Klauman v. GMAC Mortg., LLC, Slip Copy, 2008 WL 4098947 (M.D.Ga. August 28, 2008) (J. Land).

Debtors filed a class action against Defendant alleging that Defendants added undisclosed fees during their Bankruptcy case.  The Bankruptcy Court entered an Order dismissing the adversary for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on April 10, 2008:

Since [Debtors] fail to allege an injury in fact, the court must dismiss this case pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court will not opine on any of the other issues raised or responded to as, without subject matter jurisdiction, any such discussion would be dicta. [Appellees’] motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

The Order accompanying the Memorandum Opinion states: “For the reasons set forth in the memorandum opinion issued this date, [Appellees’] motion to dismiss the adversary proceeding is GRANTED.”   Debtors filed a Notice of Appeal on April 23, 2008, or 13 days after the entry of the Bankruptcy Court Order, and Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the appeal as untimely.  Debtors argued that the appeal time had not yet begun to run because the clerk never entered a final judgment in the case. 

The Motion to Dismiss the appeal was granted.  The April 10 order was a final, appealable order – 

The April 10 Order, which dismisses the adversary proceeding for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, was final and immediately appealable. While the April 10 Order did not end the entire bankruptcy case, it clearly ended this particular adversary proceeding. The bankruptcy court unequivocally found that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the adversary proceeding, and therefore, it dismissed the entire adversary proceeding. No one could have reasonably expected that there was any unfinished business left before the bankruptcy court regarding these adversary proceedings.

Additionally, the appeal time started on April 10 notwithstanding the absence of a final judgment entered by the clerk. 

Rule 58 [incorporated via FRBP 9021] provides that “[e]very judgment and amended judgment must be set out in a separate document[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(a). In addition, “the clerk must, without awaiting the court’s direction, promptly prepare, sign, and enter the judgment when … the court denies all relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(b)(1)(C)….

Appellants next argue that the clerk failed to comply with Rule 58 because the April 10 Order was prepared, signed, and entered by the bankruptcy judge, not the clerk. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(b) (1)(C) (directing clerk to “promptly prepare, sign, and enter the judgment when … the court denies all relief.”) Appellants suggest that the bankruptcy clerk has the exclusive authority to prepare, sign, and enter such judgments even to the exclusion of the judge who decided the case. Nothing in Rule 58 prohibits the judge from actually preparing, signing, or entering the final judgment, which is what happened here.

Even pretermitting whether a judge has the implicit authority to enter final judgments in the cases he decides, the Court finds that Rule 58(b)(1) gives the judge express authority to do so. It requires that the clerk “promptly prepare, sign, and enter the judgment” “unless the court orders otherwise[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 58(b)(1). When a judge prepares, signs and enters the judgment, the judge has “order[ed] otherwise.” The Court rejects Appellants’ argument that the judge who actually decides the case is prohibited from preparing, signing, and entering the judgment.