Connecticut National Bank v. Germain

Citation117 L.Ed.2d 391,503 U.S. 249,112 S.Ct. 1146
Decision Date09 March 1992
Docket NumberNo. 90-1791,90-1791
PartiesCONNECTICUT NATIONAL BANK, Petitioner, v. Thomas M. GERMAIN, Trustee for the Estate of O'Sullivan's Fuel Oil Co., Inc
CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Syllabus

In a suit by respondent Germain, the trustee of a bankrupt debtor's estate, seeking to hold petitioner Connecticut National Bank (CNB) liable for various torts and breaches of contract, the Bankruptcy Court denied CNB's motion to strike Germain's demand for a jury trial, and the District Court affirmed. The Court of Appeals dismissed CNB's attempted appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that a court of appeals may exercise jurisdiction over an interlocutory order in bankruptcy only when the district court issues the order after having withdrawn the case from the bankruptcy court, and not when the district court acts in its capacity as a bankruptcy court of appeals.

Held: An interlocutory order issued by a district court sitting as a court of appeals in bankruptcy is appealable under the unambiguous language of 28 U.S.C. § 1292. That section provides for review in the courts of appeals, in certain circumstances, of "[i]nterlocutory orders of the district courts," and does not limit such review to orders issued by district courts sitting as bankruptcy trial courts rather than appellate courts. Title 28 U.S.C. § 158(d)—which gives the courts of appeals jurisdiction over, inter alia, appeals from all final orders of district courts sitting as appellate courts in bankruptcy, but is silent as to review of interlocutory orders—does not limit the unadorned words of § 1292 by negative implication. Contrary to Germain's contention, giving effect to § 1292's companion provision, § 1291—which confers jurisdiction over appeals from "final decisions of the district courts" acting in any capacity would not render § 158(d) wholly superfluous. Although §§ 1291 and 158(d) do overlap, § 158(d) also confers jurisdiction over the final decisions of bankruptcy appellate panels, such that each section reaches cases that the other does not. Redundancies across statutes are not unusual events in drafting, and where, as here, there is no positive repugnancy between two laws, a court must give effect to both. Pp. 251-254.

926 F.2d 191 (CA2 1991), reversed and remanded.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed

an opinion concurring in the judgment. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which WHITE and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined.

Janet C. Hall, Hartford, Conn., for petitioner.

Thomas M. Germain, Hartford, Conn., for respondent.

Justice THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we determine the appealability of an interlocutory order issued by a district court sitting as a court of appeals in bankruptcy.

I

In 1984, O'Sullivan's Fuel Oil Co. filed a bankruptcy petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut. Although the case began as a reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, in 1986 the Bankruptcy Court converted it into a liquidation under Chapter 7. Petitioner Connecticut National Bank (CNB) is successor in interest to one of O'Sullivan's creditors. Respondent Thomas M. Germain is trustee of O'Sullivan's estate.

On June 1, 1987, Germain sued CNB in Connecticut state court, seeking to hold the bank liable for various torts and breaches of contract. CNB removed the suit to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, which, pursuant to local rule, automatically referred the proceeding to the Bankruptcy Court overseeing the liquidation. Germain then filed a demand for a jury trial. CNB moved to strike Germain's demand. The Bankruptcy Court denied CNB's motion, In re O'Sullivan's Fuel Oil Co., 103 B.R. 388 (Conn.1989), and the District Court affirmed, Germain v. Connecticut Nat. Bank, 112 B.R. 57 (Conn.1990).

CNB then tried to appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, but the court dismissed for lack of jurisdic-

tion. 926 F.2d 191 (1991). The Second Circuit held that a court of appeals may exercise jurisdiction over interlocutory orders in bankruptcy only when a district court issues the order after having withdrawn a proceeding or case from a bankruptcy court, and not when the district court acts in its capacity as a bankruptcy court of appeals. We granted certiorari, 502 U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 294, 116 L.Ed.2d 239 (1991), and now reverse and remand.

II

Courts of appeals have jurisdiction over "[i]nterlocutory orders of the district courts of the United States" under 28 U.S.C. § 1292.* CNB contends that § 1292(b) applies by its terms in this case, and that the Second Circuit therefore could have exercised discretionary jurisdiction over its appeal. Germain argues that § 1292 does not apply at all in this case because Congress limited § 1292 through 28 U.S.C § 158(d), which deals with bankruptcy jurisdiction. CNB responds that nothing in § 158(d) limits § 1292. We agree with CNB.

