Appeal From The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Idaho Honorable Jim D. Pappas, Bankruptcy Judge, Presiding Bk. No. 10-41450-JDP
SUSAN M SPRAUL, CLERK
U.S. BKCY. APP. PANEL
OF THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Argued and Submitted on June 14, 2012 at Boise, Idaho
Before: MARKELL, HOLLOWELL and JURY, Bankruptcy Judges.
Debtor Steven A. Stephens ("Stephens") claimed a homestead exemption under Idaho law in real property he owned in Alaska. R. Sam Hopkins, his chapter 7*fn2 trustee ("Trustee"), objected to Stephens' homestead exemption claim. The bankruptcy court sustained the Trustee's objection, and Stephens appealed. We AFFIRM.
When Stephens, an Idaho native, filed his bankruptcy case, he owned two parcels of real property. One was in Idaho Falls, Bonneville County, Idaho ("Idaho Property") and the other was in Kenai Peninsula Borough, Sterling, Alaska ("Alaska Property").
Stephens purchased the Alaska Property in 2006. At the time he purchased the Alaska Property, it was vacant land. However, over the course of several years, he worked on building a home on the property with the intent to eventually reside there permanently. Between 2007 and 2010, Stephens periodically would travel to Alaska, for several days or weeks at a time, to work on the construction of his Alaska home. While he made his permanent move to the Alaska Property in December 2010, Stephens never actually completed the home's construction. The Alaska home still lacks running water, a sewage system, cabinetry, carpeting and flooring.*fn4
Stephens commenced his chapter 7 bankruptcy case in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Idaho in August 2010, before his move to Alaska. Stephens had generally been planning to relocate to Alaska as early as 2006 and had been making firm plans to relocate there since early 2010. These firm plans included obtaining professional licensing from the State of Alaska to practice as a psychologist and seeking employment in
Alaska as a psychologist.*fn5
In his bankruptcy schedules, Stephens listed both his Idaho Property and his Alaska Property as assets. The bankruptcy schedules indicated that the Idaho property was worth $130,000 but also was fully encumbered. As set forth in the schedules, the Alaska Property was worth $54,000, with no encumberances. Accordingly, citing Idaho Code § 55-1003,*fn6 Stephens' Schedule C claimed the full value of the Alaska Property as exempt.
The Trustee timely objected to Stephens' homestead exemption claim, arguing that Idaho's homestead exemption law, Idaho Code §§ 55-1001, et seq., did not cover real property located outside the State of Idaho. After the parties briefed the issue and submitted their stipulated facts, the bankruptcy court decided the matter without a hearing. In a memorandum decision, the bankruptcy court relied on its own prior decisions in ...