Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Samson Resources Corp.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 30, 2017

IN RE SAMSON RESOURCES CORPORATION, et al., Reorganized Debtors.
v.
SAMSON RESOURCES CORPORATION, et al, Appellees. CALVIN WILLIAMS, Appellant, Civ. No. 16-1124-RGA

          MEMORANDUM

         Pending before this Court is a pro se appeal from a June 8, 2016 Order (B.D.I. 1024)[1]entered by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware (the "Bankruptcy Court"), which overruled Appellant's objection to the Debtors' motion to approve the sale of certain assets as part of their Chapter 11 reorganization. For the reasons set forth below, the appeal is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         1. Background. On September 16, 2015, Samson Resources Corporation, together with certain affiliates ("Debtors"), filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. On February 13, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order confirming the Debtors' plan of reorganization. (B.D.I. 2019).

         2. As part of their reorganization, on January 29, 2016, Debtors filed a motion seeking authority to sell certain assets (B.D.I. 621) ("Sale Motion"), including the Debtors' working interests in certain oil and gas leases.

         3. Appellant is a pro se individual who filed a proof of claim in the Debtors' Chapter 11 cases (Claim No. 732). Appellant believes that Debtors do not hold a valid lease on certain land that is owned by him along with certain of his relatives who are descendants and heirs of William Seamster (collectively, "Seamster Heirs"). On February 12, 2016, Appellant filed an objection to the Sale Motion on behalf of himself and ten family members, alleging that the claims of the Seamster Heirs precluded the Debtors from being able to sell certain interests subject to and free and clear of liens. (B.D.I. 665). On March 15, 2016, Appellant filed a second objection to the asset sale, and Debtors filed a supplement in further support of the Sale Motion on March 23, 2016. (B.D.I. 770, 795). On April 26, 2016, Appellant filed a letter in further support of his position. (B.D.I. 893).

         4. On June 7, 2016, the Bankruptcy Court held an evidentiary hearing on Appellant's objection to the Sale Motion, at which time the parties presented evidence and argument in support of their positions. (D.I. 22, 6/7/16 Hr'g Tr. at 7:1-60:3). Debtors presented evidence and testimony setting forth, inter alia, the difference between the Debtors' working interest in the assets and Appellant's royalty interest in the assets;[2] the continued validity of the lease and the Debtors' ownership of a working interest thereunder; and the fact that the proposed sale did not include Appellant's royalty interest. (See Id. 15:22-41:3). Appellant made various arguments, focusing on his belief that royalty payments were not properly made (see Id. at 44:24-45:3) and that the lease was invalid because it had expired by its own terms (41:18-44:19; 50:19-51:12). Following argument, the Bankruptcy Court ruled from the bench. (See Id. at 60:4-67:4). As the Bankruptcy Court explained, "[W]hat's in front of me today is whether or not the Debtors can sell their alleged working interest in the Seamster tract to a third-party. What's not in front of me today is anything to do with the royalty payments .. . The royalty issue and who owns the working interests are two separate things." (Id. at 60:7-60:20). The Bankruptcy Court determined, based on the facts and evidence presented, that "there is a valid lease" and that "the Debtor has the ability to sell that working interest." (Id. at 65:9-65:12).[3] The next day, the Bankruptcy Court entered the Order overruling Appellant's objection and approving Debtors' Sale Motion with respect to the assets. (B.D.I. 1024).

         5. On July 11, 2016, Appellant filed a Motion to Present New Evidence (B.D.I. 1154) ("First Reconsideration Motion"). The Bankruptcy Court treated this as a motion for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59, held a hearing on September 7, 2016, and denied the First Reconsideration Motion the same day. (B.D.I. 1325). On September 15, 2016, Appellant filed a Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) to Prevent Manifest Injustice (B.D.I. 1355), and subsequently filed arevised version of same on October 5, 2016 (B.D.I. 1446) ("Second Reconsideration Motion"). The Bankruptcy Court held another hearing to consider the Second Reconsideration Motion on November 16, 2016, and again denied Appellant's request for relief by order entered the same day. (D.I. 22, 11/16/16 Hr'gTr. at 42:25-60:5; B.D.I. 1663).

         6. On December 5, 2016, Appellant filed his Notice of Appeal with the Bankruptcy Court. (D.I. 1). On February 9, 2017, the Court held a telephonic status conference, at which time the parties agreed to a briefing schedule to address lack of subject matter jurisdiction, equitable mootness, as well as the merits of the appeal. (See D.I. 18, 2/9/17 Hr'g Tr.). The parties each made timely submissions, and this matter is fully briefed. (D.I. 21, 22, 31, 32, 46).[4]

         7. Debtors' opening brief raises several arguments in support of dismissal of the appeal and affirmation of the Order. Debtors argue that the appeal must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it was filed nearly three months after the 14-day appeal deadline set by Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure ("Bankruptcy Rule") 8002(a)(1). (See D.I. 21 at pp. 6-8). Debtors further argue that even if the Court had jurisdiction to consider this appeal, the rights to operate wells underlying the asset sale have already been sold, and the doctrine of equitable mootness also requires dismissal of the appeal. (See Id. at pp. 2, 8-11). According to Debtors, Appellant has suffered no injury or prejudice by virtue of the sale of the Debtors' working interest in the wells, which is distinct from the royalty interest owned by Appellant, which royalty interest Appellant continues to own. (See Id. at p. 2). Finally, Debtors argue that the Bankruptcy Court correctly concluded that Appellant's tort and contract claims are meritless and barred by state law. (See Id. at pp. 11-12). Appellant's brief asserts essentially the same arguments presented to the Bankruptcy Court below: that the lease was unconscionable from the outset and the product of fraud; that royalty payments were not properly made under the lease; that the lease has expired under its own terms; and that the Debtors have been unjustly enriched by virtue of the sale. (See D.I. 25, 32). Appellant's brief does not address Debtors' arguments that the appeal was untimely and is now equitably moot. (See id.)

