UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. BUCHMAN (May 16, 2011)

Christopher Buchman borrowed money from the Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency. He secured the loans with mortgages on three pieces of property. When he defaulted, the United States filed suit to foreclose. His attempts to negotiate a resolution were unsuccessful and a default judgment was entered. A year later, the property was sold at public auction. Judge Griesbach (E.D. Wis.) confirmed the sale and entered a deficiency judgment against Buchman, rejecting his arguments that the sale price was inadequate and that he wanted an opportunity to redeem the property. Buchman appeals.

In their opinion, Chief Judge Easterbrook, Circuit Judge Bauer, and District Judge Young affirmed. The Court first rejected the government's argument that the completed property transfer made the appeal moot. Although the Court did hold that it would not upset the completed sale, it noted that it could vacate the deficiency judgment or order the government to give up some of the proceeds of the sale. On the merits, the Court agreed with the district court that Buchman forfeited his claim that the court erred in not providing him an opportunity to redeem. He allowed a default judgment to be entered and, even then, waited more than a year to complain. With respect to the inadequate price argument, the Court applied the Wisconsin rule that a sale should be confirmed unless the price "shocks the conscience." Buchman’s only evidence was an appraisal. A competitive sale is better evidence of value than an appraisal. Also, Buchman never identified anyone who is or was willing to pay a higher price. The Court found no error in the sale confirmation.