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Bankruptcy Law

An overview of Bankruptcy Law resources available through the UNC Law Library

U.S. Code

Bankruptcy Code

Bankruptcy law is largely governed by the Bankruptcy Code, which can be found in Title 11 of the United States Code. Title 11 is divided into chapters outlined as follows:

  • Chapter 1—General Provisions (§§ 101–112)
  • Chapter 3—Case Administration (§§ 301–366)
  • Chapter 5—Creditors, the Debtor, and the Estate (§§ 501–562)
  • Chapter 7—Liquidation (§§ 701–784)
  • Chapter 9—Adjustment of Debts of a Municipality (§§ 901–946)
  • Chapter 11—Reorganization (§§ 1101–1174)
  • Chapter 12—Adjustment of Debts of a Family Farmer or Fisherman with Regular Annual Income (§§ 1201–1231)
  • Chapter 13—Adjustment of Debts of an Individual with Regular Income (§§ 1301–1330)
  • Chapter 15—Ancillary and Other Cross-Border Cases (§§ 1501–1532)

 Note: Dollar amounts in the Bankruptcy Code are indexed for inflation every three years. See 11 USC 104. The next update will be in April 2019.

Use the annotated versions of the United States Code available on Westlaw Edge (USCA) and Lexis+ (USCS) for research on the Bankruptcy Code. The annotated codes provide citing references to relevant cases, regulations, law review articles, and other secondary sources that explain specific sections of the code. It also allows you to view previous versions of code sections and legislative history materials.

Rules & Forms

Procedural Rules

The Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure govern the mechanics of bankruptcy proceedings -- the when, the where, and the how. The Bankruptcy Rules are available as an appendix to Title 11 in the United States Code, and annotated versions are available through Westlaw Edge and Lexis+. The Bankruptcy Rules are also available for free through the US Courts or through the Cornell Legal Information Institute.

Many of the treatises discussed on the Secondary Sources page of this Research Guide also include discussion of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. For example, the Bankruptcy Procedure Manual (available through Westlaw Edge) includes the full text of the Bankruptcy Rules with annotations and expansive discussion.

Bankruptcy Courts may have additional rules specific to the individual court. Remember to check local rules and standing orders on individual court websites. For example, the Local Rules for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina are available through the local court's website here.


Official bankruptcy forms are available through the US Courts website.

Just as with local rules, individual bankruptcy court websites should be checked for local forms.


Finding Bankruptcy Cases

Bankruptcy decisions can be handed down by many different federal courts. Most bankruptcy cases begin in the US Bankruptcy courts, but they can be appealed to the US District Courts, the US Courts of Appeals, and the US Supreme Court.

There are some specialized bankruptcy case reporters, like the Bankruptcy Law Reporter (CCH) available through Westlaw Edge. There are also collections of bankruptcy cases available on Westlaw Edge and Lexis+.

A good way to find relevant cases is by checking code or procedure annotations on Westlaw Edge or Lexis+ as discussed above.

You can also find cases by using the Key Number case indexing system on Westlaw Edge (Key Number 51 Bankruptcy) or the Headnotes case indexing system on Lexis+ (Browse - Topics - Bankruptcy).

Case Dockets

Case Dockets and Court Filings

The filings from a case (such as motions, hearings, and orders) are an excellent source of information when you are studying a particular case in detail or if you are studying an ongoing case. The case docket allows you to view the filings for a particular case. Bloomberg Law is an excellent source for online access to court records and dockets as it pulls information directly from PACER, the online docket access platform for Federal courts.

Note: In major Chapter 11 cases, commercial claims administrators are hired by the debtor company. These administrators provide websites for the cases which can include an easy was to access and search the docket. For example, search for cases on Prime Clerk and Epiq Search.

Historical Research

Historical Collections

The National Bankruptcy Archives is a special collection of materials relating to the history of debtor-creditor relations, bankruptcy, and the reorganization of debt. This collection includes an impressive collection of personal papers and organizational records, but also a selection of digital collections and records. For example, see the oral history of Judge Steven Rhodes, who presided over the Detroit bankruptcy case (video or transcript).

The National Bankruptcy Review Commission website provides a historical look at the issues discussed for the 1997 report, including an archive of meeting agendas.

Legislative Histories

Legislative history materials are incredibly valuable for tracking changes in the Bankruptcy Code and understanding the reasons for those changes. Compiled legislative histories are available online for many of the significant amendments to the Code. Legislative histories compile the documents produced throughout the process of a bill becoming a law, including bill versions, committee prints, floor debates, hearings, reports, and presidential signing statements.