UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY APPELLATE PANEL OF THE NINTH CIRCUIT
December 14, 2012
IN RE: GENNADY TIKHONOV AND ALBINA TIKHONOV, DEBTORS. GENNADY TIKHONOV; ALBINA TIKHONOV, APPELLANTS,
THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON TRUST CO., N.A., APPELLEE.
Appeal from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California Honorable Maureen Tighe, Bankruptcy Judge, Presiding Bk. No. SV 11-15614-MT
SUSAN M SPRAUL, CLERK U.S. BKCY. APP. PANEL OF THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Submitted Without Oral Argument on November 15, 2012*fn2
Filed - December 14, 2012
Before: MARKELL, BEESLEY*fn3 and PAPPAS, Bankruptcy Judges.
Gennady and Albina Tikhonov ("Debtors") appeal from a bankruptcy court order granting relief from stay under 11 U.S.C. § 362(d)(1)*fn4 to the Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co., N.A., formerly known as the Bank of New York Trust ("BONY"). We hold that the appellants lack standing, and thus we DISMISS this appeal. Even if the appellants had standing, however, we would AFFIRM.
A. The parties, the debt and the encumbered property The following facts reflect this Panel's understanding of the key players, the debt incurred and the encumbrances against the relevant parcel of real property: a single-family residence located in Sherman Oaks, California ("Residence"). For the most part, we have drawn these facts from the various deeds, notes and other transaction documents offered as exhibits by the parties. Neither party has attempted to challenge the authenticity of these documents, or the propriety of our considering them. While the parties' respective statements of fact focus on different parts of the record, neither effectively has challenged the 1 existence or the basic nature of the real estate and lending 2 transactions leading up to their dispute. 3 On or about April 6, 2006, a man named Leonid Ovsovich 4 ("Ovsovich") owned the Residence. On that date, he borrowed 5 roughly $1 million from Mortgageit, Inc. ("Mortgageit"). In 6 exchange for the loan, Ovsovich executed an Adjustable Rate Note 7 ("Note") and a Deed of Trust ("First Trust Deed"), both dated 8 April 6, 2006.
9 The First Trust Deed was recorded on April 18, 2006, in the 10 Official Records of Los Angeles County, as instrument number 11 06-0841080. The First Trust Deed identified Ovsovich as the 12 borrower, Mortgageit as the lender, and Mortgage Electronic 13 Registration Systems, Inc. or "MERS" as the beneficiary, but 14 "solely as nominee for Lender and Lender's successors and 15 assigns." The First Trust Deed elsewhere reiterated that "MERS 16 is a separate corporation that is acting solely as a nominee for 17 Lender and Lender's successors and assigns. MERS is the 18 beneficiary under this Security Instrument." Under the First 19 Trust Deed, Ovsovich acknowledged his understanding and 20 agreement, on the one hand, that MERS only held a legal interest 21 to the property described under the First Trust Deed, and on the 22 other hand, that MERS had the right/authority as nominee for the 23 lender and the lender's successors and assigns to exercise all of 24 their rights and interests under the First Trust Deed, to the 25 extent "necessary to comply with law or custom."
26 On November 2, 2006, Ovsovich borrowed another $25,000 27 against the Residence, this time from Reliant Group, Inc. 28 ("Reliant"). In exchange for this loan, Ovsovich executed a 1 promissory note and a Deed of Trust ("Second Trust Deed"), both 2 dated November 2, 2006. The Second Trust Deed was recorded on 3 November 9, 2006, in the Official Records of Los Angeles County, 4 as instrument number 06-2491932.
5 In 2007, Reliant conducted foreclosure proceedings against 6 the residence, which culminated in a trustee's sale held on 7 December 10, 2007, at which the Akselrod Revocable Family Trust 8 ("Akselrod Family Trust") was the successful bidder. That same 9 day, the trustee under the Second Deed of Trust executed a 10 Trustee's Deed Upon Sale conveying the Residence to the Akselrod 11 Family Trust. The Trustee's Deed Upon Sale was recorded on 12 January 10, 2008, in the Official Records of Los Angeles County, 13 as instrument number 20080057975.
