United States v. Nordic Village, Inc.

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Nordic Village, Inc.
LOCATION: Residence of Rose Cipollone

DOCKET NO.: 90-1629
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 503 US 30 (1992)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1991
DECIDED: Feb 25, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Marvin A. Sicherman - on behalf of the Respondent
Richard H. Seamon - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Nordic Village, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1991 in United States v. Nordic Village, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 25, 1992 in United States v. Nordic Village, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-1629, United States against Nordic Village will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

This case is here on petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

It is yet another bankruptcy case presenting the question whether Section 106(c) of the Bankruptcy Code waives the sovereign immunity of the United States in an action seeking monetary recovery in bankruptcy.

Soon after the respondent Nordic Village, Inc. filed a petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, one of its officers withdrew funds from the company's corporate account.

He set a portion of the money to the Internal Revenue Service directing it to apply the funds against his individual tax liability.

The IRS did so.

In a subsequent adversary proceeding, the Bankruptcy Court permitted the trustee for Nordic Village to recover the transfer and entered a monetary judgment against the IRS.

The District Court affirmed as did the Court of Appeals which rejected a jurisdictional defense that sovereign immunity barred the judgment.

We reverse.

Subsection 106(c) of the Bankruptcy Code does not unequivocally waive the United States sovereign immunity from an action seeking monetary recovery.

In contrast to Subsections 106(a) and (b) which plainly waive immunity with regard to monetary relief as to specify types of claims, Subsection 106(c) is susceptible of at least two plausible interpretations that do not authorize monetary relief.

Contrary to respondent's suggestion, legislative history has no bearing on this point.

The unequivocal expression of waiver that we require must be an expression in the statutory text.

Respondent's alternative grounds for affirming the judgment also are unpersuasive.

Neither the broad jurisdictional grant of 28 U.S.C. Section 1334(d), the Bankruptcy Courts in rem jurisdiction, nor trust law principles supply the necessary waiver.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Blackmun has joined.