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In re Samson Resources Corp.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 23, 2017

IN RE SAMSON RESOURCES CORPORATION, et al., Reorganized Debtors.
SAMSON RESOURCES CORPORATION, et al., Appellees. DIANE S. JONES, Appellant, No. 15-11934-BLS


         Pending before this Court is the Motion to Dismiss the Bankruptcy Appeal for Lack of Appellate Jurisdiction (D.I. 5) filed by the above-captioned Reorganized Debtors ("Appellees") and the Motion for Enlargement Due to Excusable Neglect (D.I. 23) filed by pro se appellant Diane S. Jones ("Appellant"). The Motion to Dismiss argues that the Court lacks appellate jurisdiction to consider this appeal because Appellant failed to file a notice of appeal within the 14-day period prescribed by Rule 8002(a) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure ("Bankruptcy Rules") and failed to make a showing of excusable neglect for the untimely filing within the time frame set forth in Bankruptcy Rule 8002(d)(1). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Enlargement is denied, the Motion to Dismiss is granted, and the appeal is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         1. Background.

         The following facts appear to be undisputed. On September 16, 2015, each of the Appellees filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Between November 17, 2015, and January 26, 2016, Appellant and eleven other heirs of Randolph Parker (collectively, the "Parker Heirs") filed 22 proofs of claim ("Parker Heir Claims") in the Chapter 11 cases, alleging "unpaid royalties, unfair leasing, [and] theft of property through fraud." (See D.I. 5 at 2 & n.3).

         2. On February 13, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court entered an order confirming the Global Settlement Joint Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization of Samson Resources Corporation and its Affiliates (B.D.I. 1822)[1] (the "Plan"). On February 28, 2017, Appellees filed an amended omnibus objection to claims, seeking to disallow, inter alia, all of the Parker Heir Claims in their entirety on the grounds that none of the Parker Heir Claims made a prima facie showing that the Parker Heirs had been underpaid royalties or owned royalty interests in any lands beyond a 25-acre tract in Rusk County, Texas (B.D.I. 2060) (the "Objection"). Certain of the Parker Heirs filed responses to the Objection. (B.D.I. 2045, 2065, 2067, 2143, 2144, 2148, 2151, 2156, 2162, 2184, 2185, 2186). On April 28, 2017, Appellees filed a reply in further support of the Objection. (B.D.I. 2330). The Bankruptcy Court held a two-day trial starting on May 1, 2017 on the issue of whether the Parker Heir Claims should be disallowed.

         3. On June 15, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court issued its opinion disallowing the Parker Heir Claims (B.D.I. 2436), together with an Order denying all relief sought by the Parker Heirs (B.D.I. 2437) ("Order"). On Friday, June 30, 2017, Appellant mailed her notice of appeal from the Order. (See D.I. 13 at 2). On Monday, July 3, 2017, the notice of appeal was received and time-stamped by the Bankruptcy Court Clerk. (See D.I. 1). On July 26, 2017, Appellees filed the Motion to Dismiss. (D.I. 5). On September 5, 2017, Appellant filed the Motion for Enlargement of the 14-day appeal deadline due to excusable neglect. (D.I. 23). On September 11, 2017, Appellant filed the Motion to Continue/Join the Parker Heirs to Appellant's Appeal (D.I. 24) ("Motion to Join"), and on October 12, 2017, Appellant filed a Motion to Submit New Evidence/Supplement to Appeal (D.I. 31) ("Motion to Supplement").

         4. 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 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).[2] 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).

         5. Discussion.

         The 14-day period for appealing the June 15, 2017 Order expired on June 29, 2017. The appeal was not filed until July 3, 2017, four days after the 14-day period under Bankruptcy Rule 8002(a) had expired. 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 Bankruptcy Rule 8002 in the jurisdictional grant to the district courts to hear appeals from bankruptcy courts. Section 158(c)(2) of title 28 provides: "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).

         6. Appellant advances several arguments in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. Appellant argues that the "requirements [for] filing the notice of appeal... are not jurisdictional, and the court does not have to dismiss the appeal if the appellant is late filing a non-jurisdictional item." (D.I. 13 at 3). However, 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 111-12 (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:

Because 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.

Id. at 111-12. Because the notice of appeal was not filed within the time frame provided by Bankruptcy Rule 8002(a), the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and must dismiss the appeal. United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002) ("subject-matter jurisdiction, because it involves a court's power to hear a case, can never be forfeited or waived.")

         7. Appellant further argues that the notice of appeal was in fact timely filed. Because the Order was docketed after business hours on June 15, 2017, Appellant argues that the 14-day period did not begin to run until the following day, resulting in a June 30 deadline - as opposed to June 29. (See D.I. 13 at 2). Because her notice of appeal was postmarked on June 30, 2017, Appellant contends that it was timely filed. (See id.) Both of these contentions are incorrect.

         8. First, the fact that the Order was entered following business hours is irrelevant for calculating the 14-day deadline under Bankruptcy Rule 8002(a) because that day is already excluded. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9006. As Appellees correctly argue, Bankruptcy Rule 9006, which governs when computing any time period specified in the Bankruptcy Rules, provides that the day the order is entered is excluded for purposes of calculating the deadline to appeal the order; thus, the 14-day period began to run on June 16, 2017. See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9006(a)(1)(A) (instructing that "the day of the event that triggers the period" is excluded). However, Bankruptcy Rule 9006 further instructs that the "last day of the period" shall be included for purposes of calculating a ...

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