The brief is well written (here it is), with two basic arguments. First – and the lead argument – is that Linda Mastro essentially loses the right to appeal by virtue of having left the jurisdiction and taken property that belongs to the estate. She can’t willfully refuse to obey the court, while at the same time, expect to receive relief from it. This is called the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine. See Wengin Sun v. Mukasey, 555 F.3d 802 (9th Cir. 2009). It appears this doctrine is usually applied in criminal cases, but Rigby cites authority that it has also been applied in civil cases.
The second part of Rigby’s brief is simply that there was sufficient evidence presented at trial to support the court’s judgment that the rings, gold, Rolls Royce, etc. was not Linda Mastro’s separate property, and thus is properly included in the bankruptcy estate.
Here’s what we think will happen: The District Court will apply the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine, and affirm the Bankruptcy Court’s judgment. By doing this, it will not need to address whether the facts at trial supported the judgment. If the Court gets to the issue of whether the facts support the judgment, we think Rigby is on shakier ground. While there is a lot of contradicted testimony by Linda Mastro on the jewelry, and indeed, her credibility is lacking, a gift is a gift (and from what we’ve seen, that’s what it was), so long as it was made when Mike Mastro was solvent. Do we really believe that Mike Mastro intended to keep an interest in jewelry he gave his wife? The evidence that Rigby cites is Mike Mastro’s having controlled the jewelry for awhile, but that seems weak to infer that he had an interest in it. It sounds more like a bailment, if anything.
We keep coming back to how Linda can appeal, yet also be on the lam. If Mike Gossler is unable to reach Linda does his ethical duty require that he file an appeal on her behalf to protect her interests? Or if she’s incommunicado, can he ethically represent her interests, without receiving her specific direction? Or is she in communication with Gossler, directing the appeal from afar? And is he getting paid? If so, with what money? Our experience opposing Mike Gossler in litigation has shown us he is good, professional and ethical. We assume whatever the facts, he’s doing what he should do under the circumstances.