UPDATE 1-Dec. 16 hearing set to consider Detroit bankruptcy appeals

Mon Dec 9, 2013 5:56pm EST

DETROIT Dec 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. judge overseeing Detroit's bankruptcy on Monday set a hearing for Dec. 16 to consider whether to expedite appeals of his ruling that declared Detroit eligible for bankruptcy protection, allowing the appeals to proceed straight to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will hold a hearing at 10 a.m EST (1500 GMT) to take up requests from city unions, retirees and pension funds to avert the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and go to the appeals court.

"A swift appellate resolution of whether the City may proceed in Chapter 9 bankruptcy is of paramount importance to the City's retirees and employees, whose pension and other employment benefits may be subject to substantial impairment in the case," attorneys wrote on behalf of the Official Committee of Retirees in a document filed with the court last week.

Last week, Rhodes ruled that Detroit, with $18.5 billion in debt, met federal requirements for bankruptcy protection primarily because it was insolvent and negotiations with its creditors were not practical.

The judge also overruled an argument from the groups objecting to the bankruptcy that pensions were protected by Michigan's constitution, ruling that pensions could be cut as part of the city's restructuring.

Proceedings will continue before Rhodes in bankruptcy court even as the appeals process gets underway. Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said last week that the city plans to submit its restructuring plan to the bankruptcy court by early January.

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