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In re Succession of Jaga

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 15, 2017

SUCCESSION OF GERONIMO JI JAGA

         On Appeal from The 16th Judicial District Court, Parish of St. Mary, State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 19232 Honorable Keith Comeaux, Judge Presiding.

          Ronald E. Stutes Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Defendants/ Appellants, Shona Satomi Pratt, Hiroji Pratt, and Nikki Michaux.

          Joseph A. Prokop, Jr. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Plaintiff/ Appellee, Jojuyounghi Cleaver.

          M. Janice Villarrubia Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Plaintiff/ Appellee, Jojuyounghi Cleaver, as Administratrix and Natural Tutrix of Kay ode Ji Jaga.

          Mark R. Callender Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Plaintiff/ Appellee, Glory William Minja on behalf of Tkumsah Geronimo Jaga.

          BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, AND CRAIN, JJ.

          CRAIN, J.

         Appellants in this succession proceeding appeal a judgment declaring, in part, that an annuity be included in the calculation of the active mass of the decedent's estate, and that the decedent's widow is entitled to a marital portion consisting of a usufruct over one-fifth (1/5) of the net estate. Recognizing our lack of appellate jurisdiction, we dismiss the appeal.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This succession was opened for the estate of Geronimo Ji Jaga, formerly known as Elmer G. Pratt, who died on June 3, 2011. Jaga is survived by his widow, Jojuyounghi Cleaver; one child from his marriage to Cleaver, Kayode Ji Jaga; two children from a prior marriage, Hiroji Pratt and Shona Pratt; and, allegedly, two children born out of wedlock, Nikki Michaux and Tkumsah Geronimo Ji Jaga.

         According to the designated record on appeal, the initial judgment of possession was annulled pursuant to a motion filed by Cleaver, the current administratrix. Cleaver also filed a petition and several other motions in the proceeding, in which she sought to traverse the previously filed detailed descriptive list, submit a revised detailed descriptive list, and require that Nikki and Tkumsah prove paternity. Cleaver also asked to be put in possession of her alleged community property and alleged she should be awarded a marital portion based upon necessitous circumstances. Tkumsah also filed a petition to assert his rights as an alleged forced heir.

         Some of these matters were resolved by the parties, and a trial was held to address whether Nikki established she is the decedent's daughter, whether an annuity should be included in the active mass of the decedent's estate, and whether Cleaver is entitled to a marital portion. The parties offered testimony from two witnesses, Cleaver and Nikki, and introduced exhibits. After taking the matter under advisement, the trial court signed a judgment on December 7, 2015, finding (1) Tkumsah and Nikki are children of the decedent, (2) all of the decedent's property and funds are separate property, (3) the annuity shall be included in the active mass calculation, and (4) Cleaver is entitled to a marital portion of one-fifth (1/5) of the decedent's estate. In response to a motion for new trial, the judgment was amended on February 8, 2016, to more specifically identify the annuity, to define Cleaver's marital portion as a usufruct for life of one-fifth (1/5) of the decedent's net estate, and to require Cleaver to post a bond. Shona, Hiroji, and Nikki appeal.

         DISCUSSION

         This court's appellate jurisdiction extends to final judgments that determine the merits in whole or in part. See La. Code Civ. Pro. arts. 1841 and 2083. Appellate courts have a duty to examine their subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte, even if the litigants do not raise the issue. Succession of Matthews, 16-0289 ...


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