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Bankruptcy Law: Primary Sources

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Primary Sources
     Statutes
     Bankruptcy Court Rules
     Bankruptcy Court Decisions

Secondary Sources
     Treatises and Reference Works
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     Legislative History
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     Subscription Databases

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STATUTES

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. Today, bankruptcy is governed primarily by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, as amended, which is known as the Bankruptcy Code. 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 (U.S.C.). 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
Online
The U.S.C. can be accessed online through the following resources:
Print
The Law Library has the United States Code Service (USCS) published by LexisNexis and United States Code Annotated (USCA) published by West in print. These two annotated versions of the U.S. Code are also available online through subscription resources.
 

United States Code Service (USCS)

United States Code Annotated (USCA)

BANKRUPTCY COURT RULES

Bankruptcy cases are governed by the 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 December 2018. The Bankruptcy Rules also prescribe the use of Official Forms in bankruptcy cases.

The Bankruptcy Rules and Official Forms are available in print and online. In print, they can be found as part of the official and unofficial versions of the United States Code. The Bankruptcy Rules are located in an appendix to Title 11 in the official U.S.C., appearing after Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code.

The Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure are available in print in the law library.

  • USCA: located in the law core collection, in volumes following the Title 11 bankruptcy volumes.
  • USCS: located in the law core collection.  The bankruptcy rules are located within the Court Rules volumes towards the end of the set.

Bankruptcy court rules are also available online through both free and subscription resources:

Free Resources

Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (U.S. Courts)
The U.S. Courts website provides access to the current Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure.

Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (Cornell Legal Information Institute)
The Cornell Legal Information Institute website provides access to the current Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona
This webpage provides the Arizona Bankruptcy local rules.  The page includes links to all rules together as well as links to individual rules.‚Äč

Subscription Resources

Westlaw (Westlaw password required)

Lexis (Lexis password required)

BANKRUPTCY COURT DECISIONS

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.

Free Resources

United States Court Opinions (fdsys.gov)
The United States Courts Opinions (USCOURTS) collection is a project between the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) to provide public access to opinions from selected United States appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts. Coverage is from 2004 to present, with incomplete coverage from select jurisdictions beginning earlier. Opinions can be downloaded as PDF documents.

Justia U.S. Federal Courts Case Law
Justia provides access to case law from the Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, and special federal courts. Coverage varies by jurisdiction.

Google Scholar Federal Case Law Search
Google Scholar has Supreme Court cases from 1791-present and federal trial, appellate, tax, and bankruptcy cases since 1923.

PACER
PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy courts. Creating an account in PACER and viewing judicial opinions is free. Viewing other court documents costs $0.10/ a page, although users who incur less than $15 in charges per quarter are not billed.

Subscription Resources

Westlaw Bankruptcy Cases database (Westlaw Password required)
This Westlaw database allows searching of Bankruptcy Court opinions from 1789 to the present (Westlaw password required).

Lexis Bankruptcy Case Law database (Lexis password required)
All available cases from any Federal or state court pertaining to bankruptcy law. Coverage varies by court.

Bloomberg Law Bankruptcy Practice Center (Bloomberg Law password required)
This Bloomberg Law page allows searching of bankruptcy opinions from the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts, as well as bankruptcy appellate panel decisions.