Albert-Sheridan v. State Bar of California, No. 19-60023 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
After the State Bar of California suspended one of its members for misconduct, it conditioned her reinstatement of the payment of court-ordered discovery sanctions and costs associated with its disciplinary proceedings. The suspended attorney sought to discharge the payment in bankruptcy.
The Ninth Circuit held that, while a debtor may not discharge the costs of the State Bar's attorney disciplinary proceedings imposed under California Business and Professions Code 6086.10, the discovery sanctions under California Procedure Code 2023.030 were dischargeable. Under the plain text of 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(7), they were not payable to and for the benefit of a governmental unit and were compensation for actual pecuniary losses. Finally, the panel rejected the attorney's claim that the State Bar violated 11 U.S.C. 525(a) by failing to reinstate her law license because of her nonpayment of dischargeable debts. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part.