SCOTUS Bankruptcy Cases of 2015

Here is a blog entry I prepared for my firm’s website. I thought you might like it…

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued some very controversial high-profile decisions in its 2015 session. It also ruled on five cases involving bankruptcy. There are approximately 10,000 cases from the lower courts that are appealed to the Supreme Court every year, and the Court might select 75-80 cases per year.

In 2015, five of those cases involved bankruptcy law. That might not seem like a lot, but it is. The SCOTUS does not hear many bankruptcy cases compared to other areas of law, and to select five cases in one session is quite significant.

It is likely these cases will NOT affect most consumer bankruptcies. But it is imperative yourbankruptcy attorney always keeps abreast of the rulings from the higher courts.

Here are the five cases:

  • Caulkett v. Bank of America, N.A.: A debtor in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding may not void a junior mortgage lien under 11 U.S.C. § 506(d) when the debt owed on a senior mortgage lien exceeds the current value of the collateral if the creditor’s claim is both secured by a lien and allowed under Section 502 of the Bankruptcy Code.

(This case will be the most likely of the five to affect a consumer debtor. It affects anyone with multiple mortgages on real estate)

  • Bullard v. Hyde Park Savings Bank: A bankruptcy court’s order denying confirmation of a debtor’s proposed repayment plan is not a final order that the debtor can immediately appeal.

(It can cost thousands of dollars to formally appeal a case; filing an untimely appeal can be a waste of money for most debtors)

  • Harris v. Veigelahn: when a debtor in good faith converts a bankruptcy case to Chapter 7 after confirmation of a Chapter 13 plan, undistributed funds held by the Chapter 13 trustee are refunded to the debtor (as the Third Circuit held inIn re Michael).

(Considering what a Chapter 13 debtor would have likely already paid in by this time, this is hardly ‘free money’ for the debtor)

  • Baker Botts, LLP v. ASARCO, LCC: Section 330(a)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code does not permit bankruptcy courts to award fees for defending fee applications to professionals hired under Section 327(a) of the Bankruptcy Code.

(An attorney or other professional should not be awarded fees for his time spent justifying his fees)

  • Wellness Int’l Network, Ltd. v. Sharif: Article III permits bankruptcy judges to adjudicate Stern claims (certain areas of law considered “core matters” under 29 USC 157(b) such as fraudulent transfers and state law counterclaims) with the parties’ knowing and voluntary consent.

(This is a complicated issue regarding what kinds of cases a bankruptcy judge can and cannot hear associated with a bankruptcy case. This eases the strict ruling from an earlier case called Stern v. Marshall)

The attorneys at Bankruptcy Clinic PC have fifty years of combined experience and have filed thousands of consumer bankruptcies in Southern Illinois. You can count on our attorneys to keep current on the law and case rulings of the courts that may affect your case. If you are in need of debt relief, call us at our Carbondale, Marion or Mount Vernon office for your first step to a financial fresh start

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