Supreme Court rules in false arrest, bankruptcy cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in two cases Wednesday, including Wallace v. Kato [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court held that the two-year statute of limitations for a false arrest action under under 42 USC 1983 [text] begins accruing at the time of arrest. Andre Wallace was arrested without probable cause in 1994, convicted, and released from prison in 2002 after an Illinois court reversed the conviction. He subsequently filed a civil rights lawsuit against the police officers involved, but his case was dismissed because he did not file the lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations. Wallace argued that two-year period began accruing when he was released from prison, but the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that false arrest claims accrue at the time of arrest. The Supreme Court upheld this decision, holding "that the statute of limitations upon a §1983 claim seeking damages for a false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment, where the arrest is followed by criminal proceedings, begins to run at the time the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal process." Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Scalia, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Stevens and a dissent [text] from Justice Breyer.

In Marrama v. Citizens Bank of Massachusetts [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court ruled 5-4 that a debtor's right to convert a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to a case under Chapter 13 [texts] is not absolute. Marrama initially filed a bankruptcy petition under Chapter 7 but then attempted to convert his case to a Chapter 13 petition in order to preserve his interest in an $85,000 piece of property. Citizens Bank challenged the conversion, and the bankruptcy court refused to allow the conversion due to Marrama's bad faith. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision [PDF text] from the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, concluding "that the courts in this case correctly held that Marrama forfeited his right to proceed under Chapter 13." The Court wrote:

Nothing in the text of either §706 or §1307(c) (or the legislative history of either provision) limits the authority of the court to take appropriate action in response to fraudulent conduct by the atypical litigant who has demonstrated that he is not entitled to the relief available to the typical debtor. On the contrary, the broad authority granted to bankruptcy judges to take any action that is necessary or appropriate "to prevent an abuse of process" described in §105(a) of the Code, is surely adequate to authorize an immediate denial of a motion to convert filed under §706 in lieu of a conversion order that merely postpones the allowance of equivalent relief and may provide a debtor with an opportunity to take action prejudicial to creditors.
Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Stevens, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Alito.


 

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