14 In July 2008, one of the Debtors, Albina Tikhonov, purchased 15 the Residence from the Akselrod Family Trust. In furtherance of 16 this sale, the Akselrod Family Trust executed a Grant Deed in 17 favor of Albina Tikhonov, dated July 2, 2008. The Grant Deed 18 was recorded on July 9, 2008, in the Official Records of Los 19 Angeles County, as instrument number 20081215761. In conjunction 20 with this sales transaction, Albina Tikhonov promised to pay the 21 Akselrod Family Trust $100,000 and executed a Deed of Trust 22 ("Third Trust Deed") dated July 15, 2008, to secure her $100,000 23 debt. The Third Trust Deed was recorded on July 22, 2008, in the 24 Official Records of Los Angeles County, as instrument number 25 20081303344.
26 Because the Second Trust Deed was junior to the First Trust 27 Deed, the Akselrod Family Trust and its successor in interest, 28 Albina Tikhonov, took title to the the Residence subject to the First Trust Deed.*fn5
B. The Debtors' bankruptcy case and BONY's relief from stay motion
The Debtors filed their chapter 13 bankruptcy case in May 2011, and the bankruptcy court entered an order in October 2011 confirming their second amended chapter 13 plan ("Confirmed Plan"). The Debtors' Confirmed Plan did not provide for any payments to secured creditors. Moreover, the Confirmed Plan explicitly provided that the Debtors were immediately and unconditionally surrendering the Residence to the Akselrod Family Trust. As the Confirmed Plan put it:
The Debtor hereby surrenders the following personal or real property (Identify property and creditor to which it is surrendered.)
Creditor Name: Description:
The Akselrod Family Trust 14713 Valleyheart Dr. Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 2nd Amended Chapter 13 Plan (July 11, 2011) at p. 7.
Notwithstanding the Debtors' surrender of their interest in the Residence to the Akselrod Family Trust, BONY filed a motion for relief from stay. In the motion, BONY: (1) asserted that it was the successor to Mortgageit under the First Trust Deed, and (2) sought relief from the stay to permit BONY to pursue foreclosure proceedings against the Residence. BONY asserted 1 that it was entitled to relief from stay under § 362(d)(1), for 2 cause, because its interest in the residence was not adequately 3 protected. According to BONY, the Debtors had not made any 4 post-petition payments due on the debt secured by the First Trust 5 Deed, and over $25,000 in accrued post-petition payments had not 6 been made. The notice accompanying the motion warned the 7 Debtors: "If you fail to file a written response to the Motion or 8 fail to appear at the hearing, the court may treat such failure 9 as a waiver of your right to oppose the Motion and may grant the 10 requested relief." Notice Of Motion And Motion For Relief From 11 The Automatic Stay (Oct. 25, 2011) at p. 2.
12 The Debtors did not file an opposition to BONY's relief from 13 stay motion. Instead, the Debtors filed a document entitled: 14 "Debtor's Objection to Claims of the Bank of New York Mellon 15 Trust Company, National Association FKA the Bank of New York 16 Trust Company, N.A. as Successor to JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. as 17 Trustee." The Debtors also filed a declaration and a memorandum 18 of points and authorities in support of their claim objection 19 (collectively, "Claim Objection Papers").
