from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Louisiana
SMITH, OWEN, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge.
Mick Dorsey appeals the district court's determination
that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Dorsey's appeal
of the bankruptcy court's decision in Dorsey's
adversary proceeding. Dorsey also appeals the bankruptcy
court's decision to reopen his main bankruptcy proceeding
to allow the United States Department of Education
("DOE") and Educational Credit Management
Corporation ("ECMC") to file proofs of claim. We
March 2013, Dorsey instituted a Chapter 7 bankruptcy
proceeding (the "main bankruptcy") seeking to
discharge more than $116, 000 of student loan debt. After
determining that Dorsey had no assets to distribute, the
bankruptcy court granted him a general discharge on July 10,
2013. The bankruptcy court closed the case in October 2013.
being granted the general discharge in the main bankruptcy
case, Dorsey filed an adversary proceeding against DOE and
United Student Aid Funds, Inc. Dorsey asserted that his
student loans were dischargeable as an undue hardship under
11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8) because a mental health issue did
not allow him to work consistently. ECMC appeared in the
adversary proceeding, representing that it had an interest in
the bankruptcy estate. From 2013 to 2015, the parties
litigated the adversary proceeding. As part of that
proceeding, Dorsey twice filed proper notices of appeal in
the district court.
to trial in the adversary proceeding, both DOE and ECMC moved
to reopen the main bankruptcy proceeding to file proofs of
claim. The bankruptcy court granted the motions. In response,
Dorsey filed a third notice of appeal. This final notice of
appeal related to only the main bankruptcy case, not the
adversary proceeding: the caption referred to only the main
bankruptcy case's docket numbers and the body of the
document referenced the orders reopening the case.
Dorsey filed his notice of appeal in the main bankruptcy
case, the adversary trial was held, although Dorsey failed to
appear. Ultimately, the bankruptcy court denied Dorsey a
discharge from his student loan obligations. In response,
Dorsey moved to amend his statement of issues and designation
of record in the main bankruptcy appeal. Dorsey's
proposed amendment added issues related to the adversary
proceeding to the statement of issues and designated the
entire adversary proceeding as part of the record. The
district court granted the motion.
August 12, 2016, the district court issued its decision. The
court found that it did not have jurisdiction to consider
issues from the adversary proceeding because Dorsey failed to
file a timely notice of appeal in that case. The district
court then held that the bankruptcy judge did not err in the
main bankruptcy proceeding when she reopened the case to
allow the filing of proofs of claim. Dorsey timely appealed.
failure to file a timely notice of appeal in a bankruptcy
case deprives both the district court and this court of
jurisdiction. See Smith v. Gartley (In re
Berman-Smith), 737 F.3d 997, 1003 (5th Cir. 2013).
Generally, a party has fourteen days to file a notice of
appeal. Fed.R.Bankr.P. 8002. The order in the adversary
proceeding was issued on December 16, 2015, and the time for
filing an appeal has now lapsed. Accordingly, unless Dorsey
has already filed a notice of appeal sufficient to confer
jurisdiction over the adversary proceeding, no court has
jurisdiction to review that proceeding. Dorsey could
theoretically point to two documents that might constitute
notices of appeal in the adversary case: the notice of appeal
in the main bankruptcy proceeding and the amended statement
of issues and designation of record that referenced issues
and documents arising in the adversary case. We hold that
neither document appealed the adversary proceeding.
filed a proper notice of appeal in the main bankruptcy
proceeding. But that notice of appeal could not serve as a
notice of appeal in the adversary proceeding. As the Sixth
Circuit explained in refusing to consider an issue arising in
the main bankruptcy proceeding in the appeal of the adversary
proceeding: "[T]he main bankruptcy case and adversary
proceeding must be treated as distinct for the purpose of
appeal. They have separate docket numbers, separate issues,
and separate parties." Dietrich v. Tiernan (In
re Dietrich), 490 F.App'x 802, 804 (6th
Cir. 2012) (unpublished); see also Dzikowski v.
Boomer's Sports & Rec. Ctr. (In re Boca
Arena, Inc.), 184 F.3d 1285, 1286 (11th Cir. 1999)
("In bankruptcy, adversary proceedings generally are
viewed as 'stand-alone lawsuits, ' and final
judgments issued in adversary proceedings are usually
appealable as if the dispute had arisen outside of
bankruptcy."). Refusing to treat a notice of appeal in
the main case as a notice of appeal in the adversary case
makes sense because adversary proceedings are discrete
judicial units. See La. World Exposition, Inc. v. Fed.
Ins. Co. (In re La. World Exposition, Inc.), 832 F.2d
1391, 1396 (5th Cir. 1987); Smith v. Seaside Lanes (In re
Moody), 825 F.2d 81, 85 (5th Cir. 1987); see also
United States v. Peel, 595 F.3d 763, 768-69 (7th Cir.
2010) ("An adversary proceeding is thus part of the
bankruptcy but it is not the bankruptcy case itself, as
illustrated by the fact that the dismissal of an adversary
proceeding is an appealable final order even though the
bankruptcy case continues."). Accordingly, the district
court correctly refused to treat the notice of appeal in the
main bankruptcy case as a notice of appeal in the adversary
proceeding. See, e.g., In re Taylor, 98
CIV. 9205 (DC), 1999 WL 777955, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30,
1999) (holding that a notice of appeal filed in an adversary
proceeding could not appeal the main proceeding).
the amended statement of issues and designation of record did
not appeal the adversary proceeding. In a bankruptcy case,
"[t]he 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(3). Because timely filing a notice of
appeal is jurisdictional, failure to file a notice of appeal
within the meaning of Rule 8003 during the proper time period
defeats jurisdiction. See Alexander v. Alexander (In re
Alexander), 472 B.R. 815, 824 (B.A.P. 9th Cir. 2012).
Courts are divided over whether technical failures to follow
the requirements of Rule 8003 must defeat jurisdiction.
Compare Alexander, 472 B.R. at 824; Blinder,
Robinson & Co v. Keller (In re Blinder, Robinson &
Co.), 21 F.3d 1120 (10th Cir. 1994) (unpublished),
with Fadayiro v. Ameriquest Mortg. Co., 371 F.3d
920, 922 (7th Cir. 2004). However, even courts that do not
require strict compliance with Rule 8003(3) recognize that
some documents are not notices of appeal. See
Fadayiro, 371 F.3d at 922 ("We are doubtful that a
notice of appeal that failed to indicate the order appealed
from could nonetheless be thought to comply with the
rule."). And that makes sense. Timely filing of a notice
of appeal is a jurisdictional prerequisite to appellate
review. Smith, 737 F.3d at 1003. For the
prerequisite to maintain its jurisdictional teeth, not every
document filed following the entry of a final judgment in
bankruptcy court can be a notice of appeal. See,
e.g., Colvin v. Amegy Mortg. Co., ...