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Researching Bankruptcy Law

Introduction

Bankruptcy law is governed by primarily by federal statute, however, state statutes also play a role. Depending on the specific problem you are trying to research, you will probably need to research both federal and Maryland law.

Federal Statutes

The United States Bankruptcy Code is found in Title 11 of the United States Code, and is divided into eight parts:

The official source of the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR, Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries also carry one of the unofficial versions, the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. It is a good idea to do your federal statute research in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code, because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code, and because (unlike the version linked above) they include summaries of cases that interpret each statute.

Maryland Statutes

In Maryland, the official source of the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides a link to a free database of Maryland's statutes maintained by the General Assembly. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides summaries of and citations to cases that have interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.

Citations to selected Maryland bankruptcy-related statutes:

Court Rules & Forms

Resources for Additional Help

The resources below may help you to understand bankruptcy law. Keep in mind, however, that books that explain the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.

  • The New Bankruptcy: Will It Work for You? / Stephen Elias. 4th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2011.
  • How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy / Stephen R. Elias, Albin Renauer, Robin Leonard, & Kathleen Michon. 16th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2009.
  • Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Repay Your Debts / Robin Leonard. 10th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2010.
  • Gordon on Chapter 7 / Alexander Gordon, IV. 2nd ed. Baltimore, Md. : Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers, 1999.

Cases

There are several ways to begin research into bankruptcy case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the United States Code Annotated, the United States Code Service, the Annotated Code of Maryland then look at the case summaries that follow them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search or the Federal Practice Digest, which is a subject index to federal case law, or the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law. Many, but not all, law libraries also carry a specialized Bankruptcy Digest that summarizes only cases about bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Digest would probably be the most helpful digest if you have access to a library that carries it. The Digests arrange summaries of published cases by legal issue using something called the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination that represents your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you should find a list of summaries of cases that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.

Source: 
This section developed by Sara Kelley, Librarian, Georgetown University Law Library, updated by the staff of the State Law Library
Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2013.”