Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice (Third Edition)

By William L. Norton Jr. and William L. Norton III
Thompson West | $2,691 |13 volumes | 2008

Publisher Thomson West recently came out with the third edition of Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice (Norton 3d) by William L. Norton Jr. and William L. Norton III. Along with Collier on Bankruptcy, edited by Alan N. Resnick and Henry J. Sommer, and Bankruptcy Law Manual by Nancy C. Dreher and Joan N. Feeney, Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice has been widely recognized as a reliable treatise for many years. This third edition reflects not only a significant updating of material but also the introduction of new features that are very helpful.

In terms of bulk and cost, Norton 3d holds the middle ground as compared to the other treatises mentioned above. Collier on Bankruptcy is the most expensive (list price: $5,268) and the lengthiest, being comprised of 24 volumes that take up over seven feet of shelf space. Norton 3d has 13 volumes, each of which is three and one-half inches wide; thus, the complete set of Norton 3d takes up almost four and one-half feet of shelf space. It has a list price of $2,691. Bankruptcy Law Manual has only two volumes and lists for $322.

If shelf space is a concern, both Norton 3d and Collier on Bankruptcy are available on CD and on the Internet. Norton 3d is on Westlaw and Collier on Bankruptcy is on Lexis. As mentioned below, a new feature on Westlaw permits users to restrict any search of Norton 3d by both search terms and Bankruptcy Code section simultaneously. Unfortunately, neither the CD version nor the Internet version of Norton 3d has a subject index. When one wants more context or ideas on what to search for, a subject index can be invaluable, and yet users of the CD and Internet version of Norton 3d are deprived of that tool. The CD and Internet versions of Collier on Bankruptcy include the same subject index as the book version.

Collier on Bankruptcy is literally the granddaddy of bankruptcy treatises, as it is the most comprehensive and was first published more than 100 years ago. The publishers of Collier point out that in 2007 it was cited in reported cases 743 times compared to 44 times for the second edition of Norton. Norton was first published in 1982 and from the outset has been highly regarded. Bankruptcy Law Manual is less venerable than the other two treatises but is a good, practical desk reference book.

Norton 3d does an excellent job of pulling together the disparate law that developed after enactment of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA), a cataclysmic event in the bankruptcy world, particularly in the consumer arena. Although the second edition of Norton was updated to reflect BAPCPA's amendments to the Code, the authors and Thomson West intentionally delayed a comprehensive revision of Norton until trends developed in interpretation and application of BAPCPA. As a result, Norton 3d brings order and insight to the many areas of bankruptcy law that are still rapidly developing post-BAPCPA.

Set forth below are some enhancements to Norton 3d as compared to the second edition of Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice.

Tables of Content and Chapters. The table of contents appearing at the beginning of each chapter has been revised to add more detail; i.e., many chapters have more sections and divisions than they did heretofore, and these sections and divisions are reflected in the corresponding tables of contents. These tables of contents also include more references to applicable Code sections.

Organization. The 13 volumes of Norton 3d have been reorganized into four parts. The first part (a portion of volume 1) addresses introductory and/or historical and jurisdictional aspects of bankruptcy law. The second part (the remainder of volume 1 through volume 7, plus a portion of volume 8) contains 154 chapters analyzing particular sections of the Bankruptcy Code and relevant case law. These sections are now organized to mirror more closely the sequence of topics in the Bankruptcy Code itself, thus facilitating research based on Code sections. Part 3 (the last section of Volume 8 and all of Volume 9) contains chapters addressing bankruptcy-related subjects that do not necessarily correlate to specific sections of the Bankruptcy Code. This third part provides the reader with a series of mini-courses on numerous topics from an interdisciplinary standpoint. For example, the third part includes lengthy sections on tax considerations relating to bankruptcy (Chapters 155-159), bankruptcy litigation (Chapters 160-170), assignments for the benefit of creditors (Chapter 171), ethical responsibilities (Chapter 172), bankruptcy crimes (Chapter 173), lender liability (Chapter 174), domestic relations (Chapter 175), pension claims and ERISA (Chapter 176), intellectual property (Chapter 177), environmental laws (Chapter 178), and mass torts (Chapter 179). Part 4 (Volumes 10 through 13) contains the Bankruptcy Code itself along with legislative history (with a good "how-to-use" section), editorial commentary and case annotations, plus the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, a table of laws, a table of cases, an index, and the "Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms" (see discussion below).

Find-By-Code-Section Feature on Internet Version. With the release of Norton 3d, Westlaw added a new feature that allows users to enter a Bankruptcy Code section in one field and search terms in another field, in order to find passages in Norton 3d that include in the same discussion both the specified code section and the specified search terms.

Better Placement of Practice Materials. Practice materials such as forms, checklists and flow charts have been consolidated and relocated to appendices following related chapters. In the second edition of Norton these materials were mostly in separate volumes but to some extent also scattered throughout the text. Also, Norton 3d has new and updated timelines depicting typical procedural steps under each chapter of the Bankruptcy Code.

Jurisdictional Identifiers. In volumes 10 and 11, the annotations of significant decisions appearing underneath particular Code sections or rules of bankruptcy procedure now feature jurisdictional identifiers in bold typeface, thus making it easier to locate applicable cases by jurisdiction.

Publication-Wide Finding Aids. In the second edition of Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice, the main index covered only the treatise portion. The primary law and the forms volumes had their own finding aids that were limited to those particular volumes. Accordingly, a user of the second edition had to consult at least two finding aids to be sure that he or she was searching the entire publication. In Norton 3d the index, the table of laws, and the table of cases cover the entire publication.

One of the most significant enhancements of Norton 3d over the prior edition is the inclusion for the first time of a "Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms." Comprising 238 pages in volume 13, this new feature is a vast improvement over the Definitions section in Chapter 9 of the second edition. Rather than being limited to those terms specifically defined in Section 101 of the Bankruptcy Code, the Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms includes a broad array of information on terms that are traceable back to the Bankruptcy Code or related statutes and federal rules. According to the editors, "the Dictionary strives to offer a holistic approach to defining the terms included, one that relies on a number of standard elements and resources to provide readers with a meaningful and overall understanding of that term's usage and interpretation under relevant sources of bankruptcy law." (Norton 3d, vol. 13, p. ii.) The definition of a term offered by Section 101 of the Bankruptcy Code or some other primary source may not be particularly insightful, in and of itself, and Norton's Dictionary of Bankruptcy Terms' broader approach is aimed at providing a more complete understanding of the context and significance of the term in question.

Quite a few of the individuals responsible for Norton 3d are Tennesseans. One of the two authors is William L. Norton III, a Nashville lawyer with the firm of Boult Cummings Connors & Berry PLC. Principal contributing editors include William H. Brown, who was a highly regarded bankruptcy judge in Memphis from 1987 through 2006, and James R. Kelley of Neal & Harwell PLC in Nashville. Numerous other Tennessee lawyers are classified as contributing editors.

All in all, Norton 3d represents a significant advance over the previous edition, both substantively and with respect to organization and overall user-friendliness. Apparently the authors and editors are continually looking for ways to improve this publication, as reflected in this latest edition and in the requests for comments and suggestions that often appear in Norton 3d.