IN RE: LAURA M. SHEEDY, Debtor
CAROLYN A. BANKOWSKI, Standing Chapter 13 Trustee; and WILLIAM K. HARRINGTON, United States Trustee for Region I, Appellees. LAURA M. SHEEDY, Appellant,
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS Hon. Allison Dale Burroughs, U.S. District
G. Baker, on brief for appellant.
Patricia A. Remer, Office of the Chapter 13 Trustee, on brief
for appellee Bankowski.
J. Schneider, Jr., Trial Attorney, Department of Justice,
Executive Office for United States Trustees, Ramona D.
Elliott, Deputy Director/General Counsel, P. Matthew Sutko,
Associate General Counsel, John P. Fitzgerald III, Assistant
United States Trustee, and Eric K. Bradford, Trial Attorney,
Department of Justice, Office of the United States Trustee,
on brief for appellee Harrington.
Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Lynch, Circuit Judges.
TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.
single issue before us is whether the bankruptcy court abused
its discretion in denying Appellant Laura Sheedy's
("Sheedy") motion for extension of time to file a
notice of appeal pursuant to Bankruptcy Rule 8002(d) (1)(B)
for failing to show excusable neglect. Sheedy's motion
was filed one business day late as a result of her
attorney's preoccupation with his second job as a
church's music director. After a review of the arguments,
we discern no abuse of discretion and affirm.
facts surrounding this appeal are undisputed and we briefly
summarize them here. On June 8, 2010, Sheedy filed for
Chapter 13 relief in the United States Bankruptcy Court for
the District of Massachusetts. After five years, the
bankruptcy court had not confirmed Sheedy's plan. Carolyn
Bankowski ("Bankowski"), the Standing Chapter 13
Trustee,  filed a motion to dismiss, which the
bankruptcy court granted on October 20, 2015. On December 8,
2015, Bankowski submitted her Final Report and Account
("Final Report"). Sheedy filed an Objection to the
Final Report and, after a hearing, the bankruptcy court
overruled Sheedy's objection and entered an order to that
effect on March 10, 2016. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
158(c)(2) and Rule 8002(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of
Bankruptcy Procedure, Sheedy had fourteen days, until Friday,
March 25, 2016, to file a notice of appeal. A bankruptcy
court may extend this appeal period if an appellant files a
motion to extend: (1) within the fourteen-day period,
Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8002(d)(1)(A); or (2) within twenty-one days
after the fourteen-day appeal period, upon a showing of
excusable neglect by the moving party. Fed.R.Bankr.P.
8002(d)(1)(B). Sheedy did not file an appeal or a motion to
extend by March 25, 2016. On Monday, March 28, 2016, the
bankruptcy court entered an order closing Sheedy's
bankruptcy case. Later that same day, Sheedy filed an
untimely notice of appeal and a motion for extension of time.
motion, Sheedy claimed, through counsel, that her attorney
missed the fourteen-day deadline due to inadvertence and
oversight. Specifically, Sheedy alleged that, in addition to
his legal practice, counsel was employed as a music director
in a church and the "important religious holidays of the
last week occupied his full attention." According to
Sheedy, this one day delay constituted excusable neglect. The
Trustees, in turn, filed their respective objections to
Sheedy's motion for extension of time. Specifically,
Bankowski argued that both the deadline to file the notice of
appeal and counsel's obligations of his other employment
were known and anticipated. Thus, Sheedy failed to provide
sufficient justification for her counsel's error.
Harrington pointed out that Sheedy's counsel identified
no unique or extraordinary circumstances that prevented him
from filing the very simple two-page notice of appeal.
bankruptcy court denied Sheedy's motion in one sentence:
"The Motion is denied for the reasons stated in the
Objections to this Motion filed by [the Trustees]."
Sheedy then appealed to the district court, which affirmed
the bankruptcy court's decision. Sheedy v.
Bankowski, No. 16-cv-10702-ADB, 2017 WL 74282, at *1 (D.
Mass. Jan. 6, 2017). The district court found that
Sheedy's counsel knew about his responsibilities around
Easter well in advance of the appeal deadline.
Id. at *3. Therefore, counsel's explanation for
the delay "seem[ed] to amount to mere inadvertence,
" and did not constitute excusable neglect. Id.
appeal, Sheedy once again argues that the bankruptcy court
should have granted the requested "de
minimus" extension as counsel's inadvertent
oversight and absence of any "deliberately
dilatory" tactics constituted excusable neglect.
Further, the delay was not due to a misunderstanding of clear
law or misreading of an unambiguous judicial decree, but
rather because counsel was preoccupied with his
responsibilities as music director in a church during the
important and "unique" religious holidays of the
week of March 25, 2016. These circumstances, she contends,
provide sufficient justification as the religious holidays
around March 25 occur only once a year and are therefore
deference must be afforded to a bankruptcy court's
determination regarding whether counsel's neglect is
excusable; we may not set it aside without a definite and
firm conviction that the court below abused its discretion
and committed clear error. In re Power Recovery Sys.,
Inc., 950 F.2d 798, 801 (1st Cir. 1991). Absent the
existence of some exceptional justification, an appellate
court will not intervene. Graphic Commc'ns Int'l
Union, Local 12-N v. Quebecor Printing Providence, Inc.,
270 F.3d 1, 6-7 (1st Cir. 2001). "Demonstrating
excusable neglect is a demanding standard" and the trial
judge has "wide discretion" in dealing with
litigants who make ...