Tobkin v. The Florida Bar (In re Tobkin)

14-10272; D.C. Docket Nos. 1:13-cv-20992-KAM; 12-bkc-01415-LMI
The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit relied on the persuasive authority from other courts in affirming the district court's and bankruptcy court's findings that a state bar acting in the context of attorney discipline is a government unit and, therefore, its cost judgment entered against a bankrupt debtor is non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(7). The Court further held that the debtor-defendant could not rely on a response to a request for admission of a legal conclusion and that the debtor-defendant's reference to "government entity" in his request for admission did not put the creditor-plaintiff on notice that the request was meant to elicit an admission concerning § 523(a)(7), which refers to a "government unit."
Procedural context:
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida denied a debtor-defendant's motion to dismiss and granted the creditor-plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and held that a state bar's cost judgment entered against the debtor-defendant was non-dischargeable. The district court affirmed. The debtor-defendant appealed and the sole issue for the Court of Appeals' consideration was whether the Bar was a "government unit" for purposes of 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(7).
The debtor-defendant was disbarred from practicing law in Florida for five years and the Supreme Court of Florida entered a cost judgment of $12,217.39 against the debtor-defendant. The debtor-defendant subsequently filed for bankruptcy. The Bar filed an adversary proceeding seeking a determination that its claim was non-dischargeable under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(7). The debtor-defendant served the Bar with four sets of requests for admissions which, among other things, requested that the Bar admit that it was not a "government entity." In its response, the Bar stated: "Admitted."
Hull, Martin & Anderson

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