20 The Claim Objection Papers are difficult to read at best and 21 incomprehensible at times. Nonetheless, it seems reasonably 22 clear that the Debtors intended the Claim Objection Papers to be 23 linked to BONY's relief from stay motion. While the nature of 24 the intended link is far from clear, the Claim Objection Papers 25 repeatedly reference the relief from stay motion. Moreover, the 26 November 30, 2011 hearing date for the relief from stay motion is 27 listed on the caption page of each of the Claim Objection Papers. 28 The bankruptcy court held a hearing on the relief from stay 1 motion on November 30, 2011. Shortly before the hearing, the 2 bankruptcy court issued a tentative ruling in which it indicated 3 that it was inclined to grant the relief from stay motion. The 4 tentative ruling stated that no opposition had been filed in 5 response to the motion. The tentative ruling accepted a $900,000 6 valuation of the Residence based on the Debtors' bankruptcy 7 schedules. The other facts stated in the tentative ruling appear 8 to have been drawn from BONY's motion. These facts included: 9 (1) $1,256,638.61 as the amount owed to BONY, (2) the absence of 10 an equity cushion, and (3) Debtors' negative equity in the 11 Residence in the amount of $356,638.61 ($900,000 value, less 12 underlying debt of $1,256,638.61). The tentative ruling further 13 specified that attendance at the November 30, 2011 relief from 14 stay hearing was required: "APPEARANCE REQUIRED - RULING MAY BE 15 MODIFIED AT HEARING." Tentative Ruling (Nov. 29, 2011) at p. 1. 16 The hearing on the relief from stay motion was brief. 17 BONY's counsel appeared telephonically. No one appeared on 18 behalf of the Debtors. After BONY indicated that it was prepared 19 to rest on the bankruptcy court's tentative ruling, the court 20 granted the motion as follows:
Okay. There was an objection to your claim filed, which is why I thought there might be a Debtor here, 22 but there isn't, and that was noticed -- I think it came in with no date -- for December 13th. So your 23 motion is granted, and we'll deal with that other matter [the claim objection] at that time.
25 Hr'g Tr. (Nov. 30, 2011) at 1:8-14. 26 The bankruptcy court entered an order granting the relief 27 from stay motion, and the Debtors timely appealed. 28 While not technically part of the record before the 1 bankruptcy court at the time it ruled on the relief from stay 2 motion, the bankruptcy court's January 4, 2012 order overruling 3 the Debtors' claim objection arguably gives some insight into the 4 court's thought process at the time it ruled on BONY's relief 5 from stay motion.*fn6 In the order on the claim objection, the 6 bankruptcy court acknowledged that it was unclear on the face of 7 the Claim Objection Papers whether the Debtors had meant to 8 object to a claim or to oppose BONY's relief from stay motion.
9 The court further acknowledged: (1) that BONY had not filed any 10 proof of claim, and (2) that the November 30 hearing date on the 11 relief from stay motion was referenced in the Claim Objection 12 Papers.
13 According to the bankruptcy court, notwithstanding the 14 above-referenced facts, in light of the Debtors' failure to 15 appear at the relief from stay hearing, it elected to treat the 16 Claim Objection Papers as an objection to claim, and set a 17 continued hearing on the objection to claim for December 13, 18 2011. When the Debtors also failed to appear at the December 13, 19 2011 hearing on the objection to claim, the court overruled the 20 objection to claim.
21 The debtors never have attempted to explain their absence 22 from the hearings. Nor have they argued that the bankruptcy 23 court erred in relying on their failure to appear in making its 24 rulings. Nor have they denied receipt of adequate notice of all 25 relevant documents and proceedings.
2 The bankruptcy court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 3 §§ 1334 and 157(b)(2)(G). We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 4 § 158.
6 1. Do the Debtors have standing to prosecute this appeal? 7 2. If the Debtors had standing to appeal, did the bankruptcy 8 court err when it granted BONY's motion for relief from the 9 automatic stay?
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
11 Standing is a legal issue we review de novo. Allen v. U.S. 12 Bank, N.A. (In re Allen), 472 B.R. 559, 565 (9th Cir. BAP 2012) 13 (citing Veal v. Am. Home Mortg. Serv., Inc. (In re Veal), 14 450 B.R. 897, 906, 918 (9th Cir. BAP 2011)).
