bankruptcy court would not hold Honein in 9 greater moral fault. The court consistently used stronger 10 language in describing the actions of Harris:

11 THE COURT: I found Michael Harris's testimony to be unreliable and untrustworthy. I found Mr. Honein's 12 testimony to be incredible in certain respects[.] 13 Hr'g Tr. 4:13-15, September 10, 2010. 14 THE COURT: [After finding that Honein repaid the Lee Harris loan on his own] Michael [Harris] only put in 15 $45,000, most of which, if not all, he's been repaid. He hasn't suffered any economic injury that's been 16 proven to me.

17 Hr'g Tr. 6:15-17. 18 THE COURT: I specifically found that Michael Harris was in breach of his duties to Mr. Honein under any oral 19 contract. 20 Hr'g Tr. 7:8-10. 21 THE COURT: To have a party [Harris] who was engaged in this type of conduct who has suffered no financial 22 injury that has been proven to me, that failed to act in accord with the oral agreement, just think would be 23 entitled to anything, much less $475,000 is, as I have said at the time of trial, a step through the looking 24 glass. 25 Hr'g Tr. 7:19-24.

26 THE COURT: [Harris] would never really answer whether or not he had funds to be able to make his capital 27 contributions which he had promised to make at the time they entered into this agreement, even though he did 28 acknowledge a repeated request by Mr. Honein to do 1 so. . . . And I don't believe he ever intended to. And that's an express finding. He fully expected to be able 2 to turn the Property around, pay off his brother, and pocket the difference.

Hr'g Tr. 16:6-19.

THE COURT: I think the truth and reality is something that to Mr. Mike Harris [] there's only a fleeting relationship.

Hr'g Tr. 19:5-7.

THE COURT: Based on what he said, Michael Harris brought nothing to this [Partnership]. And then 9 basically Mr. Harris is nothing more than a financial parasite.

Hr'g Tr. 25:8-10.

While the bankruptcy court held that Honein was equally 13 guilty of fraudulent activity, it did not apply the strong terms 14 used to describe Harris' behavior. Based on our review of the 15 record, we can confidently conclude that, although the bankruptcy 16 court declined to hold one party in greater moral fault, these 17 observations, based on credibility determinations at trial, would 18 not support a conclusion that Honein was at greater moral fault. 19 Therefore, this Magill factor does not bar application of in pari 20 delicto in this case.

21 Finally, "where to apply the rule will be to permit the 22 defendant to be unjustly enriched at the expense of the 23 plaintiff." The bankruptcy court reasoned, correctly in our view, 24 that under the facts of this case, a failure to apply in pari 25 delicto to bar the claims of both parties would itself result in 26 unjust enrichment:

27 I think that finding that Mike Harris has some type of basis for the recovery of damages as a result of the 28 partnership agreement, when he engaged in the acts and 1 conduct, would unjustly enrich him. Likewise, I think if I were not to impose the doctrine of in pari delicto 2 to preclude recovery on the counterclaim that Mr. Honein would be unjustly enriched. He certainly went forward 3 from June of 2004 on the basis that there was no partnership. Those expenses [damages he sought in the 4 counterclaim] were his.

Hr'g Tr. 25:3-7.

At one point, the bankruptcy court appeared to side with 7 Harris' argument that Honein would be unjustly enriched by leaving 8 the Property in the hands of Honein:

THE COURT: [Unjust enrichment] is the strongest factor in Harris' favor not to have the Court apply the [in 10 pari delicto] doctrine.

11 Hr'g Tr. 24:18-19. Indeed, Harris seems to argue that, since he 12 arranged for the original financing through his brother, he is 13 entitled to some return from the partnership. However, under 14 these facts, it is clear that Harris is not entitled to any return 15 from the partnership because: (1) Harris failed to arrange for 16 permanent financing, something he was obliged to do as his 17 contribution to the partnership; (2) Honein eventually paid off 18 the Lee Harris loan from his own resources and loans on which he 19 was solely obligated; (3) Honein arranged for, and was solely 20 obligated, on the permanent financing; (4) Harris never made any 21 other capital contributions to the partnership for which he was 22 obligated, and, as found by the court, never intended to do so. 23 In sum, under the Magill factors, the bankruptcy court was 24 not precluded from applying in pari delicto as grounds for its 25 decision to decline to require a partnership accounting. 26 In challenging the bankruptcy court's application of in pari 27 delicto, Harris argues that, in Nevada, there is an absolute right 28 to an accounting whenever a partnership is dissolved. For 1 support, Harris cites to Rasmussen v. Thomas, 644 P.2d 1030 (Nev. 2 1982) for the proposition that "a court may not distribute 3 partnership assets without requiring a proper accounting among the 4 partners."

