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Bankruptcy Law

A guide to locating federal statutes, court rules, case law and secondary materials available in the UCLA Law Library and online.

Basic Legislative History Research Steps

To research the legislative history of a section of the Bankruptcy Code, follow the below steps. 

  • Locate the relevant public law. Start with any version of the Bankruptcy Code to locate the public law(s) creating or amending the section of the code you are interested in.  You will find this information at the end of each code section. Public laws are cited to by Congressional session and chronological number of the bill passed, (e.g., 98-123 is the 123rd bill signed into law during the 98th Congress), and published in the order passed in United States Statutes at Large (Stat.). You may also want to note any cases or law review articles listed in the code, since these may contain information on legislative intent.
  • Check for compiled legislative histories.  Look to see if someone else has already compiled and published a legislative history.  See the box below for compiled legislative histories for bankruptcy law.  Most, if not all, bankruptcy acts should have a compiled legislative history.
  • Otherwise, check print and online legislative history services. 
  • Review law review articles. Law review articles may deal with legislative history and may provide citations to legislative history documents.
  • Review case law. Do a Westlaw or Lexis search of cases using search terms “legislative history” or “legislative intent” in combination with appropriate topical search; you may find cases citing earlier legislative history interpretations.
  • Review newspaper articles. Search newspaper databases to find articles providing background information.

For a more detailed guide to legislative history, which describes the legislative process and discusses the relative importance of different types of legislative history, please see the below research guides:

For a guide to legislative history for court rules, such as the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, see this guide from Georgetown Law Library:

Major Public Laws

Bankruptcy law in the United States began with the Bankruptcy Act of 1898 (known as the "Bankruptcy Act"), which governed cases filed before October 1, 1979.  Although some courts refer to provisions of the Bankruptcy Act and their legislative history when interpreting their corollaries in current bankruptcy law, it is wise to exercise caution and to attempt to obtain precedent for doing so in your jurisdiction.

In 1978, Congress passed the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, which was a complete overhaul of the prior system. Congress again made substantial amendments in 1984, 1986, 1994, and 2005.  The following is a table listing the popular names and public law numbers of major bankruptcy acts since 1978: 

Popular Name Public Law No.
Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 95-598
Bankruptcy Amendments and Federal Judgeship Act of 1984 98-353
Bankruptcy Judges, United States Trustees and Family Farmer Bankruptcy Act of 1986 99-554
Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1994 103-394
Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 109-8

Selected Legislative Histories Compilations

Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1989, Public Law No. 95-598:

Bankruptcy Amendments and Federal Judgeship Act of 1984, Public Law No. 98-353:

Bankruptcy Judges, United States Trustees and Family Farmer Bankruptcy Act of 1986, Public Law No. 99-554:

Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, Public Law No. 109-8:

Other Compilation Resources:

Other Legislative History Resources