In Re: SONYA OWENS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER dismissing appeal for jack of jurisdiction. Signed by Judge Christopher R. Cooper on 10/25/2017. (lccrc1)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Case No. 17-cv-00637 (CRC)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Debtor Sonya Owens filed a voluntary Chapter 13 petition in February 2017. In re
Owens, 17-bk-93 (ECF No. 1). 1 At that time, she applied to pay the $310 bankruptcy filing fee
in installments. ECF No. 2. In an Order dated February 23, the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court
denied that application, explaining that Owens had failed to pay the filing fee in a prior
bankruptcy case and instructing Owens to pay the fee in full within 14 days. B.R. 3. In a
separate order issued that day, the Clerk notified Owens that several necessary documents were
missing or deficient, and gave her until March 2 to correct those deficiencies. ECF No. 11. On
March 8, her record was still missing documents, and the Bankruptcy Court directed her to file
them by March 22 or her case would be dismissed. ECF No. 25. Owens filed a notice of appeal
that same day. She identified, as the subject of the appeal, the Bankruptcy Court’s “[d]ecisions
announced February 2017.” B.R. 5.
Under Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 8018(a)(1), Owens’ opening appellate brief
was due no later than 30 days after the docketing of the transmittal of the bankruptcy appeal
record. Her opening brief was thus due May 17, 2017. This Court issued a minute order on
The ECF numbers in this Opinion refer to entries in the Bankruptcy Court docket.
August 3, 2017 informing Owens that her brief was overdue and directing her to file an opening
brief no later than August 24. She has not done so, nor has she provided an explanation for her
failure to file the brief or sought an extension of time.
“If an appellant fails to file a brief on time or within an extended time authorized by the
district court,” the court, “after notice, may dismiss the appeal on its own motion.” Fed. R.
Bankr. P. 8018(a)(4). Owens’ brief is over five months overdue and it has been over two months
since the deadline the Court imposed in its August minute order. She has declined to offer any
explanation for the delay. Dismissal is therefore warranted under the Bankruptcy Rules.
Nevertheless, given that Owens is proceeding pro se, and that she included legal
argument in her notice of appeal—which is styled as a “Notice of Appeal and Complaint”—the
Court has considered the arguments raised in her notice. And it finds that dismissal is
independently warranted for lack of jurisdiction.
Owens alleges, in essence, that the Bankruptcy Court improperly denied her request to
pay the filing fee in installments; that the Court’s orders had no binding effect because they were
entered by the Deputy Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court; that her first installment payment was
taken and used for other purposes; that the Bankruptcy Court falsely identified deficiencies in her
filings; and that the foregoing problems amount to due process violations. Notice of Appeal &
This Court seriously doubts the soundness of these claims on the merits. But, in any
event, the Court lacks jurisdiction to review the interlocutory case-management orders that
Owens has appealed. A party in a bankruptcy case may appeal, as of right, “final judgments,
orders, and decrees” of a bankruptcy court. 28 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1). But the district court must
grant leave before reviewing interlocutory orders like those Owens has appealed here. Id. §
Owens has not requested leave and, even if she had, the Court would deny it. Leave to
appeal an interlocutory order is warranted only where the order appealed “involves a controlling
question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion.” In re Beitzell
& Co., Inc., 1991 WL 283141, at *2 (D.D.C. Dec. 20, 1991) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b)); see
also 28 U.S.C. § 158(c) (“An appeal [of a bankruptcy court order] shall be taken in the same
manner as appeals in civil proceedings generally are taken to the courts of appeals from the
district courts.”). The ministerial orders that Owens has appealed, which relate to filing fees and
deficiencies in her filings, raise no substantive legal issues.
It is true that, while Owens’ notice of appeal was pending, the Bankruptcy Court in April
2017 dismissed Owens’ case. It did so based on her failure to respond to the court’s February
order instructing her to file a necessary form about her social security numbers. ECF No. 42; see
also ECF No. 34 (show cause order). But the Court cannot, based on Owens’ notice of appeal of
the interlocutory orders issued in February, simply review the Bankruptcy Court’s subsequent
dismissal of her case, which she has not appealed. While a premature notice of appeal from
“certain nonfinal decisions” can “serve as an effective notice from a subsequently entered final
judgment,” the Rules do not permit “a notice of appeal from a clearly interlocutory decision to
serve as a notice of appeal from the final judgment.” FirsTier Mortg. Co. v. Investors Mortg.
Ins. Co., 498 U.S. 269, 274, 276 (1991) (emphasis added) (interpreting Federal Rule of Appellate
Procedure 4(a)(2)); see Fed. R. Bankr. P. 8002 advisory comm. n. (“This rule is an adaptation of
Rule 4(a) F.R.App.P.”). Rather, the Court could allow Owens’ premature notice to ripen only if
she appealed a decision that “would be appealable if immediately followed by the entry of
judgment.” FirsTier, 498 U.S. at 276 (emphasis omitted). The interlocutory orders that Owens
attacks—several of which have nothing to do with the ultimate reason for dismissal—are not of
It is therefore
ORDERED that this appeal is DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction.
SO ORDERED. This is a final, appealable order.
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER
United States District Judge
Date: October 25, 2017
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?