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D'Oh, I've Filed in the Wrong Chapter!

posted by Bob Lawless

On June 10, Fox rebroadcast an episode of The Simpsons called "Rome-old and Juli-eh." We had a DVR malfunction back in early March, and somehow I missed this episode when it first aired.  It wasn't the end of the world, but it was close to it. I watched the rebroadcast last night and discovered what I had missed. Two of my favorite topics--The Simpsons and bankruptcy law united at last. Those of you who neglected to point this out to me on the original air date--and you know who you are--have severely let me down.

After building a new rec room in the basement, Marge asks how Homer could afford it. It goes from there:

Homer: Marge, we're not going to have to worry about money ever again because I've got a plan.

Cut to state courtroom

Homer: I would like to declare bankruptcy please.
Judge: Mr. Simpson, do you understand how bankruptcy works?
Homer: Yes, I do. Under chapter 13 of the Fiscal Code, an individual whose debts exceed his assets  may file for bankruptcy, thus protecting said assets.
Judge: That was the old bankruptcy law.
Homer: Uh?
Judge: Under the new law, you have to pay your creditors everything.
Homer: Whatsit?! I thought bankruptcy was the cool law. The one that says "Dude, don't worry about it. I've got this."
Judge: Mr. Simpson, I'm afraid this court must appoint a financial officer to supervise repayment of your debts.
Homer: Permission to moan?
Judge: I'll allow it.

After a long moan, the next scene then cuts to the Simpsons household where the financial advisor tries to get the family to cut expenses. Homer is adamant. For example, in response to the advisor's incredulity at Homer's three subscriptions to Vanity Fair, Homer responds, "I have got three bathrooms, don't I?" Instead, Homer finds a "giant useless expense for something that no one is interested in." The next thing we see is Homer dragging is elderly father out of his nursing home so as to save on that expense.

The episode pretty well captured the whole bankruptcy experience except for one little blunder. I am sure Credit Slips readers also noticed it right away. That's right . . . . Clearly, under sections 707(b)(2)(A)(ii)(II)and 1325(b)(3), in arriving at the monthly amount available to pay creditors, Homer would able to deduct the actual expenses paid for the support of an elderly, chronically ill, or disabled member of his family, including a parent. These expenses would surely include the costs of a nursing home for his father. Thus, evicting Homer's father from his nursing home was completely unnecessary except as a plot device to set up the rest of the show. How could the writers have missed these Code sections?


My favorite lines come from older shows and plainly show how far the writing has slipped:

"Mr. Simpson, I'm afraid you'll need to file for bankruptcy . . . several times."

And when Homer buys stock in a company, a news report announces that "OmniCorp has filed for 'Super-Dooper Bankruptcy.'"

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless ([email protected]) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.