A law firm sought $130,000 in fees for representing a bankruptcy debtor; the bankruptcy court awarded $20,000, noting the firm’s lack of success in delivering a measurable benefit to the estate. While a Fifth Circuit panel affirmed, citing the test in In re: Pro-Snax Distributors, Inc., 157 F.3d 414 (5th Cir. 1998), all three judges called for en banc reconsideration of that opinion. That request was granted unanimously in Barron & Newburger, P.C. v. Texas Skyline, Ltd., which recognized that the “retrospective, ‘material benefit’ standard enunciated in Pro–Snax conflicts with the language and legislative history of § 330, diverges from the decisions of other circuits, and has sown confusion in our circuit.” Accordingly, the full Court overturned Pro–Snax’s attorney’s-fee rule to “adopt the prospective, ‘reasonably likely to benefit the estate’ standard endorsed by our sister circuits.” While the division of some en banc votes can offer insight on subtle aspects of judges’ philosophies, this unanimous decision shows that sometimes, the full court will simply fix what it regards as an earlier mistake, if that mistake has sufficiently far-reaching consequences within the Circuit.
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