Bankruptcy appeals are governed for the most part by 28 U.S.C. § 158. This section comprises four subsections, three of which concern us here. Subsection (a) gives the district courts authority to hear appeals from final and interlocutory orders of the bankruptcy courts. The District Court, as we have noted, had jurisdiction under this provision to hear CNB's appeal from the Bankruptcy Court. Subsection (b) permits the judicial council of any circuit to establish a bankruptcy appellate panel to fill the role of the district courts under subsection (a). Subsection (d), which is pivotal in this case, provides:

"The courts of appeals shall have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions, judgments, orders, and decrees entered under subsections (a) and (b) of this section."

Neither this subsection nor any other part of § 158 mentions interlocutory orders entered by the district courts in bankruptcy. The parties agree, as they must, that § 158 did not confer jurisdiction on the Court of Appeals.

Germain contends that the Court of Appeals did not have jurisdiction under § 1292 either, for § 158(d), in his view, precludes jurisdiction under § 1292 by negative implication. Germain reasons as follows: Although 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 1292 appear to cover the universe of decisions issued by the district courts—with § 1291 conferring jurisdiction over appeals from final decisions of the district courts, and § 1292 conferring jurisdiction over certain interlocutory ones—that cannot in fact be so. If § 1291 did cover all final decisions by a district court, he argues, that section would render § 158(d) superfluous, since a final decision issued by a district court sitting as a bankruptcy appellate court is still a final decision of a district court. If § 158(d) is to have effect, Germain contends, then that section must be exclusive within its own domain, which he defines as the universe of orders issued by district courts sitting pursuant to § 158(a) as courts of appeals in bankruptcy. When a district court enters an order in that capacity, Germain concludes, only § 158(d) can confer jurisdiction, and if it does not, nothing else can. Germain claims to find support for his view in his reading of the legislative history of § 158(d).

Contrary to Germain's contention, we need not choose between giving effect on the one hand to § 1291 and on the other to § 158(d), for the statutes do not pose an either-or proposition. Section 1291 confers jurisdiction over appeals from "final decisions of the district courts" acting in any capacity. Section 158(d), in contrast, confers jurisdiction over appeals from final decisions of the district courts when they act as bankruptcy appellate courts under § 158(a), and also confers jurisdiction over final decisions of the appellate panels in bankruptcy acting under § 158(b). Sections 1291 and 158(d) do overlap, therefore, but each section confers jurisdiction over cases that the other section does not reach.

Redundancies across statutes are not unusual events in drafting, and so long as there is no "positive repugnancy" between two laws, Wood v. United States, 16 Pet. 342, 363, 10 L.Ed. 987 (1842), a court must give effect to both. Because giving effect to both §§ 1291 and 158(d) would not render one or the other wholly superfluous, we do not have to read § 158(d) as precluding courts of appeals, by negative implication, from exercising jurisdiction under § 1291 over district courts sitting in bankruptcy. We similarly do not have to read § 158(d) as precluding jurisdiction under § 1292. While courts should disfavor interpretations of statutes that render language superfluous, in this case that canon does not apply.

In any event, canons of construction are no more than rules of thumb that help courts determine the meaning of legislation, and in interpreting a statute a court should always turn first to one, cardinal canon before all others. We have stated time and again that courts must presume that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there. See, e.g., United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 241-242, 109 S.Ct. 1026, 1030-1031, 103 L.Ed.2d 290 (1989); United States v. Goldenberg, 168 U.S. 95, 102-103, 18 S.Ct. 3, 4, 42 L.Ed. 394 (1897); Oneale v. Thornton, 6 Cranch 53, 68, 3 L.Ed. 150 (1810). When the words of a statute are unambiguous, then, this first canon is also the last: "judicial inquiry is complete." Rubin v. United States, 449 U.S. 424, 430, 101 S.Ct. 698, 701, 66 L.Ed.2d 633 (1981); see also Ron Pair Enterprises, supra, 489 U.S., at 241, 109 S.Ct., at 1030.

Germain says that legislative history points to a different result. But we think that judicial inquiry into the applicability of § 1292 begins and ends with what § 1292 does say and with what § 158(d) does not. Section 1292 provides for review in the courts...

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