15 We review an order granting relief from stay for abuse of 16 discretion. Kronemyer v. Am. Contractors Indem. Co. (In re 17 Kronemyer), 405 B.R. 915, 919 (9th Cir. BAP 2009). Under the 18 abuse of discretion standard, we apply a two-part test. First, 19 we consider de novo whether the bankruptcy court identified the 20 correct law to consider in light of the relief requested. United 21 States v. Hinkson, 585 F.3d 1247, 1262 (9th Cir. 2009) (en banc). 22 Second, we review the bankruptcy court's factual findings, and 23 its application of those findings to the relevant law, to 24 determine whether they were either "(1) 'illogical,' 25 (2) 'implausible,' or (3) without 'support in inferences that may 26 be drawn from the facts in the record.'" Id. (quoting Anderson v. 27 City of Bessemer City, N.C., 470 U.S. 564, 577 (1985)).
2 A. The Debtors lack standing to appeal the relief from stay order.
4 Even though neither party raised it, we must satisfy 5 ourselves that the Debtors have standing to appeal. Standing is 6 a threshold issue in all federal cases that must be satisfied 7 before the court can exercise jurisdiction. In re Veal, 450 B.R. 8 at 906 (citing Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975)).
9 Article III of the Constitution requires litigants to demonstrate 10 their standing by showing: injury in fact, causation, and 11 redressability. Id.
12 We do not doubt here the existence of Article III standing. 13 The order on appeal granted BONY relief from the automatic stay, 14 which in turn permitted BONY to pursue foreclosure proceedings 15 against property listed on the Debtor's bankruptcy schedules as 16 property of their bankruptcy estate. In addition, if we were to 17 reverse, that reversal would redress any harm allegedly caused by 18 the order granting relief from the stay.
19 However, in addition to Article III standing, there are a 20 number of prudential limitations on federal court jurisdiction. 21 Whereas Article III standing focuses on whether the court has 22 jurisdiction, prudential standing doctrine focuses on whether the 23 court should exercise that jurisdiction. See Sprint Commc'ns Co. 24 v. APCC Servs., Inc., 554 U.S. 269, 289 (2008) (stating that 25 prudential standing embodies judicially self-imposed limits on 26 the exercise of jurisdiction).
27 Two aspects of prudential standing doctrine are implicated 28 by the facts of this case. First, federal courts ordinarily 1 decline to exercise jurisdiction when a party seeks to vindicate 2 rights belonging to others, rather than their own legal rights. 3 See Warth, 422 U.S. at 509; In re Veal, 450 B.R. at 906-07. This 4 aspect of prudential standing is commonly referred to as third 5 party standing. See id. Second, federal appellate courts 6 typically decline to exercise jurisdiction over appeals 7 originating from bankruptcy cases unless the appellant is a 8 "person aggrieved" - that is, a person who has been "'directly 9 and adversely pecuniarily affected'" by the order on appeal. See 10 Sherman v. SEC (In re Sherman), 491 F.3d 948, 957 n.8 (9th Cir. 11 2007) (quoting Fondiller v. Robertson (In re Fondiller), 707 F.2d 12 441, 442 (9th Cir. 1983)). The Ninth Circuit has referred to 13 this doctrine as the "prudential appellate standing" doctrine. 14 Id. We address each of these prudential standing doctrines in 15 turn below.
1. The Debtors lack third party standing.
17 As indicated above, under the third party standing doctrine, 18 litigants generally must assert their own legal rights and not 19 the rights of others. See Sprint Commc'ns Co. v. APCC Servs., 20 Inc., 554 U.S. at 289-90. The problem here with respect to the 21 Debtors' third party standing arises from their Confirmed Plan. 22 The Confirmed Plan's terms are binding on the Debtors, as well as 23 their creditors. § 1327; Enewally v. Wash. Mut. Bank (In re 24 Enewally), 368 F.3d 1165, 1172 (9th Cir. 2004); see also 25 United Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa, --- U.S. ---, 130 26 S.Ct. 1367, 1376 (2010).
