Those words are from Justice Sotomayor’s opinion in the recent decision by the Supreme Court in Wellness International Network, Ltd. v. Sharif, which decision has generated significant press coverage (and blog postings) among bankruptcy practitioners across the country. This author certainly doesn’t intend to add to the noise out there by reciting the facts and procedural history of the case yet again. Rather, I’d like to make certain observations of the 6-3 decision that may provide some insight into how this decision will affect the adjudication of “Stern claims” going forward.
First, the Supreme Court’s decision is a big win for bankruptcy courts and those who champion the power of the 349 judges who currently sit on our bankruptcy courts. The majority opinion appears to have resolved the debate over whether individual parties to a litigation of a “Stern-claim” could waive their rights to adjudicate such claims before an Article III judge. The Supreme Court concluded that “allowing bankruptcy litigants to waive the right to Article III adjudication of Stern claims does not usurp the constitutional prerogatives of Article III courts.”