Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal


Anthony Hall


Although courts are reluctant to shift attorneys' fees in legal matters, Congress has made special exceptions to protect individuals in unique positions or to discourage certain undesirable behavior. With § 362(k)(1), Congress made an express exception to allow debtors to recover attorneys' fees after a creditor willfully violates the automatic stay. For nearly twenty-five years, courts have interpreted § 362(k)(1) to allow debtors to recover attorneys' fees incurred by seeking damages against the automatic stay violator. However, in Sternberg v. Johnston, the Ninth Circuit created a split in authority when it refused to allow a debtor to recover the full extent of his attorneys' fees under § 362(k)(1).