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In re Gonzalez

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 31, 2015

IN RE: JOSÉ DE JESÚS GONZÁLEZ; NIXSA GARCÍA REYES, Debtors;
v.
WILFREDO SEGARRA MIRANDA; MRS. JANE SEGARRA and their conjugal partnership; SITKA ENTERPRISES, INC.; BERRIOS & LONGO LAW OFFICE, P.S.C.; FERNANDO E. LONGO QUINONES, Appellants,
v.
B. RENTAL, INC.; VDJ LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, S.E.; BANCO POPULAR DE PUERTO RICO; JOSÉ DE JESÚS GONZÁLEZ; XYZ INSURANCE; UNKNOWN COLLABORATORS; JOHN DOE COMPANY; JOHN DOE; UNKNOWN INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellees

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Daniel R. Domínguez, U.S. District Judge.

Edilberto Berríos Pérez on brief for appellants.

Eldia M. Díaz-Olmo on brief for appellees.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Lynch and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

Appellants purport to appeal in order to reverse a bankruptcy court's denials of their motion for a jury trial and motion to remand to state court. We conclude we have no jurisdiction because the bankruptcy court's orders were not final, as the district court also found, and so we dismiss the appeal.

The bankruptcy case of which this proceeding is a part began in 2002, when debtors José De Jesús González and Nixsa García Reyes filed a petition under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code in bankruptcy court in the District of Puerto Rico. The case was later converted to a Chapter 7 proceeding. A decade later, in 2012, the appellants, to whom we will refer collectively as Sitka, filed a complaint in Arecibo Superior Court in Puerto Rico against the Trustee in bankruptcy, Wilfredo Segarra Miranda, and other defendants. Segarra removed the state case to the bankruptcy court on the ground that it was " a core proceeding that arises in" the bankruptcy case for which he was Trustee. See 28 U.S.C. § § 157(b)(2), 1334(b), 1452(a).

Once in bankruptcy court, Sitka filed two motions relevant here: a motion for a jury trial and a motion requesting remand to Arecibo Superior Court. The bankruptcy court denied both motions in two separate orders issued on February 20, 2013.

Sitka separately appealed each of the February 20 denial orders to the district court. The appeal from the denial of the motion for a jury trial was assigned docket number 13-1288, and the appeal from the denial of the request for remand was assigned docket number 13-1289. The district court consolidated the two cases, along with a third case, and directed that all filings be made under No. 13-1288.

On March 31, 2014, the district court dismissed the appeals in No. 13-1288 and No. 13-1289, holding that it lacked jurisdiction because both of the underlying bankruptcy court orders were non-final. Two days later, the court entered judgment in each case.[1]

On May 1, 2014, Sitka filed a notice of appeal to this court in No. 13-1288, but not in No. 13-1289. The notice purports to appeal " from the Opinion and Order and Judgment . . . dated March 31, 2014 . . . dismissing the appeal filed under Civil No. 13-1288 as the order denying remand and the request for jury trial are allegedly interlocutory non-final order[s]."

Sitka's brief is nearly incomprehensible. Its primary arguments appear to be (1) the bankruptcy court should have remanded the case to the Arecibo Superior Court pursuant to the mandatory abstention provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1334(c)(2), and (2) the bankruptcy court erred in denying the motion for a jury trial. Sitka makes no meaningful effort to address the jurisdictional issues that prompted the district court to dismiss the appeal, even though it has an obligation to do so. See United States v. Gonzalez-Rodriguez, 777 F.3d 37, 39 (1st Cir. 2015) (citing Calderón-Serra v. Wilmington Trust Co., 715 F.3d 14, 17 (1st Cir. 2013)). Segarra argues (1) our review must be limited to the district court's decision as to the motion for a jury trial,[2] and (2) the district court lacked jurisdiction over Sitka's appeal from the bankruptcy court's denial of that motion, so we necessarily lack jurisdiction over the appeal from the district court.

We move to the second issue. Even if we construe the notice of appeal to properly raise both the denial of the motion for a jury trial and the denial of the motion to remand to state court, but cf. Biltcliffe v. CitiMortgage, Inc., 772 F.3d 925, 929-30 (1st Cir. 2014), the outcome of this case is the same. We lack jurisdiction and so must dismiss the appeal.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 158(a), district courts " have jurisdiction to hear appeals [] from final judgments, orders, and decrees . . . of bankruptcy judges." Courts of Appeals, in turn, " have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions, judgments, orders, and decrees entered under" § 158(a). 28 U.S.C. § 158(d). " 'For purposes of § 158(d), a determination of the district court is not final unless the underlying order of the bankruptcy court is final.'" Lurie v. Blackwell (In re Popkin & Stern),105 F.3d 1248, 1250 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Flor v. BOT Fin. Corp. (In re Flor),79 F.3d 281, 283 (2d Cir. 1996)); accord Wats ...


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