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Riley v. Capitol Park II Condominium Association, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 29, 2019

LORRAINE DEBRA RILEY, Appellant,
v.
CAPITOL PARK II CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC., Appellee.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL L. FRIEDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of appellee Capitol Park II Condominium Association, Inc. to dismiss this appeal from the Bankruptcy Court for lack of jurisdiction [Dkt. No. 3]. Appellant Lorraine Debra Riley has filed an opposition to the motion [Dkt. No. 4]. Upon careful consideration of the papers filed by the parties, the relevant opinions and orders of Bankruptcy Judge Martin Teel, the relevant legal authorities, and the entire record in this case, the Court will grant the motion and dismiss the appeal.[1]

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This appeal involves the purchase by appellant Lorraine Debra Riley of a condominium in a building within appellee Capitol Park II Condominium Association, Inc. (“Capitol Park”), and Ms. Riley's subsequent filing for bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia (first under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code and later under Chapter 13). Orders issued by Bankruptcy Judge Martin Teel required Ms. Riley to sell the condominium, with the sale to be approved by the Bankruptcy Court after it determined the amount of Capitol Park's claim against the property. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. Nos. 139, 144, 157, and 166. Capitol Park agreed that the property could be sold free and clear of any liens it had on the property, on the condition that $120, 000 of the proceeds be placed in escrow to accommodate its liens. On October 16, 2017, Ms. Riley requested the Court's approval for the sale of her condominium. Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 157. The Bankruptcy Court entered an order on October 31, 2017, approving the sale of the property on certain conditions. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 166. Judge Teel specifically ordered that “$120, 000 be placed in escrow with Capitol Park's liens attaching to that $120, 000” and that “the sale of the property shall be free and clear of Capitol Park's liens.” See id. at 2. Ultimately, the property was sold for $625, 000 on November 20, 2017, whereupon $120, 000 was placed in escrow with Capitol Park's liens against the property attached to the escrow proceeds. After the sale, Ms. Riley filed a motion to amend her earlier motion to approve the sale of the property. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 174. The amended motion advanced new arguments about Ms. Riley's obligations to Capitol Park: She argued that Capitol Park had failed to comply with a particular provision of the District of Columbia Code, D.C. Code § 42-1903.13(h). See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 175.[2]

         With this brief background, the Court now turns to the facts that are most relevant to the present motion. On January 16, 2018, before Judge Teel had ruled on Ms. Riley's motion to amend, Capitol Park filed a motion for summary judgment in the Bankruptcy Court. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 180. Ms. Riley filed an opposition, see Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 185, and Capitol Park filed a reply, see Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 186. Ms. Riley's primary argument was that Capitol Park's claim was unsecured because Capitol Park had failed to provide the recordable statement required by D.C. Code § 42-1903.13(h). On February 20, 2018, Bankruptcy Judge Teel heard argument on Capitol Park's summary judgment motion and granted the motion by order of that same date. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 193. He also issued a Memorandum Decision explaining his reasoning. Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 192. Judge Teel noted that Ms. Riley had raised a single argument in opposition to Capitol Park's motion for summary judgment, contending that Capitol Park's claim was unsecured because it had failed to comply with D.C. Code § 42-1903.13(h), and its liens therefore had been extinguished. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 192 at 1. In response, Capitol Park said it had sent the notice required by the statute, but - more importantly - also argued that Judge Teel's order of October 31, 2017, by which he had approved the sale of the property on certain conditions, had removed the liens from the condominium unit. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 186 at 3.

         In granting summary judgment for Capitol Park, Judge Teel found the following undisputed facts: that Capitol Park would have had until the end of November 20, 2017 to provide the recordable statement if the request that Capitol Park received did constitute a request under Section 42-1903.13(h), [3] that the property had been sold before the end of November 20, 2017 pursuant to court order, that the lien had been attached to $120, 000 of the proceeds of the sale, and that the lien no longer was attached to the condominium unit at the end of November 20, 2017. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 192 at 2. Because Capitol Park no longer held a lien on the condominium unit at the time by which a recordable statement under Section 42-1903.13(h) would have been due, no lien on the unit could be extinguished as a result of any failure by Capitol Park to comply with the statute. See id. at 2. Capitol Park was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and Judge Teel ordered that Capitol Park immediately be paid the total balance it was owed from the escrowed funds. See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 193 at 2. Furthermore, he specifically held that “this directive is not stayed.” Id.

