Case Caption: Medina Henry v. Cecilia DenneryCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2012-0130Date: 01/11/2013Author: Per CuriamCitation: Summary:

After a prior reversal and remand in this forcible entry and detainer proceeding, Henry v. Dennery, 55 V.I. 986 (V.I. 2011), the Appellate Division did not limit itself to the factual record before the Magistrate Division but chose instead to order a second trial de novo, where it considered additional evidence that had not been heard by the magistrate, reciting that "[b]oth parties indicated that they preferred a trial de novo." Summary reversal pursuant to Internal Operating Procedure 9.4 is warranted because the Appellate Division's October 26, 2012 Opinion acknowledged that Superior Court Rule 322 was applicable to the appeal before it, that the Rule prohibited consideration of new evidence, and that it required a deferential, clear error standard of review for factual findings, yet the court nevertheless deliberately chose not to follow the Rule. The fact that the Appellate Division believed that proceeding in derogation of Rule 322 in this case would somehow benefit both parties by providing them with additional due process rights is simply no excuse for a single judge setting aside a mandatory court Rule that was validly adopted by the Superior Court pursuant to its rulemaking authority. Moreover, parties cannot simply stipulate to the law, and may not stipulate to an appellate court's application of a different standard of review of a lower court decision. Fleeting language in the Appellate Division's opinion reciting that it would have reached the same result even if it followed the Rule 322 procedure is immaterial, since it provides no explanation for the decision. The unique relationship between the Magistrate Division and the Appellate Division, as well as the practice traditionally employed when a higher appellate court reverses a lower appellate court, counsels against looking beyond the four corners of the Appellate Division's decision and directly reviewing the Magistrate Division's decision. The October 26, 2012 Opinion is reversed and the matter is again remanded to the Appellate Division, for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion