United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS BANKRUPTCY APPEAL
WALTON PARTT JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
matter is before the Court on Appellee Rodney Shrock's
(“Shrock”) Motion to Dismiss (Filing No.
8) Appellant Jordan Leonard's
(“Leonard”) appeal of a bankruptcy court
adversary ruling filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a)(1)
and Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure 8001, 8002, and
8003. Following cross-motions for summary judgment regarding
the dischargeability of Leonard's attorney fees debt to
Shrock, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern
District of Indiana entered judgment in favor of Shrock.
Leonard appealed that decision to this Court. Shrock filed
his Motion to Dismiss, asserting that the district court does
not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal because
Leonard's Notice of Appeal was not timely filed. For the
following reasons, the Court GRANTS
Shrock's Motion to Dismiss.
2013, Allysha Conwell (“Conwell”) initiated a
paternity action in state court against Leonard to establish
the paternity of Conwell's son. Shrock served as
Conwell's counsel in the paternity action. Leonard and
Conwell initially could not agree on the terms of the
son's custody and support, but following mediation, they
were able to resolve their disagreements, and their
resolution was memorialized in a mediation agreement. The
mediation agreement was filed in the paternity court and
entered as an order of the court on September 24, 2014. The
mediation-agreement-turned-court-order addressed child
support, medical insurance, parenting time, mediator's
fees, guardian ad litem fees, and attorney fees. Leonard had
agreed to pay $1, 000.00 of Conwell's attorney fees for
Shrock's legal services. The court order directed Leonard
to pay Shrock's attorney fees within ninety days of the
mediation-by October 8, 2014.
failed to pay Shrock's attorney fees, so Shrock took
steps to enforce the order in the paternity court in late
October 2014. However, before the paternity court could hold
additional proceedings on the matter, Leonard filed a Chapter
7 bankruptcy case on February 14, 2015. Leonard listed Shrock
as a creditor, and Shrock received notice of the bankruptcy
filing. Shrock took no steps to collect the attorney fees
debt during the pendency of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Leonard received a discharge on May 19, 2015.
after Leonard's discharge, Shrock filed a show cause
motion in the paternity court to enforce the paternity
court's order and collect the attorney fees debt from
Leonard. Believing that Shrock's actions were an improper
attempt to collect a discharged debt, Leonard initiated an
adversary proceeding by filing a complaint in the bankruptcy
court (Case No. 15-842-RLM-7, Adversary Proceeding No.
15-50225). Leonard alleged in his complaint that the attorney
fees debt was discharged by the bankruptcy court's
earlier order, and Shrock's efforts violated the
and Shrock each filed a motion for summary judgment in the
bankruptcy court, and the parties argued whether the attorney
fees debt, as ordered by the paternity court, was discharged
in Leonard's Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding or whether
the debt fell within an exception to the discharge. The
bankruptcy court held a hearing on the motions for summary
judgment, and on March 30, 2016, the bankruptcy court issued
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Final Judgment.
The bankruptcy court ruled in favor of Shrock, determining
that the attorney fees debt, as ordered by the paternity
court, was not discharged in Leonard's Chapter 7
bankruptcy proceeding because it fell within an exception to
discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(5).
after entry of the bankruptcy court's Final Judgment,
Leonard filed a Notice of Appeal with the bankruptcy clerk on
March 31, 2016 (Filing No. 1). However, the filing
was deficient. On the same day (March 31, 2016), the
bankruptcy clerk issued a Notice of Deficient Filing,
notifying Leonard that the appeal was deficient because it
did not include the orders or judgments that Leonard was
appealing (Filing No. 1 at 3), and the appeal did
not use “Official Form B17A or substantially comply
with that form.” (Filing No. 2.) Leonard was
given until April 14, 2016, to cure the deficiencies.
failed to correct the deficiencies by filing an adequate
Amended Notice of Appeal by April 14, 2016. On April 18,
2016, the bankruptcy clerk sent notice to this Court that the
parties failed to file the “Designation of
Record” with the bankruptcy court. Later that same day,
Leonard filed an Amended Notice of Appeal in the bankruptcy
court, but this notice, like the first, was deficient because
it did not include the appealed orders or judgments
(Filing No. 5). The bankruptcy clerk again issued a
Notice of Deficient Filing, which noted that deficiencies
must be cured by May 2, 2016 (Filing No. 5-1). Later
that day (April 18, 2016), Leonard filed a Second Amended
Notice of Appeal, which included the bankruptcy court's
Final Judgment but not the court's Findings of Fact and
Conclusions of Law (Filing No. 6).
week later, on April 25, 2016, Shrock filed a Motion to
Dismiss the bankruptcy appeal (Filing No. 8).
Relying on Bankruptcy Rule 8002, Shrock contends that this
Court lacks jurisdiction over the appeal on the basis that
Leonard's Notice of Appeal was filed beyond the mandated
fourteen-day appeal period; more specifically, Leonard missed
the April 14, 2016 deadline to file a sufficient Amended
Notice of Appeal and failed to request and receive an
extension of time to file.
district courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction
to hear appeals from final judgments, orders, and
decrees” of the bankruptcy courts. 28 U.S.C. §
158(a)(1). “An appeal under subsections (a) and (b) of
this section shall be taken . . . in the time provided by
Rule 8002 of the Bankruptcy Rules.” 28 U.S.C. §
158(c)(2). Bankruptcy Rule 8002 establishes that “a
notice of appeal must be filed with the bankruptcy clerk
within 14 days after entry of the judgment, order, or decree
being appealed.” “The notice of appeal must: (A)
conform substantially to the appropriate Official Form; (B)
be accompanied by the judgment, order, or decree, or the part
of it, being appealed; and (C) be accompanied by the
prescribed fee.” Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8003(a)(3).
a party appeals a bankruptcy court's decision under 28
U.S.C. § 158(a), district courts review a bankruptcy
court's factual findings for clear error, and legal
conclusions and the legal significance accorded to facts
de novo.” In re Brown, 444 B.R. 173,
175 (S.D. Ind. 2011) (citing Ojeda v. Goldberg, 599
F.3d 712, 716 (7th Cir. 2010)). The clearly erroneous
standard is a highly deferential one. Peoples State Bank
v. Port Royal Aggregates, Inc., 193 B.R. 1020, 1022
(S.D. Ind. 1996). “Under this standard, if the trial
court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of
the record viewed in its entirety, a reviewing court may not
reverse even if convinced that it would have weighed the
evidence differently as trier of fact.” Id.
(citation omitted). Indeed, a factual finding is only clearly
erroneous when the district court is “left with the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed.” In re Sheridan, 57 F.3d 627, 633
(7th Cir. 1995); In re Brown, 444 B.R. at 175. In
contrast, de novo review requires an independent
examination of the applicable law without deference to the
bankruptcy court's conclusions. In re Brown, 444
B.R. at 175.