Bankruptcy Court - A Definition

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Written by Jamie Lee Ruiz, Esq.  
Updated May 5, 2020


The bankruptcy court is a federal court that oversees all bankruptcy cases filed in the United States.

The bankruptcy court is a federal court that oversees all bankruptcy cases filed in the United States. But, let’s take a few steps back. Bankruptcy law is governed by a group of federal and state laws that are in compliance with the U.S. Constitution. The body of laws that govern bankruptcy are the Bankruptcy Code and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. The body of laws that govern any state law involving bankruptcy exemptions may vary from state to state. In New York, for example, the body of law governing bankruptcy issues is the New York Debtor and Creditor Law. In some instances, attorneys will need to refer to other bodies of law that relate to your bankruptcy such as foreclosure law, contract law, and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Since bankruptcy is governed by primarily federal law it makes sense that United States bankruptcy courts are located within the federal judicial circuit divided into District Courts. There is a bankruptcy court located within each of the federal judicial districts. There are 90 federal districts throughout the country. In some instances, there may be more than one district in your area. It is important to check which district is the appropriate district to file your bankruptcy case in. Bankruptcy Judges are appointed to preside over bankruptcy proceedings in the Bankruptcy Court and serve 14 year terms.

The District Court will hear cases that arise under federal law, appeals from lower courts, and lawsuits that meet the requirements to be brought in the United States District Court. So, while your bankruptcy case is being handled in one wing of the courthouse, a white-collar crime case may be heard in another wing, and an appeal from a lower court in the other, and so on and so forth. Appeals from this court are heard in the United States Court of Appeals. Appeals from the bankruptcy court are heard either by the District Court or the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel before reaching the Court of Appeals.

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