Banking & Finance Law Report

Tag Archives: Federal Bankruptcy Court powers

Law v. Siegel, __ U.S. ___, 134 S.CT. 1188 (2014): The Supreme Court Addresses the Scope of the “All Writs” Provision in the Bankruptcy Code

The Bankruptcy Code has approximately 275 different sections. The number of its subsections and subparagraphs is well into the thousands. It is impossible to select the “most significant” provision in the Bankruptcy Code, but among the candidates for that title is certainly § 105 of the Code.

Section 105(a) of the Bankruptcy Code provides in part that “The court may issue any order, process, or judgment that is necessary to carry out the provisions of this title.” The importance of this “all writs” provision is obvious. It specifically authorizes bankruptcy courts to make the rest of the Bankruptcy Code effective, even if Congress has not specifically included in the other provision of the Code any directive that puts those provisions into motion. When the Bankruptcy Code addresses an issue, § 105 (a) is available to ensure that the issue can be resolved and the solution implemented.

The Supreme Court recently took on the task on determining the limits of the reach of § 105(a) in the case of Law v. Siegel. In Siegel, Stephen Law filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004. Among the listed assets in the case was Law’s house in California. Law valued the house …

The Sixth Circuit Holds that Bankruptcy Courts Lack the Inherent Power to Award “Serious Non-Compensatory Punitive Damages”

Nearly 30 years after enactment of the Bankruptcy Amendments and Federal Judgeship Act of 1984 and establishment of the current bankruptcy court structure, courts are still struggling to understand the bounds of a bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction and power. Unfortunately for one recent appellant, a bankruptcy court’s power to enter punitive damages is not as great as it had hoped.

In Adell v. Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn, LLP (In re John Richards Homes Building Company, LLC), Case Nos. 12-2012, 12-2013, 12-2014, and 12-2015 (6th Cir. Nov. 20, 2013) (unpublished),1 the Sixth Circuit held that neither 11 U.S.C. § 105 nor the inherent powers of a bankruptcy court permit a bankruptcy court to enter “serious noncompensatory punitive damages.”2 The bankruptcy court in Adell had entered an award of sanctions in the amount $2.8 million as a consequence of a party’s continuing pattern of abuse of the judicial process in evading a prior monetary judgment entered against him by the bankruptcy court. As the bankruptcy court had found, this pattern of abuse included repeated instances of perjury, active participation with related entities in falsely responding to garnishments and filing an “unnecessary and abusive bankruptcy petition.”…

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