Ropes & Gray Team Secures Unanimous Victory in Key Bankruptcy Case before the U.S. Supreme Court
In a unanimous opinion issued by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 5, a Ropes & Gray appellate litigation and business restructuring team secured a victory that will have significant implications for debtor/creditor negotiations regarding plans in bankruptcy cases.
The opinion in Bullard v. Blue Hills Bank, authored by Chief Justice Roberts in favor of Ropes & Gray client Blue Hills Bank (formerly Hyde Park Savings Bank), held that a bankruptcy court’s order denying confirmation of a debtor’s proposed repayment plan, with leave to file an amended plan, is not a final order that can be immediately appealed.
The unanimous court largely adopted Ropes & Gray’s argument that the relevant proceeding for analyzing finality and appealability is the entire plan confirmation process, not each individual plan or contested matter, and that only confirmation of a plan or dismissal of the case for lack of a confirmable plan alters the status quo and fixes the parties’ rights and obligations. The Court rejected the arguments raised by the debtor, the Solicitor General’s Office, and amicus curiae for immediate appellate review whenever the bankruptcy court declines to confirm a particular proposed plan, but permits the plan confirmation process to continue.
The ruling will have significant implications for debtor/creditor negotiations. Under the debtor's proposed rule, debtors could have prolonged the confirmation process, and the length of the automatic stay, by taking lengthy appeals, or even multiple appeals, from plan denials, thus forcing creditors to accept less favorable terms in order to bring the confirmation process and automatic stay to conclusion.
Ropes & Gray appellate & Supreme Court litigation partner Douglas Hallward-Driemeier argued for Blue Hills Bank before the Court on April 1. In addition, the Ropes & Gray team included business restructuring partner Ross Martin, government enforcement associate Jonathan Ference-Burke, and business & securities litigation associate Erin Macgowan.
Separately, on April 28, Mr. Hallward-Driemeier argued a pivotal marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges before the U.S. Supreme Court. Read more to learn more about the case.