Netzer v. Office of Lawyer Regulation, No. 16-3713 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Netzer, a debtor in bankruptcy, asked the court to discharge a $9,200 debt to Wisconsin’s Office of Lawyer Regulation, imposed as costs in a disciplinary proceeding. The bankruptcy court concluded that the debt is a “fine, penalty, or forfeiture” under 11 U.S.C. 2 and not dischargeable. Netzer had 14 days to appeal, but 41 days later he asked the district judge to excuse his tardiness, contending that until a few days earlier he had not known of the bankruptcy court’s decision. The district court dismissed the appeal as untimely, reasoning that the 14-day period is jurisdictional and that there cannot be equitable exceptions to jurisdictional rules. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that whether or not a given rule is “jurisdictional” it is still a rule and must be enforced. Courts lack an “equitable” power to contradict the bankruptcy statutes and rules. Litigants need only check the court’s electronic docket once a month in order to protect their interests.