Elizabeth Warren’s new bankruptcy plan aims to stop police officers from using bankruptcy as a “loophole” to protect against civil rights claims.
The Democratic presidential candidate wrote in the plan released this week that “police brutality and the shooting of unarmed black children and adults in particular remain serious problems in our country” and therefore it’s “unacceptable” if police officers use bankruptcy to avoid paying money damages for civil rights violations they commit.
Accordingly, her broader plan to overhaul bankruptcy laws, which also revives a long-running dispute with rival Joe Biden over a 2005 reform bill, includes specific provisions aimed at those situations.
“Amending the law would make clear that a police officer cannot use bankruptcy to shed responsibility for violating someone’s civil rights,” said Melissa Jacoby, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill whose study on bankruptcy Warren cites in her plan.
As an example of the kind of problem the reform would be meant to address, Jacoby cited a 2016 incident in Cleveland in which the city allegedly encouraged officers to file for bankruptcy to avoid paying wrongful death judgments. Jacoby said that there has been no comprehensive study of the loophole being used by police officers but that it has occurred in multiple cities over a number of years.
San Bernardino is another city that has tried using bankruptcy to avoid paying millions of dollars in personal injury and bodily injury claims against the city and its employees, primarily police officers. In 2009, a 21-year-old mentally ill man was wrestled to the ground and tasered. His mother sued and won $686,000 from San Bernardino in 2012, but because the city filed for bankruptcy, it will likely only pay 1% of that amount.
Detroit, also, could have had to pay millions of dollars in lawsuits alleging police abuse but was protected by filing for bankruptcy in 2013.
Another part of Warren’s plan would eliminate some of the protections for local government fines for what her plan calls “truly minor offenses” that disproportionately affect black and low-income communities.
It’s not clear how many people would be affected by Warren’s plan, but the Massachusetts senator and others said it’s the principle of correcting a racial injustice that matters, regardless of how many people are affected.
“Even just one person using bankruptcy to get out of their responsibilities is one person too many,” said Jacoby.
Published at Fri, 10 Jan 2020 00:50:00 +0000