Book of Mormon Bankruptcy Exemption

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Though perhaps slightly esoteric in nature, I found this tidbit of information about Illinois law mildly interesting. (Perhaps the most interesting part is how she acquired the book in the first place.)

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a rare and valuable first edition copy of the Book of Mormon was eligible for bankruptcy exemption under a personal property exemption statute which allows “exemption for a bible”.

On February 25, 2013 Ms. Anna F. Robinson filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition seeking to reprieve $23,834.00 in debt. Among her personal property, Ms. Robinson included an “old Morm[o]n bible” of unknown value which she acquired while cleaning a storage area at work and was given permission to keep any of the old books she found. From the Seventh Court’s ruling:

Ms. Robinson testified that, in 2003, while employed at the local public library, she made an agreement with the library director that, if she cleaned out a storage area, she could use the area as an office and keep any books she found. While cleaning, Ms. Robinson found the Book of Mormon and later had it authenticated as an 1830 first edition Book of Mormon, one of only 5,000 copies printed by Joseph Smith. At the time, it was valued at $10,000.00. Ms. Robinson explained that she stores the Book of Mormon in a Ziploc bag to preserve it. She does not use it regularly, but does take it out occasionally to show her children and fellow church members.

The bankruptcy court denied the exemption citing the fact that she had other copies of the Book of Mormon, but the district court reversed the ruling:

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge. Anna F. Robinson filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in the Southern District of Illinois seeking a discharge of unsecured debts. Ms. Robinson claimed an exemption for a rare, first edition Book of Mormon under the Illinois personal property exemption statute, 735 ILCS 5/12- 1001(a), which provides an exemption for a bible. The bankruptcy court denied the exemption, but the district court re- versed. Because we agree with the district court that the plain wording of the Illinois personal property exemption statute allows the exemption for Ms. Robinson’s Book of Mormon, we affirm the district court’s judgment.

The thought that expensive bibles (or in this case a rare Book of Mormon) can be used to disrupt bankruptcy laws made me wonder if it’s possible to skirt the law by running up debt, moving to Illinois, buying up tons of expensive bibles and then declaring bankruptcy.

Nope, at least not if it’s done less than 6 months before the filing, according to the Illinois Legislative Reference Bureau:

If a debtor owns property exempt under this Section and he or she purchased that property with the intent of converting nonexempt property into exempt property or in fraud of his or her creditors, that property shall not be exempt from judgment, attachment, or distress for rent. Property acquired within 6 months of the filing of the petition for bankruptcy shall be presumed to have been acquired in contemplation of bankruptcy.

The image above from wikimedia is a photograph of the 1841 First European (London) edition of the Book of Mormon, at the Springs Preserve museum, Las Vegas, Nevada.

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