United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO STAY DISTRICT COURT
PROCEEDINGS AND ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSING THIS ACTION
William J. Martinez, United States District Judge.
before the Court is Defendant Security Life of Denver
Insurance Company's ("SLD") Motion to Stay
District Court Proceedings (the "Motion") (ECF No.
73) while non-party Jackson National Life Insurance Company
("Jackson") appeals this Court's denial of
Jackson's Motion to Intervene (ECF Nos. 34 & 65). For
the reasons discussed below, SLD's Motion is granted and
the case is stayed and administratively closed pending
resolution of Jackson's appeal.
of abbreviated background, Plaintiff Robert Barnes
("Barnes") brought class breach of contract and
conversion claims against SLD for an alleged failure to
comply with the terms of a universal life policy that Barnes
purchased from SLD's predecessor in interest. (ECF No. 42
at 1.) Jackson then moved to intervene on the grounds that it
was contractually responsible for administration and
reinsurance of Barnes' policy and others. (ECF No. 34.)
The Court denied Jackson's motion both for intervention
as of right and for permissive intervention on November 21,
2018. (ECF No. 65.) Jackson then filed an interlocutory
appeal of this Court's order denying intervention to the
Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. (ECF No. 68.) Thereafter, SLD
filed the instant Motion. (ECF No. 73.)
an interlocutory appeal is pending, jurisdiction generally
transfers from the district court to the court of appeals.
Griggs v. Provident Consumer Disc. Co., 459 U.S. 56,
58 (1982); see also Howard v. Mail-Well Envelope
Co., 150 F.3d 1227, 1229 (10th Cir. 1998). But not
always. Howard, 150 F.3d at 1229. "No transfer
of jurisdiction occurs if the appeal is taken from a
nonappealable order." Id. Even when an order is
appealable, the district court is divested of control only
over "those aspects of the case involved in the
appeal." Id. The Court will address each
possibility in turn.
of motion to intervene is grounds for an interlocutory appeal
"if it prevents the applicant from becoming a party to
an action." WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Forest
Service, 573 F.3d 992, 994 (10th Cir. 2009); see
Stringfellow v. Concerned Neighbors in Action, 480 U.S.
370, 378 (1987) (partially granting a motion to intervene did
not provide grounds for interlocutory appeal because
intervenor could appeal order as a party at the conclusion of
litigation). Here, Jackson filed an interlocutory appeal
challenging this Court's order denying its motion to
intervene. In accordance with Tenth Circuit precedent, that
order is subject to immediate review. See WildEarth
Guardians, 573 F.3d at 994.
the Court must determine whether Jackson's appeal impacts
the litigation as a whole or is a limited interlocutory
ruling. Where an appeal is taken from a ruling that impacts
only part of the case, the district court may proceed with
the remainder of the case. Howard, 150 F.3d at 1229.
However, where the appeal impacts the entire proceeding and
cannot be isolated, the district court is divested of
jurisdiction to proceed with any part of the action. Id.;
Stewart v. Donges, 915 F.2d 572, 576 (10th Cir. 1990).
For example, in Western Energy Alliance v. Jewell,
the court denied the applicants' motion to intervene on
two of three claims, and then separately considered whether
to stay only those counts pending an interlocutory appeal.
W. Energy All. v. Jewell, 2017 WL 3588648, at *3
(D.N.M. Mar. 1, 2017).
argues that Jackson's appeal impacts the litigation as a
whole. (ECF No. 73 at 4-5.) The Court agrees. Unlike the
applicants in Western Energy Alliance, Jackson moved
to intervene on each of Barnes' claims. Cf. W. Energy
All., 2017 WL 3588648, at *3. Thus, there are no
substantive parts of the litigation which would not be
impacted should the Tenth Circuit determine that
Jackson's interests are not adequately represented by the
contends that the issue of intervention does not impact the
litigation as a whole because there is little practical
difference between Jackson-as-intervenor and
Jackson-as-controller, given Jackson's contractual right
to control the litigation. (ECF No. 80 at 6-9.) Barnes'
argument assumes that the Tenth Circuit will agree with this
Court that Jackson's interests are identical to those of
SLD and Jackson's interests are adequately represented by
its contractual relationship with SLD. But this Court cannot
presume to know how the Tenth Circuit will rule, and as such
Barnes' arguments are unavailing. Thus, the Court finds
that Jackson's appeal impacts the litigation as a whole.
to limit potential abuse of interlocutory review, a district
court is not divested of jurisdiction if it certifies that an
appeal is frivolous. Stewart, 915 F.2d at 577-78;
Cox v. Wilson, 2017 WL 4331062, at *2 (D. Colo. July
21, 2017). The plaintiff bears the "burden to obtain a
determination that the defendant's appeal is frivolous or
dilatory." Stewart, 915 F.2d at 577.
"Generally, an argument is frivolous when 'it lacks
an arguable basis either in law or in fact.'"
Sanchez v. Hartley, 2014 WL 5904755, at *1 (D. Colo.
Nov. 13, 2014) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S.
319, 325 (1989)). "The Tenth Circuit defines a frivolous
appeal as on where the result is obvious or where the
appellant's arguments are wholly without merit."
Cox, 2017 WL 4331062, at *2.
Court has reviewed the parties' arguments and concludes
that the issue presented in Jackson's appeal is not
frivolous. In a footnote, Barnes argues that the Court can
certify Jackson's appeal as frivolous, essentially by
restating the legal standard and suggesting that the order is
nonappealable. (ECF No. 80 at 3 n.1.) As discussed above,
denial of a motion to intervene is immediately appealable.
See WildEarth Guardians, 573 F.3d at 994. More
importantly, Jackson's arguments are not devoid of an
arguable basis in fact or law, and the result on appeal is
not obvious. See Sanchez, 2014 WL 5904755, at *1.
Thus, the Court is unable to conclude or certify that
Jackson's appeal is frivolous.
the frivolity exception does not apply and Jackson's
appeal impacts the whole of the litigation, Jackson's
interlocutory appeal divests this Court of jurisdiction over
the entirety of this action. See Howard, 150 F.3d at
1229. Thus, a stay is warranted and SLD's Motion is
Court will also administratively close the action pending
appeal. District courts have the inherent power to manage
their dockets "to achieve the orderly and expeditious
disposition of cases" as long as the action is a
reasonable response to a specific problem and does not
contradict any express rule or statute. Dietz v.
Bouldin,136 S.Ct. 1885, 1891-92 (2016). Here, the Court
lacks jurisdiction pending appeal and the case is stayed
pending resolution of the appeal. The Court has no power to
act in this matter until ...