The Debtors' Confirmed Plan provides for the Debtors' 28 immediate and unconditional surrender of their interest in the Residence to the Akselrod Family Trust. As a result of that surrender, the Debtors do not appear to have retained any interest in the Residence.*fn7 Consequently, the only party potentially impacted by BONY's obtaining relief from stay with respect to the Residence was the Akselrod Family Trust. Thus, the Debtors impermissibly were seeking to enforce the rights of the Akselrod Family Trust, rather than their own rights. See York Int'l Bldg., Inc. v. Chaney (In re York Int'l Bldg., Inc.), 527 F.2d 1061, 1067 (9th Cir. 1975) (applying third party standing doctrine where the debtor and its sole shareholder sought to enforce rights belonging to their creditors).
The Debtors' Confirmed Plan remains in full force and effect. They have not sought to revoke or amend their Confirmed Plan. Accordingly, the Debtors lack third party standing to enforce any rights the Akselrod Family Trust may hold with respect to the Residence.
2. The Debtors lack prudential appellate standing. As set forth above, an appellant only has prudential 1 appellate standing if it is a person aggrieved, and an appellant 2 only qualifies as a person aggrieved if it has been directly and 3 adversely affected pecuniarily by the order on appeal. But there 4 are two additional requirements to qualify as a person aggrieved. 5 Provided that the appellant had adequate notice of the bankruptcy 6 court proceedings, the appellant is not a person aggrieved unless 7 he or she: (1) objected to the request for relief leading to the 8 order appealed, and (2) appeared at the hearing on the requested 9 relief. See Brady v. Andrew (In re Commercial W. Fin. Corp.), 10 761 F.2d 1329, 1335 (9th Cir. 1985); see also Weston v. Mann 11 (In re Weston), 18 F.3d 860, 864 (10th Cir. 1994) (creditors 12 lacked standing to appeal bankruptcy court's order resolving 13 trustee election because they did not participate in resolution 14 of disputed election).
These two elements of the person 15 aggrieved test are founded on "the need for economy and 16 efficiency in the bankruptcy system." In re Ray, 597 F.3d 871, 17 874 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing In re Commercial W. Fin. Corp., 18 761 F.2d at 1335).
19 Furthermore, the requirements of attendance at and objection 20 in the bankruptcy court proceedings ensures that "the bankruptcy 21 court is made aware of all available evidence and objections when 22 making its determination . . . and prevent[s] a party in interest 23 from 'lying in the weeds' during bankruptcy court proceedings 24 . . . only to appeal and generate additional unnecessary 25 proceedings." White v. Virginia (In re Urban Broad. Corp.), 26 304 B.R. 263, 272 (E.D. Va. 2004) aff'd on other grounds, 27 401 F.3d 236, 244 (4th Cir. 2005) (non-participation is an issue 28 of waiver not standing).
1 Here, the Debtors have failed to satisfy two of the 2 prudential appellate standing requirements. For the same reasons 3 that we held above that the Debtors' lacked third party standing, 4 the Debtors also cannot show that they have been directly and 5 adversely affected pecuniarily by the order on appeal. Pursuant 6 to the Confirmed Plan's terms, the Debtors no longer have any 7 interest in the Residence. Consequently, the relief from stay 8 order permitting BONY to foreclose on the Residence could not 9 have affected the Debtors in any meaningful way. 10 Moreover, all of the types of harm associated with non- 11 appearance alluded to in Urban Broad. Corp., above, occurred 12 here. The Debtors' failure to appear at the hearing and explain 13 their intentions with respect to their difficult-to-understand 14 Claim Objection Papers left the bankruptcy court in the 15 unenviable position of attempting to ascertain from the face of 16 those papers what the Debtors had intended without their 17 participation and assistance. In addition, their failure to 18 appear directly resulted in the bankruptcy court not addressing 19 their Claim Objection Papers in the context of the relief from 20 stay proceedings, which in turn has spawned the current appeal, 21 as well as the potential for post-appeal proceedings.
