United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
IN RE SHANICQUA SUBER APONTE, Debtor. SHANICQUA SUBER APONTE, Appellant,
MATTHEW J. COPLEY III, Appellee.
F. LEESON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Shanicqua Suber Aponte, appearing pro se, appeals an
order entered by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania that memorialized a
settlement agreement between Appellant and Appellee Matthew
J. Copley III and lifted the automatic stay. Before briefing
in this appeal could be completed, the bankruptcy court
dismissed Appellant's bankruptcy case for a failure to
pay the filing fee and for other reasons stated on the
record. Without an active underlying bankruptcy case, this
Court directed the parties to show cause in written
submissions as to why the Court should not dismiss the appeal
as moot. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will
dismiss the appeal as moot.
October 26, 2018, Appellant Shanicqua Suber Aponte commenced
bankruptcy proceedings by filing a Chapter 13 Voluntary
Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy with the
clerk of court for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania. R. 1, 6-13. With this
petition, Suber Aponte also filed other required documents.
R. 2-3, 14-28. Pursuant to statute, the filing of the
bankruptcy petition immediately triggered an automatic stay
of judicial and other actions, proceedings, or claims that
were commenced against Suber Aponte prior to her bankruptcy
filing. See 11 U.S.C. § 362; see also
R. 14 (Initial Statement About an Eviction to be served on
after bankruptcy proceedings began, Appellee Matthew J.
Copley III filed an objection and requested relief from the
automatic stay of eviction. R. 3, 29-70. The bankruptcy court
held a hearing to consider Copley's objection. R. 3-4,
71-72. Both parties were present at the hearing. R. 71. At
the hearing, the parties reached an agreement to their
dispute regarding Suber Aponte's continued possession of
Copley's rental property and agreed that the bankruptcy
court would memorialize the settlement in an order. R. 71.
The parties agreed to the following terms: (1) the bankruptcy
court sustained Copley's objection and granted him relief
from the automatic stay of eviction provided that he not
affect an eviction of Suber Aponte from the property prior to
December 7, 2018; (2) Suber Aponte would withdraw an appeal
pending in the Pennsylvania Superior Court that challenged
Copley's state court judgment against Suber Aponte for
possession and damages; (3) the bankruptcy court granted
Copley relief from the automatic stay to seek release from
the state court of all money held in escrow by the court and
money he held or controlled in the form of a security
deposit; (4) the bankruptcy court transferred to Copley funds
Suber Aponte paid in to the court; (5) Copley would mark
satisfied all state court eviction judgments held against
Suber Aponte within ten days of receiving payment as
described in items 4 and 5, and obtained possession of his
rental property; and (6) Suber Aponte and Copley would
release each other for all claims held against the other that
arose from their landlord-tenant relationship through
December 7, 2018. R. 71-72.
the parties reached the agreement, but before the date on
which the parties had agreed Copley could resume eviction
proceedings, Suber Aponte commenced these appellate
proceedings. ECF No. 1. Then, on December 6, 2018, Suber
Aponte filed an emergency motion requesting a temporary stay.
Mot., ECF No. 4. In this motion she described finding a new
apartment to rent and asking Copley to extend the deadline
for her to vacate his property until December 31, 2018. Mot.
1. After considering factors for whether to grant a stay
pending appeal, see In re Revel AC, Inc., 802 F.3d
558, 565 (3d Cir. 2015), this Court denied the motion because
Suber Aponte had not made a strong showing of a likelihood of
success on the merits of her appeal. Order, ECF No. 5. After
denying that motion, the Court issued the schedule for filing
briefs in the appeal. Notice, ECF No. 7.
Suber Aponte's appeal progressed before this Court, the
bankruptcy proceedings also continued to progress.
See Bankr. Docs. Nos. 30-60. In those proceedings,
the Court considered dismissing the bankruptcy several times
because Suber Aponte failed to pay various fees or did not
file certain documents. See Bankr. Docs. Nos. 30,
50, 63. This situation finally came to a head on January 10,
2019, when the Chapter 13 Standing Trustee, William C.
Miller, filed a motion for dismissal based on four grounds.
Bankr. Doc. No. 50. The bankruptcy court held a hearing to
consider this motion on February 12, 2019. Bankr. Docs. Nos.
55, 60, 63, 64. During this hearing, United States Bankruptcy
Judge Eric L. Frank questioned Suber Aponte on the
trustee's motion and the grounds on which the trustee
moved for dismissal. Bankr. Doc. No. 60. After discussing
the circumstances of Suber Aponte's bankruptcy proceeding
and her failure to pay the court filing fees, Judge Frank
stated that he would issue an order requiring Suber Aponte to
pay the filing fees by February 28, 2019. Bankr. Doc. No. 60.
Suber Aponte made clear to Judge Frank, however, that she
could not afford to pay the filing fees and that she would
not be paying them. Bankr. Doc. No. 60. Therefore, Judge
Frank dismissed the bankruptcy case. Bankr. Doc. No. 61;
see also Bankr. Doc. No. 60. Judge Frank based the
dismissal on Suber Aponte's failure to pay the court
filing fees. Bankr. Doc. No. 61. Suber Aponte did not appeal
the order dismissing her bankruptcy case.
the dismissal of the underlying bankruptcy case, this Court
directed the parties to show cause as to why the Court should
not dismiss the appeal as moot, Order, ECF No. 8, and the
parties filed briefs, ECF Nos. 9, 10.
JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court has jurisdiction over the appeal from the bankruptcy
court's order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 158(a), and
reviews “questions of law de novo, findings of fact for
clear error, and exercises of discretion for abuse.”
In re Trans World Airlines, Inc., 145 F.3d 124, 131
(3d Cir. 1998) (citing Fellheimer, Eichen &
Braverman, P.C. v. Charter Techs., Inc., 57 F.3d 1215,
1223 (3d Cir. 1995)).
federal court, this Court must assure itself that it has
Article III jurisdiction in every case that comes before it.
Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs.
(TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180 (2000). The Court's
jurisdiction depends on if the claims before it are moot.
DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 341-42
(2006). A case is moot where the underlying issues presented
are no longer “live” or the parties lack a
legally cognizable interest in the outcome. Gayle v.
Warden Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Inst., 838 F.3d 297, 303 (3d
Cir. 2016) (citing Chafin v. Chafin, 568 U.S. 165,
mootness doctrine is centrally concerned with the court's
ability to grant effective relief.” Cnty. of Morris
v. Nationalist Movement, 273 F.3d 527, 533 (3d Cir.
2001). “[I]f an event occurs while a case is pending on
appeal that makes it impossible for the court to grant any
effectual relief whatever to a prevailing party, the appeal
must be dismissed [as moot].” Church of Scientology
of Cal. v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12 (1992)
(internal quotation marks omitted); accord In re PWS
Holding Corp., 228 F.3d 224, 236 (3d Cir. 2000)