The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals defines the scope of its jurisdiction in bankruptcy cases


Appellate jurisdiction over bankruptcy court orders can be a messy affair. As summarized in this 2008 article from the Michigan Bar Journal, the definition of “finality” for purposes of appellate jurisdiction can be fluid in the bankruptcy context. Some federal courts of appeal have viewed bankruptcy orders as different in kind from district court orders and have adopted a more lenient approach to finality.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals defined the scope of its jurisdiction over bankruptcy orders in its August 13, 2013 opinion in Lindsey v Pinnacle National Bank (In re William Edwin Lindsey), rejecting this fluid approach in favor of a bright-line rule grounded in the United States Code.

Like all federal courts of appeal, the Sixth Circuit has jurisdiction only over two kinds of orders: (1) final orders and (2) orders certified for appeal by the district court. Lindsey holds, in a first for the Sixth Circuit, that those principles apply to bankruptcy orders just as they apply to non-bankruptcy orders. The Lindsey court noted that, in applying the traditional limits of appellate jurisdiction to bankruptcy orders, the court was joining four other circuits—the Second, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth—and rejecting the broader approach favored by three circuits.

Applying this newly-minted rule in Lindsey, the Sixth Circuit held that it did not have jurisdiction to consider a debtor’s appeal of an order denying confirmation of its proposed plan. But the court remanded the matter to the bankruptcy court with a wink, suggesting that the district court could exercise the discretion conferred on district courts by 28 U.S.C. 158(a)(3) to hear appeals from interlocutory bankruptcy orders.

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