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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

The State of Texas appeals the district court’s determination that the debt owed to it by Gina and Steven Hickman (“the Hickmans”) arising from bail bond forfeitures was dischargeable. The State argues that because the default of a bail bond is colloquially referred to as a “forfeiture,” a judgment against a bail bond surety should be non-dischargeable under the plain language of � 523(a)(7). Section 523(a)(7) excepts from discharge certain debts for fines, penalties or forfeitures. The Hickmans argue, in response, that a debt incurred by a surety under a bail bond contract with the State is not the nature of forfeiture Congress intended to render non-dischargeable under � 523(a)(7).

For nearly ten years, Gina Lynn Hickman (“Hickman”) owned and operated a bail bonding business in Tarrant County, Texas. She served as a surety on criminal bail bonds; when a criminal defendant failed to appear in court, a judgment for the amount of the bond was entered against her. The Tarrant County Bail Bond Board issued and renewed Hickman’s bail bond license for two year terms from June 1989 to August 1997 based on a sworn financial statement attesting that her net worth satisfied statutory requirements. Under Tx. Occ. � 1704.203, a bail bond license holder can execute bail bonds in an aggregate amount up to ten times the value of the property held as security. Because Hickman pledged property valued at $116,800 as collateral, she was entitled to write in excess of $1 million in criminal bail bonds.

 
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