We all are familiar with the more renowned articles and amendments of the US Constitution, such as Article Six that establishes the powers of federal government and the first ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights including the right to life, liberty and property. These articles and amendments to the US Constitution provide the foundation of our legal system and democracy, and are the topics of many students’ favorite (and most challenging) classes in law school.
The Constitution also contains some lesser known but equally important rights for
US citizens, including the right to bankruptcy protection. Specifically, Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to establish uniform laws on bankruptcy amongst its many powers. While Congress has used this power to enact bankruptcy laws since 1800, bankruptcy as we understand it today has really only been around since the comprehensive Bankruptcy Code was enacted in 1978 and most recently revised in 2005 with the infamous Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (“BAPCPA”).
The authors of the Constitution were visionaries in creating a foundational document that aimed to achieve a civil society free of the political and social dilemmas that ailed many Europeans of that time. Undoubtedly, the bankruptcy laws conferred by the Constitution were in response to the notorious debtors’ prisons of Great Britain and Medieval Europe, where debtors were confined to single cells packed with all levels of other criminals often for years on end until their families could afford the pay the debt. Rather, the drafters of the Constitution envisioned a society where citizens could seek relief instead of criminal penalties for unpaid debts, and where families were offered a permanent way out of debt. That intention for debt relief as a constitutional right is why bankruptcy is often referred to a “fresh start”.
Wartchow Law Office provides free bankruptcy consultations to discuss options in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 consumer bankruptcy as well as non-bankruptcy debt relief alternatives.