BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Feb 23 (Reuters) - The federal judge
handling the $4.23 billion bankruptcy filed by Alabama's
Jefferson County said on Thursday he was allowing
appeals of a ruling in the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy
case to go directly to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Bennett told lawyers they could
skip lower district court litigation on appeals of his Jan. 6
ruling in the bankruptcy case that returned control of the
county's heavily indebted sewer system to county officials.
The system, which was at the heart of the county's landmark
Nov. 9 bankruptcy filing, had been run by a court-appointed
receiver put in place at the request of creditors.
"I have drafted certification," Bennett said during a court
hearing in Birmingham, referring to the accelerated appeals
process he was granting.
Bennett, who has yet to rule on whether Jefferson County
fully qualifies for rare Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, also
scheduled routine hearings in the case into June. JPMorgan Chase
and other creditors argue the county is ineligible for Chapter 9
status because it has the wrong kind of debt.
On Nov. 9, after a tentative agreement with creditors
unwound, Jefferson County filed for bankruptcy, saying it was
overwhelmed by debt mostly caused by borrowing for the county
(Reporting By Melinda Dickinson; Additional reporting by
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