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United States v. Whiting Pools, Inc.

Supreme Court of the United States
492 U.S. 198, 103 S.Ct. 2309, 76 L.Ed.2d 515 (1983)


Facts

Whiting Pools, Inc. (Whiting) (plaintiff) sold and installed swimming pools. Whiting owed $92,000 in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Whiting failed to respond to demands for payment from the IRS. The IRS thus attached a lien to all of Whiting’s property. The IRS eventually seized Whiting’s tangible personal property, including equipment, vehicles, inventory, and office supplies. The next day, Whiting filed a petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The federal government (defendant) intended to proceed with a tax sale of Whiting’s property. The government moved in bankruptcy court for a declaration that the automatic stay provision of the Bankruptcy Code was inapplicable to the IRS. The government alternatively sought relief from the stay. Whiting counterclaimed for an order requiring the IRS to turn the seized property over to the bankruptcy estate. Whiting intended to use the property in its reorganized business. The bankruptcy court determined that the IRS was bound by the automatic stay provision. The court held that because the seized property was essential to Whiting’s reorganization effort, it refused to lift the stay. The court directed that the IRS turn the property over to Whiting on the condition that Whiting provide the IRS with specific protection for its interests. The federal trial court reversed, holding that a turnover order against the IRS was not authorized by the Bankruptcy Code. The appeals court then reversed the trial court, holding that a turnover order could be issued against the IRS. The Supreme Court then granted cert to resolve the issue.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

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