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An expectancy does not rise to the level of a "legal or equitable interest" in property such that it might be considered property of the estate under 11 U.S.C.S. § 541(a)(1).
Debtor fisherman filed for bankruptcy a year-and-a-half before the Secretary of Commerce promulgated regulations creating post-filing fishing quota rights based on the fisherman's pre-filing catch history. The bankruptcy judge ruled that in light of the ongoing federal activity to implement a sablefish management plan and the advanced stage in bringing that to fruition at the time the fisherman filed his bankruptcy petition - even though the plan had not yet been adopted - Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) and Quota Shares (QSs) were tied to the fisherman's prepetition qualifying rights from the 1988-1990 fishing seasons. The bankruptcy court accordingly granted partial summary judgment for the trustee, holding that the QS/IFQs were property of the bankruptcy estate and it revoked the fisherman's discharge.
Were the QS/IFQs the property of the bankruptcy estate?
On appeal, the court held that the quota rights were not property of the bankruptcy estate because the regulations did not exist at the time the debtor filed his petition; and although the quota rights were calculated on the basis of the debtor's pre-filing fishing history, they governed his post-filing right to fish. Accordingly, the decision of the bankruptcy appellate panel was reversed, and the case was remanded.