WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says bankruptcy courts have authority to rule on disputes that fall outside the bankruptcy proceedings if the parties to the case consent.

The 6-3 ruling on Tuesday helps clarify the power of bankruptcy judges. That had been in question since a 2011 high court decision that limited their authority to decide non-bankruptcy issues.

The case involves efforts by Wellness International Network, Ltd., to recover $655,000 in attorney fees from Richard Sharif, a Chicago resident with whom the company had a legal dispute. Sharif filed for bankruptcy in 2009 to avoid paying the debt. Wellness claimed Sharif had assets in a family trust that could be tapped and lower courts agreed.

The Supreme Court said lower courts must decide whether Sharif consented to the bankruptcy court deciding the issue.

 

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