Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Nichols v. Birdsell (9th Cir. - May 9, 2007)

Here's how Judge Wallace begins his opinion in this case: "This case presents a new issue for our court: whether debtors’ pre-bankruptcy application of their right to tax refunds to post-bankruptcy tax obligations constitutes an asset that must be turned over to the bankruptcy trustee pursuant to the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. § 542."

Zzzzzzzzz. Boring. That ain't gonna encourage many non-bankruptcy people to read much further.

Here's how I'd have begun the thing: "This case presents a new issue for our court: whether a debtor who is entitled to a tax refund of thousands of dollars can instead leave that money with the IRS, file for bankruptcy seven days later, and then say 'Ha, ha. Gotcha. You can't touch that money or use it to pay off my debts. And I still get to use it to pay my future taxes. There's nothing you can do about it.' But, contrary to the debtor's apparent belief, we're not that stupid, nor is the circumvention of bankruptcy laws so facile. Debtors lose."

Upon reflection, if I were writing the thing, perhaps that'd not only be the start, but the whole opinion.