22 In sum, given that we cannot ascertain any impact on the 23 Debtors arising from the relief from stay order, and given their 24 failure to attend the relief from stay hearing, we hold that the 25 Debtors lacked prudential appellate standing. 26 B. Even if the Debtors had standing, the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in granting relief from stay. 27 28 In addressing the issues raised by the Debtors' pro se appeal brief, we are cognizant of our duty to interpret their brief liberally and to ensure that their substantive contentions are not deemed waived simply as a result of their failure to comply with mere technical procedural requirements or their inability to state their contentions using formal legal terminology. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).
Nonetheless, having carefully reviewed their appeal brief, we are convinced that their various arguments challenging the order on appeal all boil down to a single relevant assertion: that BONY lacked standing as the "real party in interest" under Civil Rule 17(a)(1) to seek relief from stay in their bankruptcy case. The Debtors have advanced numerous theories why BONY lacked standing. Some of their theories are plausible while others are patently meritless or incomprehensible. However, their critical theories attacked BONY's contention that it is the holder of the Note and hence had standing as the party entitled to enforce the Note under governing commercial law statutes.*fn8 According to the Debtors, BONY is not the party entitled to enforce the note and consequently lacked standing. But we disagree with the Debtors. For purposes of BONY's relief from stay motion, BONY sufficiently established its standing as the party entitled to enforce the Note by presenting to the bankruptcy court a copy of the Note and an allonge, which together contained an unbroken chain of special endorsements; the last endorsement in this chain named BONY as payee. We explain immediately below why the Note and the allonge are sufficient to resolve this standing issue in BONY's favor.*fn9
As a preliminary matter, we note the limited scope of stay relief proceedings. Such proceedings are summary in nature and limited to determining whether there are "sufficient countervailing equities to release an individual creditor from the collective stay." In re Veal, 450 B.R. at 914. Thus, a relief from stay proceeding is not an appropriate vehicle for finally and definitively determining a creditor's claim or security. Id.; see also Johnson v. Righetti (In re Johnson), 756 F.2d 738, 740 (9th Cir. 1985) ("Hearings on relief from the automatic stay are thus handled in a summary fashion. The validity of the claim or contract underlying the claim is not litigated during the hearing." (citations omitted)).
Because stay relief is limited in nature, is subject to an 1 expedited hearing process, see § 362(e), and does not finally 2 adjudicate the parties' rights and liabilities, a party seeking 3 stay relief only needs to establish that it has a "colorable 4 claim" against property of the estate. Veal, 450 B.R. at 914-15 5 (citing United States v. Gould (In re Gould), 401 B.R. 415, 425 6 n.14 (9th Cir. BAP 2009); Biggs v. Stovin (In re Luz Int'l, 7 Ltd.), 219 B.R. 837, 842 (9th Cir. BAP 1998); Grella v. Salem 8 Five Cent Sav. Bank, 42 F.3d 26, 32 (1st Cir. 1994)). 9 At its heart, the Debtors' standing argument questions 10 BONY's third party standing. As we explained above, in order to 11 establish third party standing, BONY needed to establish that it 12 was asserting its own legal rights and not the rights of others. 13 See Sprint Commc'ns Co. v. APCC Servs., Inc., 554 U.S. at 289-90.
Under § 362(d), any "party in interest" can request relief 15 from the automatic stay. But the term "party in interest" is not 16 defined in the Bankruptcy Code. Whether a moving party qualifies 17 as a party in interest under § 362(d) is determined on a 18 case-by-case basis, taking into account the movant's claimed 19 interest and the alleged impact of the stay on that interest. 20 In re Kronemyer, 405 B.R. at 919. A "party in interest" includes 21 any party that has "an actual pecuniary interest" in the matter 22 or "a practical stake" in its outcome. Brown v. Sobczak (In re 23 Sobczak), 369 B.R. 512, 517-18 (9th Cir. BAP 2007).
