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Young’s e-mail address is gyoungnlj.com. a bankrupt attorney cannot discharge or partially discharge his student loans without meeting a three-pronged “undue hardship” test, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held on July 23. In re Cox (Hemar Ins. Co. v. Cox), No. 02-10788. The Georgia lawyer, Ronald Jay Cox, funded his A.A., B.A., J.D. and L.L.M. degrees with student loans totaling more than $114,000. He then established a law practice, which was unsuccessful. Quitting the practice, he took a job with his brother’s landscaping company, where he earned $24,000 per year and applied for bankruptcy protection. He then filed a discharge action, claiming he could not pay off the loans without suffering undue hardship. Rejecting his arguments, the bankruptcy court found that the ex-lawyer did not establish “undue hardship” as contemplated by the Bankruptcy Code § 523(a)(8), because it was unlikely that his current financial situation would be a “permanent condition.” Nonetheless, the court ordered a partial discharge of his loans. His creditors appealed to a Georgia federal court, which reversed, holding that, without undue hardship, student loan debt could not be discharged, even in part. The 11th Circuit affirmed. Having never previously identified the factors for “undue hardship,” the 11th Circuit adopted the test used by the 2d Circuit in its 1987 case, Brunner v. N.Y. State Higher Edu. Services Corp. The Brunner court’s three-pronged test requires the debtor not to be able to maintain a minimal standard of living if forced to repay, that this state of affairs will likely persist for a significant portion of the repayment period and that he has made good-faith efforts to repay the loans.

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