A Brief Overview of the Bankruptcy Appeals Process

Bankruptcy court orders are similar to those issued in trial courts in that they can be appealed if you disagree with the outcome. There are, however, important differences between bankruptcy appeals and those carried out in the courts. For example:

  • Only certain orders may be appealed.
  • Appeals may be made to different courts.
  • There are different procedural rules that apply.

What Orders May Be Appealed?

Any bankruptcy court order that is considered final or resolved can be appealed. This may include orders:

  • Involving contested matters, such as relief from the automatic stay
  • Entered in an adversary proceeding, such as a granting of summary judgment
  • Dismissing a Chapter 13 case
  • Involving an objection to an exemption

When deciding if an order is “final” for the purposes of filing an appeal, the courts will look at several factors, such as whether an appeal will resolve the case more quickly, prevent irreparable harm (such as a creditor whose claim may have been wrongfully denied), or affect assets that could be used to satisfy creditor claims.

Who Hears Bankruptcy Appeals?

At one time, all bankruptcy appeals were automatically heard by the district court. Later, Title 28 of the United States Code was amended to allow the creation of bankruptcy appellate panels, or BAPs for short. These special courts were comprised of three bankruptcy court judges from that circuit and dedicated to hearing bankruptcy appeals. There are presently BAPs in the First, Second, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth (which includes Oklahoma) circuits.

For the BAP to hear an appeal, both parties to the dispute must agree. Otherwise, the appeal will be heard by the U.S. District Court in which the original bankruptcy case was filed.

The Appeals Process

If you want to appeal a bankruptcy court order, you must file a Notice of Appeal within 10 days after that order becomes final. Bankruptcy judges will sometimes grant a limited extension for most, but not all, appeal types.

When an order is appealed, a stay normally takes effect, stopping it from becoming effective until the BAP or district court rules; but in some cases, the bankruptcy judge can order that other proceedings continue while the appeal is pending.

After your case is heard, you can appeal the panel or district court judge’s decision to the federal Court of Appeals if you disagree with it. The final stop is the United States Supreme Court, but it has no obligation to hear a bankruptcy case and will rarely do so.

Remember: in order for an appeal to succeed, the judge must have committed an error of law. Simply disliking the outcome because of what it means for you does not mean that you will win. This is where working with a qualified bankruptcy attorney can help.

At the Law Offices of B. David Sisson, we have worked with many clients who wanted to file a bankruptcy appeal. Attorney Sisson will give you an honest opinion of whether appealing your case is likely to produce a different result and, if it is, he will assist you in preparing, filing, and presenting the petition in Oklahoma. To schedule a consultation, please contact us today.

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