         8. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review. The Court has appellate jurisdiction over all final orders and judgments from the Bankruptcy Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1). Bankruptcy Rule 8002(a)(1) provides: "Except as provided in subdivisions (b) and (c), a notice of appeal must be filed with the bankruptcy clerk within 14 days after entry of the judgment, order, or decree being appealed." Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8002(a)(1). Subdivision (b)(1)[5] provides, "If a party timely files in the bankruptcy court any of the following motions, the time to file an appeal runs for all parties from the entry of the order disposing of the last such remaining motion, " and then lists the following motions: (A) to amend or make additional findings; (B) to alter or amend the judgment under Bankruptcy Rule 9023; (C) for a new trial under Bankruptcy Rule 9023; or (D) for relief from judgment under Bankruptcy Rule 9024. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8002(b)(1). Thus, a party may toll the 14-day deadline by timely filing a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Bankruptcy Rule 9023, which incorporates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8002(b)(1)(B). The Third Circuit has held that the failure to appeal a bankruptcy court's ruling to the district court within the time period established by Bankruptcy Rule 8002 deprives the district court of jurisdiction to hear an appeal. See In re Caterbone, 640 F.3d 108, 113 (3d Cir. 2011).

         9. Discussion. Although the Bankruptcy Rules alone cannot create or withdraw jurisdiction, Congress has limited the jurisdiction of this Court to hear an appeal from a final order of a Bankruptcy Court by specifically incorporating the time limits of Rule 8002 in the jurisdictional grant to the district courts to hear appeals from bankruptcy courts. Section 158(c)(2) of title 28 provides that "an appeal under subsections (a) and (b) of this section shall be taken in the same manner as appeals in civil proceedings generally are taken to the courts of appeals from the district courts and in the time provided by Rule 8002 of the Bankruptcy Rules." 28 U.S.C. § 158(c)(2) (emphasis added).

         10. The Third Circuit has held on several occasions that the time limits of Bankruptcy Rule 8002 are jurisdictional and deprive an appellate court of subject matter jurisdiction if the appellant fails to comply. See Caterbone, 640 F.3d at 112-13 (citing S 'holders v. Sound Radio, Inc., 109 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1997); Whitemere Dev. Corp., Inc. v. Cherry Hill Twp., 786 F.2d 185, 187 (3d Cir. 1986); In re Universal Minerals Inc. 755 F.2d 309, 311 (3d Cir. 1985)). In Caterbone, the court stated that:

[b]ecause Section 158 ... specifies the time within which an appeal must be taken - i.e., "in the time provided by Rule 8002" - that requirement is jurisdictional... Here, even though it is a bankruptcy rule that specifies the time within which an appeal must be filed, the statutory incorporation of that rule renders its requirement statutory and, hence, jurisdictional and non-waivable.

Mat 111-12.

         11. This appeal must be dismissed because it was not timely filed. Here, the order Appellant is appealing from was entered on June 8, 2016. As noted above, a party may toll the 14-day deadline by timely filing a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Bankruptcy Rule 9023. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8002(b)(1)(B). In such cases, the time to file an appeal runs "from entry of the order disposing of the last such remaining motion." See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8002(b). Setting aside that Bankruptcy Rule 9023 actually imposes a 14-day deadline to file a motion to alter or amend (as opposed to the 28-day deadline contained in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59), Appellant filed the First Reconsideration Motion on July 11, 2016, [6] and the Bankruptcy Court denied it on September 7, 2016. The 14-day deadline therefore began on September 7, 2016, in accordance with Bankruptcy Rule 8002(b). As Debtors correctly argue, the fact that the Second Reconsideration Motion was filed within 14 days of the order denying the First Reconsideration Motion does not control. (See D.I. 21 at p. 7). "[A] second or successive motion under Rule 59(e), which again seeks 'relief from the underlying judgment of dismissal, ' must still be filed within the [statutory] window 'that open[s] following the entry of judgment.'" Lopez-Rosario v. Programa Seasonal Head Start, 140 F.Supp.3d 214, 218 (D.P.R. 2015) (quoting Fisher v. Kadant, Inc.,589 F.3d 505, 511 (1st Cir. 2009)); see also Montalvo Rios v. Municipality of Guaynabo, 2011 WL 2518631, at *2 (D.P.R. June 24, 2011) (finding district courts lack authority to consider second motion for reconsideration brought outside time limit after the entry of judgment, and also quoting Fisher, "[t]he fact that it was filed within [the statutory window following] the denial of the first motion for reconsideration ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.