Harris Op. Br. at 8. On the contrary, there is 5 nothing in the Rasmussen decision that requires a trial court to 6 order an accounting on demand. Rasmussen acknowledged the 7 optional nature of a party's entitlement to an accounting when it 8 wrote, "Ordinarily, actions between partners with respect to 9 partnership business are not maintainable until there has been an 10 accounting or settlement of the partnership affairs."

Rasmussen, 11 644 P.2d at 1031 (emphasis added). The Rasmussen court ordered an 12 accounting under the facts of that case when it could not 13 determine on the record before it "accurate money judgment awards" 14 to the partners. Id. 15 The bankruptcy court considered the Rasmussen case, and 16 properly distinguished it from the case on appeal: 17 Rasmussen v. Thomas. I've studied at length. . . . It doesn't even address in pari delicto. It doesn't 18 address the equitable issues. . . . There was no issue regarding the purpose of the partnership. There was no 19 issue regarding illegality or violation of public policy.

Hr'g Tr. 12:16-25, September 10, 2010.*fn7

To support his position, Harris also cites to cases applying Nevada law where the courts refused to apply in pari delicto in partnership accounting actions. In Shimrack, cited above, the plaintiff was a private investigator suing a law firm to recover money for services. The trial court dismissed the action on the grounds that the investigator's agreement with the law firm purported to share legal fees with a non-lawyer in contravention of public policy. Id. at 803. The Nevada Supreme Court reversed the trial court's decision to apply in pari delicto. However, unlike here, the Shimrack court found that all four of the Magill factors applied:

All four of the Magill factors are present in this case.

SCR 188 is entitled "Professional independence of a lawyer." At least one court has recognized that the purpose of the prohibition of fee-splitting is to protect the independence of the judgment of lawyers.

Gassman v. State Bar, 18 Cal. 3d 125, 553 P.2d 1147, 1151, 132 Cal. Rptr. 675 (Cal. 1976). The public would not be protected by refusing to enforce this contract, because Garcia has already exercised her judgment in the cases covered by the contract. Indeed, not to enforce this contract would actually endanger the public, because it would allow lawyers to enter into such contracts and then get out of them by invoking SCR 188.

The first Magill [factor] is therefore satisfied. As to the second factor, there is no serious moral turpitude involved here. Third, the Garcia-Mendoza firm member [the defendant] must be seen as being guilty of the greatest moral fault since she is the one who violated a professional rule. Finally, not enforcing the contract would unjustly enrich the [defendant] law firm at Shimrak's expense, because he has already performed his part of the agreement. Using the Magill factors, it is clear that the doctrine of in pari delicto should not be applied to deny Shimrak agreed-upon compensation for services rendered.

Shimrack, 912 P.2d at 822.

The second principal case cited by Harris was Locken v. 5 Locken, 650 P.2d 803 (Nev. 1982). This case focuses upon a 6 dispute between a father and son over the ownership of land. In 7 satisfaction of certain indebtedness owed to the father by a third 8 party, the father agreed to accept an assignment of two patent 9 applications for separate parcels of land. Since the Desert Land 10 Act, 43 U.S.C. § 321 (1964), prohibited the father from making 11 more than one entry in his own name, at the suggestion of his son, 12 the parties verbally agreed to place one of the applications in 13 the son's name. Under this agreement, the father was to make 14 improvements upon the land, and after the patent was granted, the 15 son was to convey the property to his father.

The father 16 fulfilled his part of the agreement, expending considerable time, 17 effort and money on land improvement, yet the son refused to 18 convey the property as agreed. The father brought suit to impose 19 a constructive trust on the land in father's favor.

