Attorneys fee award about “malicious” claims not dischargeable in bankruptcy

In Shcolnik v. Rapid Settlements, bankruptcy creditors had obtained a $50,000 arbitration award of attorneys fees against the debtor, and appealed a summary judgment that the award was dischargeable.  No. 10-20800 (Feb. 8, 2012).  The Fifth Circuit reversed, finding an issue of fact as to whether the fee award arose from “willful and malicious injury by the debtor” in pursuing meritless claims, and was thus nondischargeable.  Op. at 5-6 (citing 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6)).  (The debtor’s threats included a “massive series of legal attacks . . . which will likely leave you disbarred, broke, professionally disgraced, and rotting in a prison cell.”  A thoughtful dissent questioned whether the majority’s ruling would deter legitimate litigation demands, and whether the Court was inserting itself into matters resolved by the arbitrator.  Op. at 9.

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