To The Daily Sun,
My opponent, Jonathan Smolin, now accuses me of not having appropriate compassion for his plight that resulted in three different bankruptcy proceedings over the last eight years. He complains that as I pursued my career, "largely spent lecturing law students," I failed to develop an understanding of "everyday people" who experience financial trouble "because of cataclysmic events over which they had no control." On this point, he claims the illness of his wife and his father as the cause of his bankruptcy problems.
First, Mr. Smolin mischaracterizes my career. The first 20 years were spent largely as a professor of law, during which time I taught the Bankruptcy/Creditors' Rights course at least eight times. The second 20 years were spent largely in private law practice. Although, I did not personally handle bankruptcy cases, I did refer clients to bankruptcy lawyers when it appeared that bankruptcy relief was necessary. I believe I am capable of distinguishing between the debtor who is the victim of circumstances and the debtor whose financial wounds are self-inflicted. The first is entitled to compassion; the latter is not. Let's let the record tell us into which category Mr. Smolin falls.
The record indicates that much of Mr. Smolin's financial trouble started when he allegedly cheated his wife's grandfather out of money and property. This conduct led to a judgment of $210,000 against him in Maine in 2005.
As the judgment amount grew as a result of nonpayment and the imposition of statutory interest, Mr. Smolin instituted his first bankruptcy action in 2008 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for Maine. Two creditors opposed his discharge on the basis of alleged misconduct. One said he had wrongfully disposed of collateral in violation of their contract with him, the other alleged that he had wrongfully sold property that he had leased from them. There was also a claim that Mr. Smolin had misrepresented his income to obtain the credit extended to him. After the filing of these objections to Mr. Smolin's discharge, the trustee in bankruptcy filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Smolin's petition. Mr. Smolin agreed to the dismissal and agreed that he would not file another bankruptcy action for two years. A dismissal with the two-year stipulation was entered by the bankruptcy court.
In 2011, Mr. Smolin filed his second bankruptcy petition. In that action, Mr. Smolin sought discharge of his liability under the Maine judgment, which by then had grown to almost $300,000. The estate of Ms. Smolin's grandfather objected to discharge of this debt on the ground the the debt was a product of fraud. The Bankruptcy Court held the debt to be nondischargeable.
In the 2011 proceeding, Mr. Smolin gave a sworn statement that the only business he had operated from 2006 to 2012 was a combination gym and tanning center. The lengthy list of unsecured debts contains very few that could have any connection with health care costs. The largest single debt listed in the action was a $740,000 deficiency owed by Mr. Smolin after repossession and sale of a 2005 Prevost Legendary motor Coach. Another $625,000 was owed on deficiencies from other previously repossessed vehicles, including a Maserati, two Porsche 911's, a Ferrari 360 Spider, a Lotus and a Viper. It is difficult to see how these debts had anything to do with the one business Mr. Smolin said he had during the six years leading up to the bankruptcy action. It is also clear that they were not health-care-related liabilities. In short, huge debts, totally unrelated to any family illness, were the driving force behind Mr. Smolin's 2011 bankruptcy action.
Following the 2011 bankruptcy, the heirs of Ms. Smolin's grandfather sought and obtained a payment order in the Belknap County Superior Court. Rather than paying as ordered, Mr. Smolin went back to bankruptcy court, this time seeking Chapter 13 relief in the form of a five-year payment plan which proposed such minimal payments on the Maine judgment that they did not even cover the accruing judgment interest. The bankruptcy court rejected Mr. Smolin's plan as not having been filed in good faith, and Mr. Smolin's Chapter 13 petition was dismissed. Now he is required to pay $400 per month on the Maine judgment pursuant to a payment order issued by the Belknap County Superior Court.
Mr. Smolin may play the victim card; the record shows otherwise. He made his wife's grandfather, a dying man, his victim, and then compounded his misdeed by attempting to have the judgment debt of the heirs erased in bankruptcy. Mr. Smollin also repeatedly obtained enormous amounts of credit to purchase luxury vehicles, including the Legendary motor coach with a price tag of over $1 million. These were hardly "cataclysmic events beyond his control." On the contrary, these were decisions he made to his benefit and to the detriment of others. It is not Jonathan Smolin, but rather the elderly man and his estate that he defrauded and the many creditors he has left in his wake who are the ones deserving our sympathy.
You can review the documents from which the facts provided in this letter were taken on my wedsite: huntertaylorforbelknapcounty.com