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Highlight Updates Passage of the Bankruptcy Reform Act

On October 1, 1979, a new and far-reaching consumer protection law went into effect.4 That law, the federal Bankruptcy Code,5 may well be the most important federal legislation ever passed, in terms of its benefits for consumers. From its first years, the Code has demonstrated its enormous potential as an area for creative advocacy on behalf of low-income and moderate-income people, as well as its utility as a source of quick, concrete, and far-reaching relief in the day-to-day circumstances of financially troubled individuals. The burgeoning number of bankruptcies was matched by a tidal wave of interpretive case law.


  • 4 {4} The effective dates of different portions of the Bankruptcy Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 95-598, 92 Stat. 2549 (1978) are established by section 402 of that Act, as amended by the 1984 amendments. The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 as a whole consisted of four titles. Title 1 enacted a new title 11 of the United States Code, the Bankruptcy Code, which went into effect on October 1, 1979. Title II contained amendments to title 28 of the United States Code. Title III contained amendments to other acts and title IV contained transitional provisions.

  • 5 {5} The new title 11 is commonly referred to as the Bankruptcy Code, in contrast to the prior law, which was known as the Bankruptcy Act. In this treatise that distinction will be maintained: “the Code” will refer to the law now in effect, and “the Bankruptcy Act” will refer to prior law.