Patterson v. Shumate

LOCATION:Circuit Court of Vermilion County

DOCKET NO.: 91-913
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 504 US 753 (1992)
ARGUED: Apr 20, 1992
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1992

Christopher J. Wright – on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Respondent
G. Steven Agee – on behalf of the Petitioner
Kevin R. Huennekens – on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Patterson v. Shumate

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 20, 1992 in Patterson v. Shumate

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 15, 1992 in Patterson v. Shumate

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 91-913, Patterson against Shumate will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This case comes to us from the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The respondent, Shumate, was a participant in his employer’s pension plan.

It contained the antialienation provision that is required for a plan’s qualification under the 1974 statute we call ERISA.

The District Court rejected his contention that his interest in the plan should be excluded from his bankruptcy estate under a section of the Bankruptcy Code.

That provision excludes property that is subject to a restriction on transfer enforceable under “applicable non-bankruptcy law”.

The Trial Court held that the latter phrase embraced only state law.

The Court of Appeals reversed and ruled that the interest should be excluded from the bankruptcy estate.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we affirm that judgment by a unanimous vote.

The plain language of the Bankruptcy Code and ERISA establishes that an antialienation provision in a qualified pension plan constitutes a restriction on transfer enforceable under applicable non-bankruptcy law.

Justice Scalia, while joining the opinion of the Court, has filed a separate concurring statement.