U.S. Law Week Reports Circuit Splits

Here are the circuit splits reported recently in BNA's U.S. Law Week, 80 U.S.L.W. 22
(June 2011):

Bankruptcy—Farm Debtors: United States v. Dawes (In re Dawes)
 (79 U.S.L.W. 2786)

Are income taxes flowing from the sale of a farm asset during Chapter 12 bankruptcy proceedings taxes “incurred by the estate”under Section 503(b) of the Bankruptcy Code, and are they therefore subject to downgrade and discharge? The Tenth Circuit joins the Ninth Circuit in saying “no.” It explains that “post-petition income taxes incurred during Chapter 12 proceedings are liabilities of the individual debtor and not the bankruptcy estate,”and are therefore not subject to discharge. The Eighth Circuit has held that such taxes are subject to discharge.

Schools—Disciplinary Action: Layshock v. Hermitage School District
 J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District
 (79 U.S.L.W. 2739)

Are schools allowed to punish vulgar student speech on the internet? Based on the facts before it in two separate, but similar, cases, the Third Circuit says derogatory profiles about their principals posted on MySpace by two students were protected by the First Amendment. The Second Circuit, faced with different facts, however, has allowed a school to punish vulgar internet speech by a student.

United States—False Claims: United States ex rel. Hutcheson v. Blackstone Medical Inc.
 (79 U.S.L.W. 2646)

Under the False Claims Act, may a claim made to the government be false or fraudulent for failure to meet an implied legal condition of payment that is found in a source other than a statute or regulation? The Second and Ninth circuits have held that the legal condition must appear in a statute or regulation, while the First Circuit sides with the Tenth Circuit in holding that such conditions can be spelled out in other places, such as the underlying contract.

Taxation—Limitations: Salman Ranch Ltd. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
 (79 U.S.L.W. 2692)

May the Internal Revenue Service extend the limitations period for issuing a final partnership administrative adjustment from three to six years where an understatement of gross income results from an overstatement of basis? The Tenth Circuit joins the Seventh and Federal Circuits in holding that Section 6501 of the tax code is ambiguous, opening the door for IRS regulation. The Fourth and Fifth circuits have held that the statute is not ambiguous, blocking agency regulation on the subject.


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