Oral argument: Dec. 1, 2009
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Dec. 10, 2008)
BANKRUPTCY, STUDENT LOANS, CHAPTER 13, DISCHARGE, RES JUDICATA, DUE PROCESS
Francisco J. Espinosa filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and proposed in his Chapter 13 reorganization plan that he would repay $13,250 in student loans to United Student Aid Funds (“Funds”). Although Funds claimed they were owed an additional $4,582.15, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona confirmed Espinosa's plan as proposed, and Funds did not object to the confirmed plan. Espinosa repaid all debts according to the Chapter 13 plan. Funds subsequently began to intercept Espinosa's income tax refunds, claiming that Espinosa had improperly discharged his student loans, because Espinosa had not initiated a statutorily required adversary proceeding to determine whether repayment of the student loans would constitute an "undue hardship." While the U.S. District Court of Arizona held that Espinosa had violated Funds' due process interests by failing to initiate an adversary proceeding and serve a complaint and summons upon Funds according to the statutory procedure, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, and Funds now appeals. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will determine how student loans and other debts are collected in bankruptcy and will affect the overall relationship between debtors and creditors in America.