Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Kagan writes her 1st court opinion

First-term justices are rarely given important cases, and that's true for her initial effort: a bankruptcy dispute.

January 12, 2011|David G. Savage

WASHINGTON — Justice Elena Kagan on Tuesday handed down her first opinion for the Supreme Court, but it isn't one likely to be remembered by history.

New justices rarely are given important cases in their first term, and Kagan's initial effort proved to be no exception. The question was whether someone who is bankrupt could shield car payments from his creditors, even when he owned his car outright and had no actual payments.

Kagan wrote that he could not. The decision amounted to a win for credit card companies and a loss for Jason Ransom, who wanted to shield $471 per month from his creditors because this was the amount set by the Internal Revenue Service as a typical car payment.

"Ransom may not deduct loan or lease expenses when he does not have any," Kagan said. The bankruptcy reform act of 2005 was to "help ensure that debtors who can pay creditors do pay them," she added.

A new justice's first opinion often speaks for a unanimous court, but Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from Kagan's opinion over the word "applicable" in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. He said "applicable" expenses did not mean "actual expenses," but referred to the IRS table of typical expenses.

In a second decision, the court ruled unanimously that medical residents are more like workers than students and therefore must pay Social Security taxes on their earnings, which average about $50,000 a year.

david.savage@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|