In published opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reverses judgment of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel and raises concerns over the County’s actions
Santa Ana, CA – The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded on August 10, 2016 that a mother’s debt to Orange County arising from her son’s involuntary juvenile detention is not a “domestic support obligation” and thus excepted from discharge in bankruptcy. Brett H. Ramsaur and Todd E. Lundell of Snell & Wilmer briefed and argued on Ms. Rivera’s behalf in front of the Court of Appeals after Caroline Djang of Rutan & Tucker briefed the trial court case. PLC’s Leigh Ferrin and EmmaElizabeth Gonzalez served as co-counsel throughout the case, including briefing and arguing before the trial court and the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel.
“This is huge win for not only our client but countless ‘honest but unfortunate’ debtors in Orange County and throughout the Ninth Circuit,” said Ferrin, Directing Attorney of PLC’s Consumer Law Unit.
In the published opinion, the panel reversed the judgment of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, which had affirmed the bankruptcy court’s denial of Ms. Rivera’s motion to sanction Orange County for persisting post-discharge in its efforts to collect the debt. Upon her son’s release from detention, the County sent Ms. Rivera a bill for $16,372. Ms. Rivera sold her house to pay for $9,508 of the bill, and her ex-husband paid the bill down further.
Ms. Rivera, who had to quit her job to take care of her ill son, filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy case and received her discharge. Nevertheless, the County continued to hound Ms. Rivera with collection-agent type tactics. The panel noted that “in relentlessly pursuing