24 As indicated in Veal, a creditor can establish that it is a 25 "party in interest" with standing to seek relief from stay by 26 showing that it is a person entitled to enforce the note, or that 27 it holds some ownership or other interest in the note amounting 28 to a colorable claim. Id. at 917 (citing In re Hwang, 438 B.R. 661, 665 (C.D. Cal. 2010)).
In relevant part, a party is a person entitled to enforce the note if it is a "holder" of the note, as defined in UCC § 1-201(b)(21)(A). In re Veal, 450 B.R. at 910-11. A "holder" includes a "person in possession of a negotiable instrument that is payable . . . to an identified person that is the person in possession." UCC § 1-201(b)(21)(A); see also In re Veal, 450 B.R. at 911. In turn, a negotiable instrument has been made payable to an identified person when it contains a "special endorsement" specifying that the instrument is payable to that identified person. See UCC § 3-205(a).
Here, the face of the Note reflects that Mortgageit, the original payee under the Note, indorsed it by making it payable to an entity called Residential Funding Corp. ("RFC").*fn10 In turn, RFC specially indorsed the Note by making it payable to JP Morgan Chase Bank, as Trustee ("Chase").*fn11 Finally, on the face of the allonge, BONY as Chase's successor essentially specially indorsed the Note to itself.*fn12
Importantly, we have not been able to locate anything in the Debtors' Claim Objection Papers or in their brief on appeal suggesting in any way that they challenged the effectiveness of any of these endorsements or the validity of the allonge.*fn13 Nor did they dispute that BONY was Chase's successor. Indeed, all of Debtors' papers repeatedly referred to BONY as Chase's successor. BONY attached to its relief from stay motion the declaration of John Castagna ("Castagna"), who declared that he was an employee of BONY's servicing agent GMAC Mortgage, LLC, and a custodian of records for BONY pertaining to documents concerning the loan transaction from which the Note and the First Trust Deed originated. Castagna further declared that BONY was the current holder of the Note, and he attached to his declaration as exhibits a copy of the Note and the accompanying allonge in support of this contention.*fn14 Under the particular circumstances of this matter as described above, Castagna's declaration and the attached exhibits were sufficient to establish BONY's status as the current holder of the Note, as the person entitled to enforce the Note, and as a party with standing to seek relief from stay.*fn15 We once again acknowledge the duty that all federal courts have "to ensure that pro se litigants do not lose their right to 1 a hearing on the merits of their claim [or defense] due to 2 ignorance of technical procedural requirements." Balistreri, 3 901 F.2d at 699. Nonetheless, this duty has its limits. Neither 4 this Panel nor the bankruptcy court are required to ferret out 5 and substantiate arguments on behalf of pro se parties when the 6 parties make no attempt to assert these arguments. See DeBuono 7 v. Fanelli (In re Fanelli), 263 B.R. 50, 62 (Bankr. N.D.N.Y. 8 2001). In other words, the requirement of stating a valid, 9 comprehensible claim or defense is not a "technical procedural 10 requirement" that a pro se party can be excused from. See 11 Victery v. Arizona, 2011 WL 2940763, at *4 (D. Ariz. 2011).
12 Here, the Debtors simply did not make any challenge to the 13 authenticity of the Note or the accompanying allonge. Nor did 14 they challenge the endorsements on either of these documents. 15 Consequently, the presentation of evidence that BONY made in 16 conjunction with its relief from stay motion was sufficient to 17 establish its standing to seek relief from stay.
For all of the reasons set forth above, we hold that the appellants lack standing, and thus we DISMISS this appeal. Even if the appellants had standing, however, we would AFFIRM.