It must have been a slow day in the bankruptcy courts of South Florida when Judge A. Jay Cristol took pen in hand to address the case of In re Love. The West headnote at the end is funny. But first, Judge Cristol’s take on Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting poem, The Raven, as applied to bankruptcy law:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
Over many quaint and curious files of chapter seven lore
While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door,
“Tis some debtor” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah distinctly I recall, it was in the early fall
And the file still was small
The Code provided I could use it
If someone tried to substantially abuse it
No party asked that it be heard.
“Sua sponte” whispered a small black bird.
The bird himself, my only maven, strongly looked to be a raven.
Upon the words the bird had uttered
I gazed at all the files cluttered
“Sua sponte,” I recall, had no meaning; none at all.
And the cluttered files sprawl, drove a thought into my brain.
Eagerly I wished the morrow—vainly I had sought to borrow
From BAFJA, surcease of sorrow—
and an order quick and plain
That this case would not remain
as a source of further pain.
The procedure, it seemed plain.
As the case grew older, I perceived I must be bolder.
And must sua sponte act, to determine every fact,
If primarily consumer debts, are faced,
Perhaps this case is wrongly placed.
This is a thought that I must face, perhaps
I should dismiss this case.
I moved sua sponte to dismiss it
for I knew I would not miss it
The Code said I could, I knew it.
But not exactly how to do it, or perhaps some day I’d rue it.
I leaped up and struck my gavel.
For the mystery to unravel
Could I? Should I? Sua sponte, grant my motion to dismiss? While it seemed the thing to do, suddenly I thought of this.
Looking, looking towards the future and to what there was to see
If my motion, it was granted and an appeal came to be,
Who would be the appellee?
Surely, it would not be me.
Who would file, but pray tell me,
a learned brief for the appellee
The District Judge would not do so
At least this much I do know.
Tell me raven, how to go.
As I with the ruling wrestled
In the statute I saw nestled
A presumption with a flavor clearly in the debtor’s favor.
No evidence had I taken
Sua sponte appeared foresaken.
Now my motion caused me terror
A dismissal would be error.
Upon consideration of § 707(b), in anguish, loud I cried
The court’s sua sponte motion to dismiss under 707(b) is denied.
Give credit to the headnote writers at West. The job must be pretty boring, but they never miss a chance to spice it up a bit. Here’s the West Reporter headnote for the case:
Sua sponte dismissal would be error,
Though authority in Code is there,
To eschew abuse of consumer debt,
As presumption for debtor must be met.
— In re Love, 61 B.R. 558, 558–559 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. 1986). Thanks to Professor Glenn E. Pasvogel.