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Bankruptcy Law Research Guide: Code, Cases, Rules, and Forms

This guide introduces students to sources for researching bankruptcy law in the United States. It may also be of use to practitioners and the general public.

Overview

Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to establish "uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States." Bankruptcy law is, therefore, largely a matter of federal law, although bankruptcy law operates against a backdrop of rights created by state law as well. (Credit: https://law.duke.edu/lib/researchguides/bankruptcy/)

Statutes

Today, bankruptcy is governed primarily by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, as amended, which is known as the "Bankruptcy Code." Congress made substantial amendments to the Bankruptcy Code in 1984, 1986, 1994, and 2005. The Bankruptcy Act of 1898 (known as the "Bankruptcy Act") governed cases filed before October 1, 1979. There are still references to the Bankruptcy Act in the Bankruptcy Code and in secondary sources, and courts may refer to analogous Bankruptcy Act provisions in interpreting the Bankruptcy Code.

The current version of the Bankruptcy Code is codified at Title 11 of the United States Code. (Certain sections of Titles 18, 26, 28, and 50 of the U.S.C. also apply to bankruptcy.) Title 11 is further divided into chapters, and bankruptcy cases are described by the chapter of the Bankruptcy Code under which they arise:

  • Chapter 7 – Liquidation
  • Chapter 9 – Adjustment of Debts of a Municipality
  • Chapter 11 – Reorganization
  • Chapter 12 – Adjustment of Debts of a Family Farmer or Fisherman with Regular Income
  • Chapter 13 – Adjustments of Debts of an Individual with Regular Income
  • Chapter 15 – Ancillary and Other-Cross Border Cases

Important provisions of Chapters 1 (General Provisions), 3 (Case Administration), and 5 (Creditors, the Debtor, and the Estate) apply to bankruptcy cases arising under the other chapters of the Bankruptcy Code. (credit: https://law.duke.edu/lib/researchguides/bankruptcy/)

Annotated Bankruptcy Code:

Unannotated Bankruptcy Code:

 

 

Cases

Bankruptcy decisions can come from several federal courts. Most bankruptcy cases begin in the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, which for constitutional reasons are a unit of the federal district courts. Cases that are initially heard in bankruptcy court may then be appealed either to the U.S. District Court or to a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (an administrative alternative to district courts in some circuits). Cases may be further appealed to the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

There are several specialized print reporters for bankruptcy decisions, however no single one of them contains all bankruptcy decisions. (credit: https://law.duke.edu/lib/researchguides/bankruptcy/)

  • WestlawNext - Bankruptcy Cases    
    Federal Bankruptcy Cases has all available bankruptcy cases and includes U.S. Supreme Court cases. Coverage begins with 1789.
  • LexisAdvance - Bankruptcy Cases    
    Provides access to available cases from any Federal or state court pertaining to bankruptcy law.
  • Bloomberg Law - Bankruptcy Cases   
    Under Courts -- Opinions
  • West's Bankruptcy Reporter  (West Stacks KF1515.A2 W47)
    West’s Bankruptcy Reporter reports more cases than other specialized reporters, and the decisions follow the standard West reporting format, with topics, key numbers, and headnotes. Cases reported are avialable on WestlawNext as well. 
  • Collier Bankruptcy Case Update   
    Collier Bankruptcy Case Update provides concise summaries of significant bankruptcy issues in virtually all current bankruptcy cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, Bankruptcy Appellate Panels, District Courts and Bankruptcy Courts.The summaries are arranged by Bankruptcy Code section and Bankruptcy Rule number - the way most practitioners do their research - and note whether the case is commercial- or consumer-oriented.
  • CCH Bankruptcy Law Reporter   
    The Bankruptcy Law Reporter, published by Wolters Kluwer's, provides the most up-to-date information on the maze of bankruptcy law; among other issues are preventative initiatives, litigation concerns for all parties, simplified expert analysis of complex issues, and primary law on bankruptcy.

Rules and Forms

Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, also known as the "Bankruptcy Rules." The Bankruptcy Rules are promulgated by the U.S. Supreme Court and were last amended in April 2017, effective December 2017. The Bankruptcy Rules also prescribe the use of Official Forms in bankruptcy cases.

Annotated Bankruptcy Rules and Forms:

Unannotated Rules and Forms 


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