14 Am. Bankr. Inst. L. Rev. 169 (2006)
Bankruptcy Repeat Filings

handle is hein.journals/abilr14 and id is 177 raw text is: BANKRUPTCY REPEAT FILINGS

JOHN GOLMANT AND TOM ULRICH*
ABSTRACT
Using statistics assembled from most of the 94 United States judicial districts, this
paper provides the first comprehensive examination of bankruptcy refiling rates. The
study employs two measures to quantify this phenomenon. The first, repeat filings, is
defined as the percentage of personal bankruptcy filings that result from a debtor filing
more than once. The second, repeat filers, is the percentage of debtors who have filed
more than once. A repeat filer is not necessarily an abusive filer, and this paper does
not examine abusive filers--debtors who take advantage of the bankruptcy system to
avoid paying their debts.
The study found that 16% of filings nationwide were repeat filings, and 8% of
filers were repeat filers. As one would expect, percentages varied from circuit to
circuit and district to district.' For example, in the Second Circuit, the percentage of
repeat filings was 12%, whereas in the Sixth Circuit, the percentage of repeat filings
was 19%. The variation among the judicial districts was even greater, with the District
of Utah and the Western District of Tennessee exhibiting the highest percentages (35
and 46%, respectively) and the District of Maine and the District of North Dakota
exhibiting the lowest (4% each) among those courts included in our study. The paper
discusses implications of district differences in the proportion of filings that are repeat
filings, and the degree to which filings by repeat filers in a district may influence a
district's statistics on per-capita bankruptcy filings.2
* John Golmant is a Statistician and Tom Ulrich is a Social Science Analyst for the Administrative Office of
the U.S. Courts.
In the context of the bankruptcy courts, a circuit is more of a geographical entity than a jurisdictional one in
that very little over-riding circuit-wide authority exists, i.e., the bankruptcy courts operate with autonomy
irrespective of the circuit they lie in. Most appeals of a bankruptcy cases go to district judges. A few circuits
have constructed bankruptcy appellate panels (BAP), which may also hear appeals. In addition, appeals from
both BAP and district judge rulings in bankruptcy cases may be further appealed to the circuit court of appeals.
28 U.S.C.  158(b), (c) (2000) (establishing appellate jurisdiction of the district courts of the United States,
including power of appeal for bankruptcy findings and power of appeal for bankruptcy appellate panels); see
John Foster, Bankruptcy on the Blackboard: A Collection of Graphic Illustrations Used in the Teaching of the
Bankruptcy Course at the University of North Dakota School of Law, 81 N.D. L. REV. 263, 272 (2005) (In a
federal jurisdiction which has created a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP), appeals from the Bankruptcy
Court are directed to the BAP, and if an appellant or appellee has grounds to disagree with the result at the
BAP, then the matter may be appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals).
2 This study was completed before the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005
(BAPCPA) was signed into law, April 20,2005. Hence, discussions of legal code may involve bankruptcy law
prior to the enactment date. Part of the BAPCPA places new limitations on refiling. Specifically, amendments to
section 727 and section 1328 of the Bankruptcy Code (sections which deal with discharge provisions for chapter
7 and chapter 13 petitions, respectively), affect the timing of when new petitions can be filed, and amendments to
section 362 affect the availability of the automatic stay. Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection

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