20 We are puzzled why Harris cites this case because, once 21 again, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that in pari delicto could 22 not be applied because all four Magill factors were present.

Even assuming arguendo that the agreement was illegal or against public policy, the rule that such agreements are 24 not to be enforced by the courts will not be applied in this instance where: (1) the public interest cannot be 25 restored because of the completed transaction; (2) no serious moral turpitude is involved; (3) the son 26 [defendant] is guilty of greater moral fault than the father; and (4) application of the rule would permit the 27 son [defendant] to be unjustly enriched at the expense of his father. Magill v. Lewis, 74 Nev. 381, 333 P.2d 28 717 (1958).

In short, the only two cases cited by Harris from the Nevada Supreme Court hold that, where the Magill factors are present, the doctrine of in pari delicto should not be applied by the courts. Even so, this is completely consistent with the bankruptcy court's decision in this case, where none of the Magill factors were present to preclude the application of in pari delicto.

As to non-Nevada cases, Harris criticizes the bankruptcy court for citing Norwood v. Judd, 93 Cal.App.2d 276 (1949), arguing that Norwood denied the application of in pari delicto.*fn8 Norwood involved a partnership in the contracting business, where the partnership failed to obtain the required license, and the dispute arose whether a partnership accounting should be allowed under the in pari delicto rule. It is true that the court in Norwood declined to apply in pari delicto, but relied on the following now familiar grounds:

Where, by applying the rule, the public cannot be protected because the transaction has been completed, where no serious moral turpitude is involved, where the defendant is the one guilty of the greatest moral fault, and where to apply the rule will be to permit the defendant to be unjustly enriched at the expense of the plaintiff, the rule should not be applied.

Id. at 289. Norwood was, in fact, cited by the Magill court and is the source of the later Magill factors. For our purposes, it is sufficient to note that the Norwood court declined to apply in pari delicto because the Magill factors were present. But of even greater importance to our analysis, the Nevada Supreme Court adopted the Magill factors from Norwood, a case granting a 1 partnership accounting following dissolution of the partnership 2 where the Magill factors were present. Again, this is consistent 3 with the bankruptcy court's rulings in this appeal that in pari 4 delicto can be applied where those factors are absent.

5 As the bankruptcy court correctly observed, the doctrine of 6 in pari delicto has frequently been applied in other states to bar 7 equitable relief in partnership accounting and similar 8 proceedings. Graham v. Shooke, 482 P.2d 446 (Ariz. 1971) (denied 9 partnership accounting where veterinary firm was operated by 10 medically unlicensed partners); Johnston v. Senecal, 109 N.E.2d 11 467 (Mass. 1952) (denied partnership accounting where partnership 12 was properly engaged in selling parking meters, but also engaged 13 in exerting improper influence on public officials who purchased 14 such meters); Nahan v. George, 99 N.E.2d 898 (Ohio 1951) 15 (partnership accounting denied where partner violated liquor 16 licensing laws); Pendarvis v. Berry, 52 S.E.2d 705 (S.C. 1949) 17 (partnership accounting denied where one store operated by 18 partnership was unlicensed); Demayo v. Lyons, 216 S.W. 436 (Mo. 19 1948) (partnership accounting denied where restaurant partnership 20 attempted to sell liquor without a license); Breiford v. Stoll, 21 26 N.E.2d 159 (Ill. Ct. App. 1940) (partnership accounting denied 22 where purpose of partnership was gambling in violation of 23 statutes); see also OCA, Inc. v. Hassell, 389 B.R. 469 (E.D. La. 24 2008) (accounting denied where agreement provided for practice of 25 dentistry by a corporation, in violation of statutes).

Given the unchallenged factual findings of the bankruptcy 27 court in this action, the court did not abuse its discretion when 28 it declined to grant Harris' motion for an accounting based on the doctrine of in pari delicto. It applied the correct rule of law, and its conclusions were not illogical, implausible, or without support in inferences that may be drawn from the facts in the record.*fn9

CONCLUSION

We AFFIRM the bankruptcy court.


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