Harris v. Viegelahn

PETITIONER:Charles E. Harris, III
RESPONDENT:Mary K. Viegelahn
LOCATION: Western District Court of Texas

DOCKET NO.: 14-400
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 575 US (2015)
GRANTED: Dec 12, 2014
ARGUED: Apr 01, 2015
DECIDED: May 18, 2015

Craig Goldblatt – for the respondent
Matthew M. Madden – for the petitioner

Facts of the case

In February 2010, Charles Harris filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. The approved plan instructed Harris to make monthly payments to the trustee Mary Viegelahn for sixty months, as well as monthly payments directly to Chase, which held his mortgage. After the mortgage and secured creditors debts were paid off, the payments would go to Harris’ unsecured creditors. In October 2010, Chase moved to lift the automatic stay of Harris’ home for his failure to make the mortgage payments, and Harris moved out of his house when the stay was lifted in November 2010. At that point, Viegelahn held the portion of the monthly payments intended to go to Chase. After Harris voluntarily converted his bankruptcy case to Chapter 7, Viegelahn distributed those funds to Harris’ creditors. Harris sued for that money and argued that Viegelahn had no authority to disburse funds after conversion of the case. The bankruptcy court issued an order compelling the return of the funds and the district court affirmed. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and held that the undistributed payments that the Chapter 13 trustee holds at the time of the case’s conversion to Chapter 7 must be distributed to creditors pursuant to the Chapter 13 plan.


When a debtor in good faith converts a bankruptcy case from Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code to Chapter 7, are the undistributed funds held by the Chapter 13 trustee refunded to the debtor or distributed to the creditors?

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