§ 5-1.1    Introduction to 5th Edition
Revised:  May 30, 2014
Cite as:
Keith M. Lundin, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, 5th Edition, § 5-1.1, at ¶ ____,
Sec. Rev. May 30, 2014, www.Ch13online.com.

¶1There is good news and bad news about Chapter 13 as this 5th Edition unfolds at ch13online.com. In spite of the destructive and misguided changes to Chapter 13 worked by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA),1 enlightened consumer bankruptcy attorneys continue to file between 350,000 and 450,000 Chapter 13 cases each year—somewhere between 25 percent and 30 percent of all consumer bankruptcy cases.

¶2But Chapter 13 is stuck at those numbers and there is no geographic uniformity—people in need of debt relief easily access Chapter 13 in some jurisdictions and hardly at all in others. In some districts, Chapter 13 consistently accounts for 70 percent or more of consumer filings.2 In others, Chapter 13 fails to eke out even 10 percent of filings.3 This patchwork of feast and famine has persisted for decades. Smart people have sliced and diced the data without much success to find the cause(s) of the stunted and nonuniform growth of Chapter 13.4 The strength of “local culture”5 and the resistance of that notion to both study and change probably account for the greatest portion of the bad news in Chapter 13 today.

¶3This 5th Edition spans two distinct periods of statutory change for Chapter 13. Between October of 1979 and October of 2005, the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 19786 defined the statutory framework for Chapter 13 practice. In cases filed on or after October 17, 2005, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 changed many key provisions of Chapter 13. Much but not all of the case law and secondary analysis of Chapter 13 prior to BAPCPA remains relevant. In a few respects, BAPCPA so changed Chapter 13—not always in comprehensible ways—that pre-BAPCPA decisions and analysis are of doubtful guidance.

¶4This 5th Edition knits together pre- and post-BAPCPA decisions and analysis when it makes sense to do so. Elsewhere, the pre-BAPCPA materials are retained for their historical significance with appropriate warnings about the continued vitality of the older precedents. In a third category of analysis, there are many places in this 5th Edition where pre- and post-BAPCPA materials intertwine in uncertain ways because we just don’t yet know how the statutory changes in 2005 will ultimately affect outcomes, or not.

¶5The destructive impact of BAPCPA on Chapter 13 in general can’t be overstated.7 The lobbyists and industry shills who drafted and sold BAPCPA to Congress in 2005 did not tell the truth. BAPCPA has profoundly injured the interests of debtors, creditors and the public. After more than half a decade, the data demonstrate the true effects of BAPCPA: higher costs for all who access bankruptcy, smaller distributions to creditors of all kinds; and no measurable impact on the fraud and dishonesty that supposedly pervaded the system before 2005.8 BAPCPA is a systemic failure. It can only be hoped that there will be another round of “bankruptcy reform” in our lifetimes to undo the mess BAPCPA made of a consumer bankruptcy system that was not broken.

¶6There are a few bright spots on the horizon. A talented and incredibly hardworking Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules, under the fine leadership of Eugene Wedoff, has been studying and revising Bankruptcy Rules and Forms to make the best that can be for consumer bankruptcy practitioners. This Advisory Committee has been unusually transparent and welcoming of ideas from the bankruptcy community. The Advisory Committee has recently produced changes to the filing and allowance of mortgage claims that have fundamentally improved the management of mortgages in Chapter 13 cases.9 At this writing, a national form for the Chapter 13 plan is out for public comment10 together with important changes to several Bankruptcy Rules that will (finally) coherently align the confirmation and claims allowance processes in Chapter 13 cases.11 Perhaps a standard form for the Chapter 13 plan will begin to reverse decades of destructive local culture that has strangled the development of Chapter 13 programs in too many jurisdictions.

¶7This 5th Edition of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is available only online and only here at ch13online.com. As before, every section is dated with its last revision and every section is accompanied by a Case Updater that contains citations and summaries of cases relevant to that section that have not yet been integrated into the text. Always check the Updater to be sure you are aware of the latest word from the courts with respect to any Chapter 13 topic.

¶8As always, your comments and suggestions are essential to what we do here at ch13online.com. Please let us hear from you at Comments@ch13online.com.

1 Pub. L. No. 109-8, 119 Stat. 23 (2005).   [ Back ]

2 See, e.g., W.D. Tenn., M.D. Ala. and S.D. Ga. at http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics/bankruptcystatistics.aspx.   [ Back ]

3 See, e.g., N.D. Iowa, D. Idaho, and E.D. Okla. at http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics/bankruptcystatistics.aspx.   [ Back ]

4 See, e.g., Sullivan, Warren & Westbrook, As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America (1989).   [ Back ]

5 See Sullivan, Warren & Westbrook, The Persistence of Local Legal Culture: Twenty Years of Evidence from the Federal Bankruptcy Courts, 17 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 801 (1994).   [ Back ]

6 Pub. L. No. 95-598, 92 Stat. 2549 (1978).   [ Back ]

7 See §§ 5-3.1 and 5-5.1 to 5-5.12.   [ Back ]

8 Lois R. Lupica, Am. Bankr. Inst., The Consumer Bankruptcy Creditor Distribution Study Final Report (2013).   [ Back ]

9 See § 507.2.   [ Back ]

11 See § 233.1 for discussion of the problems created by the misalignment of confirmation and the claims allowance process in Chapter 13 cases.   [ Back ]

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