         In his order granting summary judgment, Judge Teel nevertheless said that, since a hearing was scheduled for later that month, Capitol Park would be permitted to offer evidence during that hearing to attempt to demonstrate that it had emailed and mailed to Ms. Riley a statement that in fact had met the requirements of D.C. Code § 42-1903.13(h). See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 193 at 2-3. Capitol Park asserted that this evidence would establish an additional and alternative basis for Judge Teel's finding that its claim remained a secured claim.

         On March 2, 2018, Judge Teel entered another order [Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 203], “clarifying” and emphasizing that his February 20, 2018 order granting summary judgment - and directing that Capitol Park be paid the total balance it was owed from the escrowed funds from the sale of the condominium unit - “is not stayed.” See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 203 at 1. He further ordered that:

without affecting the foregoing, the court reserves the right timely to amend its findings of fact and conclusions of law to determine whether Capitol Park II Condominium Association, Inc. is entitled to the funds on the additional and alternative ground (which the debtor disputes) that by November 20, 2017, Capitol Park II Condominium Association, Inc. transmitted a statement to the debtor that met the requirements of D.C. Code § 42-1903.13(h), and thus its claim remained a secured claim prior to the sale of the property on November 20, 2017, but such amendment will not affect the finality of this order with respect to the direction that Capitol Park II Condominium Association, Inc. be paid the total balance of $92, 917.06 out of the escrowed funds from the sale of the debtor's condominium unit.

See Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 203 at 1-2 (bolded language in original, additional emphasis added).

         The scheduled hearings took place on February 28, 2018 and March 2, 2018. Based on the evidence presented and the arguments of counsel, Judge Teel found that his earlier findings and conclusions were also supported on the alternative ground that Capitol Park had complied with D.C. Code § 42-1903.13(h). See March 5, 2018 Memorandum Decision at 2-5 [Bankr. Ct. Dkt. No. 204]. He concluded that Capitol Park's lien was not nullified under D.C. Code § 42-1903.13(h) and that the lien attached to the proceeds of the sale of Ms. Riley's condominium unit rather than to the unit itself. Id. at 5.

         On March 16, 2018, Ms. Riley filed a notice of appeal seeking review by this Court of the Bankruptcy Court's order of February 20, 2018, granting summary judgment in favor of Capitol Park, Judge Teel's subsequent order of March 2, 2018, and his March 5, 2018 Memorandum Decision. Capitol Park now asks the Court to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the notice of appeal was filed too late and that Ms. Riley's failure to timely file the notice of appeal is fatal because the timely filing of a notice of appeal from decisions of the Bankruptcy Court is a jurisdictional predicate for appellate review. The Court agrees.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 158(a), the federal district courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals from final judgments, orders and decrees, and certain other orders entered in cases and proceedings from the Bankruptcy Court. See also, e.g., McDow v. Dudley, 662 F.3d 284, 287 (4th Cir. 2011); In re Computer Learning Center, Inc., 407 F.3d 656, 660 (4th Cir. 2005). The statute further provides that bankruptcy appeals to federal district courts “shall be taken in the same manner as appeals in civil proceedings generally [to courts of appeals] . . . and in the time provided by Rule 8002 of the Bankruptcy Rules.” 28 U.S.C. § 158(c)(2). Rule 8002(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure provides 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.” Under Rule 8002(d)(1)(B), however, “the bankruptcy court may extend the time to file a notice of appeal upon a party's motion that is filed . . . within 21 days after” what would otherwise be the deadline, but only if the would-be appellant “shows excusable neglect.” Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8002(d)(1)(B). Thus, in the case of excusable neglect, an extension of time must be sought by a motion filed within no more than thirty-five days after entry of the order from which a party seeks to appeal. See In re Allen, No. 16-00023, 2018 WL 2093327, at *1 (Bankr. D.D.C. May 1, 2018). Rule 8002(d)(1) does not ...


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