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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On May 28, 2004, Tessie Belsome (the appellee) voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. At the time of her filing, the appellee worked as a school bus driver for the Jefferson Parish School System. She drove a 1997 Thomas school bus she financed through her credit union. In her bankruptcy filing, the appellee filed an exemption for the school bus as a tool of her trade under Louisiana Revised Statutes �13:3881(A)(2)(a). The bus is valued at $22,500 with a mortgage debt of $1,514. The Chapter 7 trustee and Belsome’s former husband (the appellants) filed objections to the appellee’s claim for the exemption. They argued that �13:3881(A)(2)(a) does not apply because the bus is a motor vehicle, and the exemption is therefore limited to $7,500 under �13:3881(A)(2)(d). The bankruptcy court sustained the objections and allowed an exemption of only $7,500. The appellee appealed the order to the district court who reversed. The court held the bus fell within �13:3881(A)(2)(a) rather than �13:3881(A)(2)(d) because it is “a necessary tool for [the appellee] to earn a living.” This ruling allows the bus to be completely exempt from the bankruptcy. HOLDING: Louisiana has opted out of the federal exemptions available to debtors under the Bankruptcy Code. Debtors in Louisiana can choose only exemptions available under the Louisiana exemption statute, �13:3881. Section 13:3881 states: “(A) The following income or property of a debtor is exempt from seizure under any writ, mandate, or process whatsoever, except as otherwise herein provided: . . . . (2) That property necessary to the exercise of a trade, calling, or profession by which he earns his livelihood, which shall be limited to the following: (a) Tools. (b) Instruments. (c) Books. (d) Seven thousand five hundred dollars in equity value for one motor vehicle per household, used by the debtor and his family household.” The statutory language of �13:3881(A)(2)(d) is clear, the court states. The Legislature drafted a specific exemption for motor vehicles, and that provision must apply to all motor vehicles, including school buses. This follows the cannon of statutory construction that allows specific language of a statute to trump general language. Here, “motor vehicle” is the more specific term. The statute states that the exempted motor vehicle “may be used in exercising a trade, calling or profession.” If such a vehicle fell within the tools exemption, this language would become superfluous. In addition, the Louisiana Legislature was clear that only one motor vehicle would qualify for an exemption. If this Court were to find that a school bus fell with the tools provision, a debtor could seek to exempt a second vehicle under the “motor vehicle” exemption. A school bus falls within Louisiana’s “motor vehicle” exemption as seen by the clear meaning of the statutory language, the court concludes. OPINION:Benavides, J.; Reavley, Garza and Benavides, JJ.

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