Puerto Rico is a “State” under U.S. Bankruptcy Law: Foreshadowing Bankruptcy-Type Relief for Other “States”?

By Donald L. Swanson "We must decide whether Puerto Rico is a “State” for purposes of this [bankruptcy] pre-emption provision. We hold that it is." --Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Franklin California Tax-Free Trust, U.S. Supreme Court Case No. 15-233 (Decided June 13, 2016). The Bankruptcy Code definition of "State" is contained in Sec. 101(52) and... Continue Reading →

Omission of Mediators and Other “Masters” from Federal Bankruptcy Rules is the Result of Haste and Error?!

By: Donald L. Swanson Mediators and Other Special Masters in District Courts -- Rule 53 “Special Masters” can be appointed by U.S. District Courts to handle special circumstances, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 53. One type of special master under Rule 53 is a “Settlement Master” (aka “Mediator”). Special masters are used by District Courts, typically, in large... Continue Reading →

What’s With Puerto Rico and Its Relationship to the USA?

By Donald L. Swanson Have you ever wondered about the nature and history of Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States of America? After all, it’s located 1,600 miles beyond Miami and is separated from the U.S. mainland by the likes of Cuba, Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti and Dominican Republic. So . .... Continue Reading →

Harsh & Public Punishments for Bankruptcy Crimes are Still in Fashion

  By: Donald L Swanson “And yet, despite the failure of the English experiment with harsh penalties, the desire to punish debtors has remained a part of the culture of bankruptcy to this day.” From Prof. Emily Kadens in “The Last Bankrupt Hanged.” The latest installment of harsh and publicly-visible punishments for bankruptcy crimes involves a... Continue Reading →

“Public Rights” Doctrine for Bankruptcy Court Jurisdiction, While Always Tenuous, Is Now Dead and Buried

By Donald L. Swanson "Public rights" doctrine enters the bankruptcy scene thirty five years ago in the four-Justice plurality opinion of Northern Pipeline v. Marathon Pipe Line, 458 U.S. 50 (1982). Three Justices in that case write an vigorous dissent to such a use of public rights doctrine, while two other Justices concur with the... Continue Reading →

The Story of “The Last Bankrupt Hanged”

  “Hanging was a spectator sport in eighteenth-century England, and . . . the usual crowd turned out to watch [John Perrott] swing.  They came to see off not a murderer, rapist, or highwayman, but rather a bankrupt.” E. Kadens, “The Last Bankrupt Hanged: Balancing Incentives in the Development of Bankruptcy Law,” 59 Duke L.J.... Continue Reading →

Why Bankruptcy Judges Have a 14-Year Term, Instead of Life Tenure (From Justice White in Northern Pipeline v. Marathon)

By Donald L. Swanson Have you ever wondered why Congress, when it adopted the Bankruptcy Code in 1978, limited the term of service for bankruptcy judges to fourteen years? --This term limitation, established in 28 U.S.C. Sec. 157(a)(1), assures that bankruptcy judges are serving as Article I judges under the U.S. Constitution. Life tenure would... Continue Reading →

Justice Gorsuch’s First Supreme Court Dissent is Scaliaesque on Statute Construction but Non-Scalia on Public Rights Doctrine (Perry v. Merit Systems)

By Donald L. Swanson On June 23, 2017, Neil Gorsuch issues his first dissenting opinion as a Supreme Court Justice. The case is Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board (Supreme Court Case No. 16-399). It's about statutory procedures for litigating Federal employee claims.  The dissent by Justice Gorsuch illuminates a comparison of ideas with those... Continue Reading →

A Unified Theory of Bankruptcy Court Jurisdiction: Wellness International v. Sharif

By Donald L. Swanson Federal courts in the U.S. bankruptcy system have been struggling for decades with the extent and limits of bankruptcy court jurisdiction under the U.S. Constitution. The difficulty begins with Articles I and III of the U.S. Constitution: --Article I, Section 8, says: “The Congress shall have power to . . .... Continue Reading →

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