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Christian v. Joseph

filed: February 2, 1994.

ALLAN CHRISTIAN, APPELLANT
v.
MARY O. JOSEPH, APPELLEE



Appeal from the District Court of the Virgin Islands. D.C. Civil Action No. 92-00079.

Present: Mansmann, Hutchinson and Lewis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hutchinson

Opinion OF THE COURT

HUTCHINSON, Circuit Judge.

Appellant, Allan A. Christian ("Christian"), appeals an order of the District Court of the Virgin Islands, Appellate Division, affirming an order of the Virgin Islands Territorial Court. The Territorial Court's order directed Christian to pay interest on an amended judgment that appellee, Mary O. Joseph ("Joseph"), secured against him. Christian contends that the Virgin Islands Code does not specifically provide for automatic awards of post-judgment interest. Because the Territorial Court did not include any award of post-judgment interest in its original judgment order, he therefore contends that post-judgment interest should not accrue. We disagree. While provisions of the Virgin Islands Code concerning post-judgment interest may not be as specific as those in some other jurisdictions, we believe the applicable statutory provisions, already interpreted by the Territorial Court to require the accrual of post-judgment interest, coupled with the nature of post-judgment interest, compel the Conclusion that post-judgment interest accrues automatically once the amount of the judgment is entered. Therefore, we will affirm.

I.

Joseph secured a judgment against Christian on May 1, 1986. On November 21, 1988, after an appeal and remand, the Territorial Court amended the judgment upwards to a final amount of $24,465.48. The Territorial Court's order did not specifically state that post-judgment interest would accrue on the amount due until satisfaction. By check dated January 10, 1992, Christian paid the principal amount. On May 12, 1992, Joseph filed a praecipe for a writ of execution for post-judgment interest of $7,348.68 on the amended judgment. The Territorial Court denied Christian's motion to quash the writ, holding that Virgin Islands law supported the automatic accrual of post-judgment interest. The District Court of the Virgin Islands, Appellate Division, affirmed. See 48 U.S.C.A § 1613a (b) (West 1987) (granting authority for United States district court to sit in appellate capacity over Territorial Courts of the Virgin Islands).

II.

In this case we too sit as an appellate court for the Territory of the Virgin Islands. See 48 U.S.C.A. § 1613a(c). Because we are called upon to interpret a statute, our review is plenary. Air Courier Conference of Am. v. United States Postal Serv., 959 F.2d 1213, 1217 (3d Cir. 1992).

In holding that Virgin Islands law requires the automatic accrual of post-judgment interest, the Appellate Division of the District Court relied on two sections of the Virgin Islands Code, V.I. Code Ann. tit. 5, § 426 and V.I. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 951. Section 426 of title 5 provides:

The rate of interest on judgments and decrees for the payment of money shall be 9 percent per annum.

V.I. Code Ann. tit. 5, § 426 (1993 Supp.). Section 951 of title 11 provides in relevant part:

(a) The rate of interest shall be nine (9%) per centum ...


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