Sturges v. Crowninshield, 17 U.S. 122 (1819)

By M. Jonathan Hayes

Issue:  1)  Does a state have “authority to pass a bankrupt law, or [is] the power exclusively vested in the congress of the United States”?  2) Is the Insolvency Law of New York in this case unconstitutional?

Holding:  1) Yes, at least as long as there is no national bankruptcy law, 2) Yes, to the extent that it grants a discharge of the debtor’s debts.

Chief Justice John Marshall

New York passed a law in 1811, at a time when there was no national bankruptcy law in effect, which provided that upon turning . . .

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