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United States v. Kras

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Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Kras (Respondent), attempted to file for federal bankruptcy protection, but was unable to afford the filing fees. The Respondent now challenges the constitutionality of denying him bankruptcy protection for inability to pay such feed.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Bankruptcy filing is not a fundamental right.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

This being so, the applicable standard, in measuring the propriety of Congress classification, is that of rational justification.

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Facts. The Respondent lived in a small apartment with his wife, two children, and elderly mother. The Respondent receives public assistance as well as a small amount of income he earns himself. The Respondent cannot even afford to save up for a full year to afford the bankruptcy filing fee.

Issue. Is an indigent entitled to free federal bankruptcy filing?

Held. No. Case reversed and remanded. Justice Harry Blackmun (J. Blackmun) holds that bankruptcy is not a fundamental right. As a fundamental right is not involved, only a rational basis is required for any classifications.

Justice Potter Stewart (J. Stewart) recognizes that there are no “recognized, effective alternatives” available to the Respondent. Without bankruptcy protection, the Respondent will remain in insurmountable debt for the foreseeable future.
Justice Thurgood Marshall (J. Marshall) writes separately to condemn the majority for advancing “unfounded assumptions about how people live.”

Discussion. The majority offers a sound argument here: no fundamental right, no suspect classification. The difficulty with this case is its finding that an individual does not have enough money to be bankrupt.

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