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In re Guardianship of Penn

filed: January 27, 1994.

IN RE: GUARDIANSHIP OF KORY PENN, KASEEM PENN AND KAI MOOLENAAR, KAI MOOLENAAR, APPELLANT


Appeal from District Court of the Virgin Islands. Division of St. Thomas and St. John. D.C. Civ. No. 88-00242.

Before: Mansmann, Hutchinson and Lewis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Mansmann

Opinion OF THE COURT

MANSMANN, Circuit Judge.

Eighteen-year-old Kai Moolenaar appeals the district court's determination that the guardianship appointed on her behalf to administer funds from a large tort settlement reached when she was ten would not expire until Kai reaches age twenty-one. We will affirm the district court's order.

I.

Kai Moolenaar was seven years old when she and her two younger brothers were injured in a propane explosion that occurred on the island of Saint Thomas. Their lawsuit against Carib Gas*fn1 was subsequently settled for several million dollars while the children were still minors. The district Judge appointed Brenda J. Hollar, Esq., as guardian and administrator of the funds.*fn2

Kai became eighteen years old on March 7, 1993 and requested that the funds be distributed to her on the basis that the statutory age of majority in the Virgin Islands is eighteen years. The guardian refused, citing title 15, section 824 of the Virgin Islands Code, which provides that guardians appointed by the court maintain control of funds until the minor's twenty-first birthday.*fn3

The guardian filed a motion seeking the court's determination of when the guardianship would expire. The court issued an order that "until and unless the Legislature amends 15 V.I.C. § 824 to state otherwise, the age of majority for guardianship purposes shall be twenty-one."

The district court's jurisdiction is premised upon 48 U.S.C. § 1612(b),*fn4 and the authority for appointing the guardian presumptively rests on title 15, sections 801 and 821 of the Virgin Islands Code.*fn5

II.

Before we address the merits of this case, we must determine whether we have jurisdiction. The guardian maintains that Kai should have sought certification from the district court pursuant to Federal Rule 54(b), because her two brothers have not yet reached the age of eighteen and arguably this issue has not yet become final as to them.*fn6

When this lawsuit was filed in 1982, the Clerk of the District Court of the Virgin Islands docketed it at numbers 144/1982 and 130/1982. When the suit was settled and Ms. Hollar was appointed as guardian, the court issued the orders under those docket numbers.

The motion presently under consideration was docketed in the district court under a new number: # 88-00242. Despite the new docket number for the current proceedings, the order that is the subject of this dispute is connected to the original action and arises out of and subsequent to the final adjudication of the children's claim of damages against ...


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