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Supreme Court of the United States
December 7, 2016, Argued; March 22, 2017, Decided
[*454] Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.
Bankruptcy Code Chapter 11 allows debtors and their creditors to negotiate a plan for dividing an estate’s value. See 11 U.S.C. §§1123, 1129, 1141. But sometimes the parties cannot agree on a plan. If so, the bankruptcy court may decide to dismiss the case. §1112(b). The Code then ordinarily provides for what is, in effect, a restoration of the prepetition financial status quo. §349(b).
In the case before us, a Bankruptcy Court dismissed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But the court did not simply restore the prepetition status quo. Instead, the court ordered a distribution of estate assets that gave money to high-priority secured creditors and to low-priority general unsecured creditors but which skipped certain dissenting mid-priority creditors. The skipped creditors would have been [*455] entitled to payment [****7] ahead of the general unsecured creditors in a Chapter 11 plan (or in a Chapter 7 liquidation). See §§507, 725, 726, 1129. The question before us is whether a bankruptcy court has the legal power to order this priority-skipping kind of distribution scheme in connection with a Chapter 11 dismissal.
In our view, a bankruptcy court does not have such a power. A distribution scheme ordered in connection with the dismissal of a Chapter 11 case cannot, without the consent of the affected parties, deviate from the basic priority rules that apply under the primary mechanisms the Code establishes for final distributions of estate value in business bankruptcies.
We begin with a few fundamentals: A business may file for bankruptcy under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. In Chapter 7, a trustee liquidates the debtor’s assets and distributes them to creditors. See §701 et seq. In Chapter 11, debtor and creditors try to negotiate a plan that will govern the distribution of valuable assets from the debtor’s estate and often keep the business operating as a going concern. See, e.g., §§1121, 1123, 1129, 1141 (setting out the framework in which the parties negotiate).
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580 U.S. 451 *; 137 S. Ct. 973 **; 197 L. Ed. 2d 398 ***; 2017 U.S. LEXIS 2024 ****; 85 U.S.L.W. 4115; 41 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 1613; Bankr. L. Rep. (CCH) P83,082; 77 Collier Bankr. Cas. 2d (MB) 596; 63 Bankr. Ct. Dec. 242; 26 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 495
CASIMIR CZYZEWSKI, et al., Petitioners v. JEVIC HOLDING CORP., et al.
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors v. CIT Grp./Bus. Credit Inc. (In re Jevic Holding Corp.), 787 F.3d 173, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 8380 (3d Cir. Del., May 21, 2015)
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.
distributions, bankruptcy court, settlement, structured, lawsuit, unsecured creditor, liquidation, parties, fraudulent-conveyance, priority-violating, reorganization, confirmation, approve, restore, quo, prepetition, conditions, leveraged, transfers, buyout, courts, orders, secured creditor, skipped, low-priority
Bankruptcy Law, Bankruptcy, Conversion & Dismissal, Effects of Dismissal, Reorganizations, Effects of Conversion, Plans, Plan Confirmation, General Overview, Types of Claims, Secured Claims & Liens, Rights of Secured Creditors, Unsecured Priority Claims, Superpriority, Liquidations, Estate Property Distribution, Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Standing, Injury in Fact, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Elements, Prerequisites, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation