Oral argument: Dec. 1, 2009
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (Sept. 4, 2008)
BANKRUPTCY, FIRST AMENDMENT, FREEDOM OF SPEECH, DUE PROCESS
This case concerns the application and constitutionality of three Bankruptcy Code provisions applicable to debt relief agencies: 11 U.S.C. §§ 526(a), 528(a)(4), and 528(b)(2)(B). Minnesota law firm Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, P.A. claims exemption from the provisions, arguing that an attorney is not a “debt relief agency.” Furthermore, it claims that 11 U.S.C. § 526(a), which prevents a “debt relief agency” from counseling a client to incur additional debt in contemplation of bankruptcy, is an unconstitutionally overbroad restriction of free speech. Finally, Milavetz argues that 11 U.S.C. §§ 528(a)(4) and 528(b)(2)(B), which require a “debt relief agency” to make certain disclosures in their advertisements, violate the First Amendment. The United States argues that the statutes apply to attorneys and that they are reasonable and specific restrictions on speech. This case’s outcome will potentially affect bankruptcy laws, disclosure laws, and the legal advice that a lawyer may provide a client.