Events Calendar

February 22, 2024
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TNH 2.111 (Sheffield-Massey Room)

Bartenwerfer v. Buckley and Coerced Debt

In Bartenwerfer v. Buckley, the Supreme Court held that Mrs. Kate Bartenwerfer could be denied the discharge of a debt under Section 523(a)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code on the basis of fraud that her partner and husband, Mr. David Bartenwerfer, committed in selling a house that he remodeled and both spouses owned. Partnership was key to the decision; the Court embraced a Nineteenth Century precedent holding that the fraud of one partner prevented an innocent partner from discharging the debt. And the concurrence explicitly stated that the decision is limited to partners, defined using principals of agency law. Because the Bartenwerfers were both martial and business partners, a key question is which type of partnership is relevant. Fortunately for debtors with liabilities created by domestic violence, the Supreme Court characterized the Bartenwerfers as “business partners,” and caselaw under the precedent Bartenwerfer embraced largely limits partnership-imputed denials of discharge to business partnerships. Thus, much coerced debt – debt created by an abusive partner using fraud or coercion – should not be subject to denial of discharge under Bartenwerfer, because most coerced debt appears to be consumer debt. Unfortunately, in both the case law and our data, marital and business debt are not mutually exclusive. This manuscript uses data from the first in-depth study of coerced debt to argue that bankruptcy is an important avenue for relief from coerced debt, and that while Bartenwerfer is unlikely to broadly limit the discharge of coerced debt, it still may have negative effects on a narrower band of cases.

Faculty Colloquia Series:
  • Angie Litwin
    Professor, Texas Law
Specific audiences:
  • Faculty

If you need an accommodation to participate in this event, please contact the sponsor listed above or the Texas Law Special Events Office at no later than seven business days prior to the event.