In Kingdom Fresh Produce, Inc. v. Stokes Law Office LLP, the Fifth Circuit tended the garden of the obscure but important Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, a Depression-era statute designed to defend vulnerable sellers of perishable produce from sharp dealing. To do so, PACA creates a “trust fund” obligation for produce buyers; here, a bankruptcy court authorized the payment of special counsel from monies in a debtor’s fund.
Three fee applications were at issue. As to the first two, the Court found that the district court had not granted leave to appeal and thus did not have jurisdiction to uproot the bankruptcy court’s rulings. “With these jurisdictional issues peeled away,” and after “a bit more paring” of the remaining issue, the Court held that “PACA’s unequivocal language requires that a PACA trustee—or in this case, its functional equivalent—may not be paid from trust assets ‘until full payment of the sums owing’ is paid to all claimants.” Nos. 14-51079 & 14-51080 (March 11, 2016). (Readers’ Note: 600Camp will publicly recognize the blog reader who finds all of the vegetabilia in the well-written opinion.)