Researching Bankruptcy Law
Bankruptcy law is governed primarily by federal statute, however, state statutes also play a role. Depending on the specific problem you are trying to research, you will probably need to research both federal and Maryland law.
The United States Bankruptcy Code is found in Title 11 of the United States Code, and is divided into eight parts:
- Chapter 1: General Provisions, Definitions, and Rules of Construction - U.S. Code, Title 11 §§ 101-110
- Chapter 3: Case Administration - U.S. Code, Title 11 §§ 301-366
- Chapter 5: Creditors, Debtors, and the Estate - U.S. Code, Title 11 §§ 501-560
- Chapter 7: Liquidation - U.S. Code, Title 11 §§ 701-784
- Chapter 9: Adjustment of the Debts of a Municipality - U.S. Code, Title 11 §§ 901-946
- Chapter 11: Reorganization [of the debts of a corporation] - U.S. Code, Title 11 §§ 1101-1174
- Chapter 12: Adjustment of the Debts of a Family Farmer with Regular Annual Income - U.S. Code, Title 11 §§ 1201-1231
- Chapter 13: Adjustment of the Debts of an Individual with Regular Income - U.S. Code, Title 11 §§ 1301-1330
The official source of the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR, Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries also carry the unofficial versions, the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. You should research the federal statutes in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code first because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. Also, unlike the version linked above, the unofficial versions include case summaries that interpret each statute.
In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides a link to a free database of Maryland's statutes maintained by the General Assembly. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides case summaries and citations that interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Citations to selected Maryland bankruptcy-related statutes:
- Md. Code Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article § 11-504 (Maryland Bankruptcy Exemptions)
- Md. Code Commercial Law Article, Title 15: Debt Collection - Special Provisions
Court Rules & Forms
- Local Rules of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland
- Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure
- Official Bankruptcy Forms [from the U.S. Courts Home page]
Resources for Additional Help
The resources below may help you understand bankruptcy law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
- The New Bankruptcy: Will It Work for You? / Stephen Elias. 4th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2011.
- How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy / Stephen R. Elias, Albin Renauer, Robin Leonard, & Kathleen Michon. 16th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2009.
- Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Repay Your Debts / Robin Leonard. 10th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2010.
- Gordon on Chapter 7 / Alexander Gordon, IV. 2nd ed. Baltimore, Md. : Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers, 1999.
There are several ways to begin researching bankruptcy case law.
One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation is to search in the United States Code Annotated, the United States Code Service, the Annotated Code of Maryland then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite.
Another method of finding cases is to search in the Federal Practice Digest, which is a subject index to federal case law, or search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law. Many, but not all, law libraries also carry a specialized Bankruptcy Digest that summarizes only cases about bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Digest would probably be the most helpful digest if you have access to a library that carries it. The Digests arrange summaries of published cases by legal issue using the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination for your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you should find a list of summaries of cases that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.