United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE:APPELLEE'S MOTION TO DISMISS APPEAL (Doc. 1)
LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge.
This case is on appeal from an Order of the Bankruptcy Court granting Appellee William P. Vander Poel's motion for summary judgment, which held that Appellant Luis Medina's claims against Appellee were discharged under 11 U.S.C. § 727. Appellant's Brief, Doc. 11 at 1. Currently before the Court is Appellee's motion to dismiss the appeal pursuant to Rule 8002. Appellee's Mot. To Dismiss, Doc. 6-1, at 6.
II. BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
According to the Complaint filed in the underlying adversary proceeding, Appellant filed a lawsuit in federal court against Appellee and the company of which Appellee was a principal (Tule River Ranch) in January of 2008. Excerpts of Record ("ER"), v. I, tab 1, ("Complaint"), ¶ 6. The lawsuit asserted that Appellee and his company were liable under various laws pertaining to wage and hour matters. Id. The federal case was dismissed and Appellant filed a similar case in state court in November of 2010. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8. This case also asserted claims under California's "Private Attorney General Act" ("PAGA"), which authorizes the collection of civil penalties. Id. at ¶ 10.
Appellee filed for bankruptcy protection on August 8, 2012. Id. at ¶ 5. Seeking resolution as to the PAGA suit, Appellee filed at least two adversary proceedings against Appellant in bankruptcy court. First, Appellee filed the complaint at issue here, seeking a determination of dischargeability under Section 523(a)(7) of any fines that might be levied in the PAGA case. Complaint at ¶¶ 3-4. The other proceeding, initially filed March 10, 2014, seeks sanctions against Appellant for prosecuting the state law case in violation of the bankruptcy court's automatic stay order. In re Vander Poel, No. 14-01033, Docs. 1 & 89 (Bankr. E.D. Cal. Sep. 12, 2014).
Appellee disputes having "any liability whatsoever" to Appellant and asserts that any debts he might be liable for under the PAGA case have been discharged. Id. at ¶ 19. Appellee moved for summary judgment on the basis that a) Appellant failed to properly file an adversary proceeding in Appellee's bankruptcy case, b) all claims against Appellee had been discharged, and c) that Appellant's claims could not be considered "nondischargeable" under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(7). ER, v. II, tab 20 ("Poel MSJ"), at ¶¶ 16, 27-30, 34. The Bankruptcy Court granted the motion "in its entirety, " holding that all claims asserted by Appellant were discharged pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 727 on July 8, 2013. ER, v. IV, tab 57 ("1007 Order"). The 1007 Order did not elaborate on the Bankruptcy Court's reasoning, but its analysis can be found in the hearing transcript. See ER, v. IV, tabs 58 & 59.
III. LEGAL BACKGROUND
Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 8002 requires 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. Rule 8001 provides that a notice of appeal from a bankruptcy order or judgment "shall (1) conform substantially to the appropriate Official Form, (2) contain the names of all parties to the judgment, order, or decree appealed from and the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of their respective attorneys, and (3) be accompanied by the prescribed fee." Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8001(a). However, "[a]n appellant's failure to take any step other than timely filing a notice of appeal does not affect the validity of the appeal, but is ground only for such action as the district court or bankruptcy appellate panel deems appropriate, which may include dismissal of the appeal." Id. (emphasis added).
Bankruptcy Rule 8001 endows the Court with discretion to dismiss an appeal without reaching the merits when the appellant fails to perform a necessary step in completing the record. See In re Hawkins, 295 Fed.Appx. 452, 453 (2d Cir.2008). However, a procedural violation of a bankruptcy rule alone is generally an insufficient basis for granting a motion to dismiss an appeal. Fitzsimmons v. Nolden, 920 F.2d 1468, 1472 (9th Cir. 1990). Courts have resolved appeals when the record, although incomplete, is sufficient to enable an informed review of the parties' arguments. See, e.g., In re Kyle, 317 B.R. 390, 393-94 (9th Cir. BAP 2004), aff'd, 170 F.Appx. 457 (9th Cir. 2006) (distinguishing between records that are "impossibly incomplete" or "merely incomplete, " "the merely incomplete record leaves the appellate court with the possibility that enough of the record might nevertheless be present so as to enable review." "However, in "egregious circumstances, a court may dismiss an appeal for noncompliance with procedural rules without explicit consideration of alternative sanctions." Fitzsimmons, 920 F.2d at 1473 (citing In re Donovan, 871 F.2d 807, 808-09 (9th Cir.1989).
A. Whether the Appeal Must Be Dismissed Under Rule 8002
Appellee claims that Appellant did not timely file his appeal. Doc. 6-1 at 7. According to documents provided by the Bankruptcy Court, its order in this case was filed August 9, 2014. Doc 1 at 1. Thus, under Rule 8002, the deadline for appeal was August 25, 2014. Appellee filed his appeal on August 18, 2014. Id. at 10. ...