OCTOBER TERM, 2003
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fourth circuit
No. 02-693. Argued November 10, 2003—Decided January 26, 2004
Before 1994, § 330(a) of the Bankruptcy Code authorized a court to "award to a trustee, to an examiner, to a professional person employed under section 327 . . . , or to the debtor's attorney" "(1) reasonable compensation for . . . services rendered by such trustee, examiner, professional person, or attorney . . . ." (Emphasis added to highlight text later deleted.) In 1994 Congress amended the Code with a reform Act. The Act altered § 330(a) by deleting "or to the debtor's attorney" from what was § 330(a) and is now § 330(a)(1). This change created an apparent legislative drafting error in the current section. The section is left with a missing "or" that infects its grammar. And its inclusion of "attorney" in what was § 330(a)(1) and is now § 330(a)(1)(A) defeats the neat parallelism that otherwise marks the relationship between current §§ 330(a)(1) ("trustee, . . . examiner, [or] professional person") and 330(a)(1)(A) ("trustee, examiner, professional person, or attorney"). In this case, petitioner filed an application with the Bankruptcy Court seeking attorney's fees under § 330(a)(1) for the time he spent working on behalf of a debtor in a Chapter 7 proceeding. The Government objected to the application. It argued that § 330(a) makes no provision for the estate to compensate an attorney who is not employed by the estate trustee and approved by the court under § 327. Petitioner admitted he was not employed by the trustee and approved by the court under § 327, but nonetheless contended § 330(a) authorized a fee award to him because he was a debtor's attorney. In denying petitioner's application, the Bankruptcy Court, District Court, and Fourth Circuit all held that in a Chapter 7 proceeding § 330(a)(1) does not authorize payment of attorney's fees unless the attorney has been appointed under § 327.
Held: Under the Code's plain language, § 330(a)(1) does not authorize compensation awards to debtors' attorneys from estate funds, unless they are employed as authorized by § 327. If the attorney is to be paid from estate funds under § 330(a)(1) in a Chapter 7 case, he must be employed by the trustee and approved by the court. Pp. 533-542. (a) Petitioner argues that this Court must look to legislative history to determine Congress' intent because the existing statutory text isPage: Index 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Next
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