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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Edward Keith Burgess, a Texas farmer, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 2002 and was discharged four months later. In February 2003, Congress passed the Agricultural Assistance Act, which provided crop-disaster relief to qualifying farmers for their 2001 or 2002 crop losses. Burgess applied for relief in June 2003. In August 2003, to compensate Burgess for his 2001 crop losses, the Farm Service Agency of the Department of Agriculture sent the trustee of Burgess’ bankruptcy estate a check for $24,829. Burgess’ bankruptcy case was reopened to determine what to do with the check. The bankruptcy court denied Burgess’ motion to turn the check over to him, and the district court affirmed, ruling the check was property of the bankruptcy estate to be turned over to Burgess’ creditors. A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit reversed, holding that the payment was not property under 11 U.S.C. �541(a)(1) or proceeds under �541(a)(6). The 5th Circuit agreed, then, to hear the case en banc. HOLDING:District court reversed and remanded. The court begins by noting the breadth of �541, but also noting its temporal limitation, that is, property of the estate is determined at the “commencement of the case.” The court next addresses the bankruptcy estate’s argument that under Segal v. Rochelle, 382 U.S. 375 (1966), Burgess had a contingent interest in the payment at the time of bankruptcy, which brought the payment into the estate as proceeds. The court rejects the rationale that, like the debtor in Segal, Burgess’ interest in the disaster payment is “sufficiently rooted” in his prebankruptcy past and so little entangled with his ability to make an unencumbered fresh start that it should be regarded as property. First, although Congress has not specifically approved of Segal’s result, the case’s “sufficiently rooted” test did not survive the enactment of the Bankruptcy Code. Second, Segal can be distinguished because the debtor there had a prepetition legal interest. Here, though Burgess suffered crop loss before filing for bankruptcy, he did not have an interest in the disaster-relief payment because the program under which the payment was made had not yet been enacted. “If Burgess had no right or interest that constituted property within the meaning of � 541(a)(1) at the commencement of the case, then the payment he later received cannot be proceeds of property of the estate under � 541(a)(6).” The court then examines cases from several other courts: In re Vote, 276 F.3d 1024 (8th Cir. 2002), In re Bracewell, 322 B.R. 698 (M.D. Ga. 2005), In re Schmitz, 270 F.3d 1254 (9th Cir. 2001), and Hoseman v. Weinschneider, 277 B.R. 894 (N.D. Ill. 2002). The court says it agrees with the analysis in these cases, which all endorsed the view that a prepetition interest was necessary to convert post-petition payment into proceeds or property of the bankruptcy estate. “Were the law otherwise, any post-petition legislation or contract could retroactively create property of the estate. That cannot be the law; � 541 clearly states that a bankruptcy estate is established at”[t] he commencement of [the] case.’ Thus, Burgess had no interest, contingent or otherwise, in the disaster-relief payment when he filed his bankruptcy petition.” The court then considers whether the crop loss Burgess suffered is itself property under �541(a)(1) that would support including proceeds from it in the bankruptcy estate. The court again finds that for the temporal limitation to have any meaning, Burgess must have had a prepetition interest in the disaster-relief payment, not the crop loss. If the crop loss by itself were enough to bring the payment into the estate, notwithstanding the post-petition enactment of the 2003 Act, which created Burgess right to the payment, the “as of the commencement of the case” language would have no force or effect. The court rejects the estate’s reliance on Milnor v. Metz, 41 U.S. 221 (1842), and Williams v. Heard, 140 U.S. 529 (1891). Both cases predate the current Bankruptcy Code by decades, and both stand for the proposition that prepetition loss is property of the estate if it gives rise to a pre-petition legal claim or interest; here Burgess’ crop loss, by itself, did not give him a legal claim to or interest in the disaster-relief payment. Additionally, unlike the debtors in those and other cases, Burgess was not a creditor of the government, and his property was not damaged by a third party, but by nature. The court also rejects reliance on cases that have developed a “contingent-interest” theory of prepetition loss and property. The theory is flawed because it conflates the contingency of receiving crop-disaster payments with the mere hope that legislation authorizing the payments will be enacted in the first place. Finally, the court rejects the bankruptcy estate’s argument that using the 2003 effective date of act, rather than the crop loss itself, as the source of Burgess interest in the disaster-relief payment will have disparate results because disaster-relief payments may be treated differently depending on when the debtor files for bankruptcy. They argue that fairness requires a ruling in favor of the trustee. “We decline the Appellees’ invitation to rewrite bankruptcy law. It is Congress who is charged with articulating bankruptcy policy through the Bankruptcy Code; Congress has done so, and we are bound to follow it.” OPINION:Prado, J.; Jones, CJ, Reavley, Jolly, Higginbotham, Davis, Smith, Wiener, Barksdale, Emilio M. Garza, Demoss, Benavides, Stewart, Dennis, Clement, Prado and Owen, JJ. DISSENT:Jones, Circuit Judge. “A debtor’s bankruptcy estate comprises, inter alia,”all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case,’ and”proceeds, product, offspring, rents, or profits of or from property of the estate, except such as are earnings from services performed by an individual debtor after the commencement of the case.’ 11 U.S.C. � 541(a)(1),(6). We would hold that these definitions, whether interpreted in light of venerable bankruptcy case law or state commercial law, are sufficiently broad to encompass the disaster payments made to Burgess. Further, excluding the payments from the bankruptcy estate creates irreconcilable tension with other Bankruptcy Code provisions and goals.”

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