The current jurisdictional structure of bankruptcy courts in the United States is nothing short of a mystery. Scholars, judges, and practitioners have long struggled with finding their way through the confusing labyrinth of jurisdictional rules, exceptions, and exclusions in our current bankruptcy system. Courts spend countless hours each year considering all kinds of jurisdictional issues that arise in bankruptcy cases. This results in a diversion of judicial resources from substantive matters. Adding to this quandary is the limited scope of bankruptcy courts' jurisdiction over a small but very significant subset of claims-personal injury tort and wrongful death claims-which weaves yet another layer of complexity into an already complicated jurisdictional analysis. This additional complexity mystifies even the most adept bankruptcy professionals.
The significance of this unnecessarily difficult jurisdictional analysis cannot
be overstated. Presently, the dramatic increase in the number of complex Chapter 11 corporate bankruptcy cases in our country, including the resolution of
hundreds of thousands of personal injury tort and wrongful death claims, is a
centerpiece of debtor reorganization efforts. These are definitely not low-dollar
claims at issue, and the claimants are indeed, in many cases, depending on a
speedy, fair, and efficient resolution of their claims and, ultimately, a monetary
distribution from the debtor.
Ishaq Kundawala, Unveiling the Mystery, History and Problems Associated with the Jurisdictional Limitations of Bankruptcy Courts Over Personal Injury Tort and Wrongful Death Claims, 42 McGeorge L. Rev. 739 (2011).