In Law v. Siegel, a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in March, the Court unanimously ruled that the bankruptcy court exceeded its authority when it surcharged the debtor’s homestead exemption to pay the Chapter 7 Trustee’s attorney fees, despite the debtor’s misconduct.
The case involved Stephen Law, a consumer debtor who filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in California. Law's only significant asset was his house, worth approximately $360,000. Law exempted $75,000 of the home equity under the state homestead exemption. Law further claimed that there was no additional equity in the house because it was subject to two mortgages totaling up to more than $300,000 — more than the nonexempt value of the house. The first mortgage was real. The second mortgage, allegedly in favor of "Lin's Mortgage & Associates,” was fake. Law was perpetrating a fraud. Alfred Siegel, the Chapter 7 Trustee, uncovered the mortgage scam. Unfortunately, in the process, the trustee incurred approximately $500,000 in legal fees. Read More ›
Tags: Chapter 7, U.S. Supreme Court