What Is a Bankruptcy Case?


This is a simple, three-paragraph online "document" that provides a concise explanation of bankruptcy and bankruptcy courts.  As the opening sentences explain: "A bankruptcy case is a special kind of civil case involving companies or people who can no longer pay their debts. Congress has established special federal courts, called bankruptcy courts, to help decide these cases. Bankruptcy gives these debtors certain protections and sets out steps they must follow to repay creditors."

The page hotlinks to other resources of the Federal Judicial Center (FJC) on the left-hand column, and also includes helpful embedded links to glossary terms within the three paragraphs of text. 


How do you use it?

Although this basic resource doesn't have bells and whistles, its clarity is a boon for the teacher.  Routine bankruptcies (or even famous bankruptcy cases) don't have the pizzazz that criminal cases and famous regular civil cases have, even if the Playboy Bunny case that has recently spiced up jurisdictional debates is included. 

This summary material could be provided to students by a judge as a hard-copy handout, provided in advance of a judge's presentation via the URL link, or adapted by a judge or teacher for use in a PowerPoint or other kind of presentation.  The material could be used as the introductory piece for an in-depth segment on bankruptcy or it could become part of a broad overview of the federal courts.    

The page itself is actually part of an online slideshow (accessed via the forward/back buttons at the bottom of the page).  Clicking through the slideshow gives viewers an overview of the federal court structure and so this page would be a solid component of a more general lecture about the courts.

Judges and other teachers relying on the bankruptcy summary page for a presentation to students would need to come up with their own discussion questions or other kind of engaging activity.  

Who is the audience?

This resource is best used to teach middle school and older students the basic definition of a bankruptcy case.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. Bankruptcy Basics  Website/documents from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H, A) 
  2. How Bankruptcy Cases Move through Federal Courts   Websites/documents from the Federal Judicial Center (H, A) 
  3. Quiz #6:  Bankruptcy  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)

Additional Recommended Resources
 Off-Site Links
  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.