IN THE UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
|DO NOT PUBLISH
This case disposition has no value as precedent and is not intended for publication. Any publication, either in print or electronically, is contrary to the intent and wishes of the court.
PAUL and JANET HOLMES, No. 94-11666
Pursuant to federal criminal proceedings, the debtors owe a restitution judgment of
$190,712.00. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. section 3613(a), when a Notice of Lien for Fine is recorded
it is treated as a lien for taxes for the purpose of any State or local law providing for the filing
of a tax lien. Debtors Paul and Janet Holmes seek to avoid the lien as to their home pursuant to
section 522(f) of the Bankruptcy Code. The United States objects.
Section 522(f)(1) allows a debtor to avoid any judgment lien on exempt property. There is
no exception for liens arising out of dishonest conduct, and no requirement that the underlying
debt be dischargeable. In re Ewiak
, 75 B.R. 211 (Bkrtcy.W.D.Pa.1987).
The United States relies heavily on 18 U.S.C. section 3613(f), which provides:
No discharge of debts pursuant to a bankruptcy
proceeding shall render a lien under this section
unenforceable or discharge liability to pay a fine.
However, this section is not relevant because no discharge of debts is involved. The debt is
clearly not discharged pursuant to section 1328(a)(3) of the Code. However, as noted above,
there is no requirement in section 522(f) that the underlying debt be dischargeable.
The real issue here is whether the lien in question is a statutory lien or a judgment lien. If the
former, it is not avoidable; if the latter, it is avoidable to the extent it impairs an exemption. Both
terms are defined by statute.
Section 101(36) of the Code provides that the term "judicial lien" means lien obtained by
judgment, levy, sequestration, or other legal or equitable process or proceeding. Section 101(53)
provides, in pertinent part:
"statutory lien" means lien arising solely
of statute on specified circumstances . . . but does
not include security interest or judicial lien
or not such interest or lien is provided by or is depen-
dent on a statute and whether or not such interest is
made fully effective by statute[.][emphasis added]
The definition of "statutory lien" by express terms excludes a judgment lien; if a lien is a
judgment lien, it cannot be a statutory lien even if a statute makes the lien effective. The lien in
this case was the result of a judgment in a criminal case. It is accordingly a judgment lien, and
cannot be considered a statutory lien even though 18 U.S.C. section 3613(a) makes it effective.
The court is not swayed by the argument of the United States that 18 U.S.C section 3613(d)
has transmuted the lien in question from a judgment lien to a tax lien. That section provides, in
pertinent part, that "[a] notice of the lien imposed by subsection (a) shall be considered a notice
of lien for taxes payable to the United States for the purposes of any State or local law providing
for the filing of a notice of tax lien." This statute merely provides that local governments must
record the lien in the same manner as a tax lien, not that the lien is
a tax lien. Even if such a
transmutation were intended, a statute cannot, by definition, change a judgment lien into
For the foregoing reasons, the debtors' motion will be granted. Counsel for the debtor shall
submit an appropriate form of order.
Dated: March 10, 1997 _______________________