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Ortiz v. Dodge

October 3, 1997

EDWIN ORTIZ; SANTIAGO CAMACHO (INTERVENOR IN D.C.)

v.

SYLVIA DODGE, APPELLANT



BEFORE: BECKER, ROTH and WEIS, Circuit Judges

ROTH, Circuit Judge

Filed October 3, 1997

Argued April 9, 1997

OPINION OF THE COURT

In this case, we are asked to review a decision of the Appellate Division of the District Court of the Virgin Islands, reversing in part an order of the Virgin Islands Territorial Court and remanding for further proceedings. The appellate division's decision involves complicated questions about the scope and application of the Virgin Islands homestead exemption and the procedures available for undoing a confirmation order of a judgment sale. See 5 V.I.C. Section(s) 478, 489. We will not address the merits of this appeal, however, because we do not believe the decision, which remanded the case to the territorial court for further proceedings on the merits, qualifies as a "final decision" within the meaning of 48 U.S.C. Section(s) 1613a(c).

I. FACTS

In 1989, Sylvia Dodge, the appellant in this case, lost an action brought by Edwin Ortiz to collect a debt. Ortiz obtained a judgment in territorial court against Dodge for the amount of $4,982.91, plus interests and costs.

Ortiz did not succeed in two attempts to collect on the judgment. A territorial marshal then issued a writ, attaching Dodge's property at 122 Estate Ruby, St. Croix. The marshal eventually conducted an execution sale, and the property was purchased by Santiago Camacho, the intervenor appellee in this case, for a bid of $9,300. The territorial court entered an order confirming the sale of Dodge's property on September 24, 1991. Dodge apparently did not receive a copy of Camacho's motion to confirm the judgment sale.

Nearly one year later, Dodge filed a motion with the territorial court to annul the Confirmation Order and set aside the sale on the grounds that she had been improperly denied a homestead exemption prior to the sale of her property and that she had been given improper notice of the motion to enter a confirmation order of that sale. See 5 V.I.C. Section(s) 478. *fn1 The territorial court agreed with Dodge, vacated the confirmation order, and set aside the sale.

Camacho appealed to Appellate Division of the District Court of the Virgin Islands. See 48 U.S.C. Section(s) 1613a. On appeal, Camacho argued that (1) Dodge had failed t o provide appropriate notice to the marshals that her property qualified for the homestead exemption; (2) even if Dodge was entitled to the homestead exemption, it protected, at most, only her equity in the property, which was less than the amount paid out by Camacho; and (3) Dodge failed to meet the standards of Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in bringing her motion to annul the confirmation and vacate the sale and confirmation order.

The appellate division affirmed the territorial court's decision to annul the Confirmation Order, but it did so pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, *fn2 rather than pursuant to 5 V.I.C. Section(s) 489, which sets forth the circumstances under Virgin Islands law for confirmation of a judgment sale. *fn3 See Camacho v. Dodge, 947 F.Supp. 886, 894 (D. Virgin Islands 1996). Although the appellate division affirmed the territorial court's annulment of the Confirmation Order, it did not uphold the territorial court's decision to set aside the judgment sale. According to the appellate division, the fact that Dodge had properly invoked her homestead exemption under Virgin Islands law did not resolve the question of whether the sale should be set aside. See Camacho, 947 F.Supp. at 893. The appellate division therefore remanded the case to the territorial court to give Dodge "the opportunity to have the extent of her entitlement to the homestead exemption determined by the trial court . . .. The court's ruling on the remanded homestead issue will determine whether or not the entire execution sale must be set aside." Id.

Dodge's attorney now appeals the appellate division's reversal of the territorial court's decision to set aside the judgment sale. *fn4

II. DISCUSSION

A. Final ...


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