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the Body Politic
Vol. 09, No. 01 - Jan/Feb 1999, Page 13
Copyright © 1999 by the Body Politic Inc.

Randall Terry Seeks Bankruptcy

By Yolanda Wu, NOW LDEF Staff Attorney

These are some of the assets reported on the personal bankruptcy petition filed by Randall Terry on November 5, 1998. Terry's bankruptcy filing is the latest move in the on-going saga of trying to get Terry to pay court fines and attorney's fees he has long owed to NOW, Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, and reproductive health care providers around the country.

... the trustee has already asked for a copy of Terry's extensive personal mailing list, used for his fundraising, which is considered an asset of the estate. Also considered part of the estate are any copyrights owned by Terry, as well as future royalties earned on the copyrights ...

As listed on his bankruptcy petition, Terry purports to owe over $1.6 million in legal fines and attorneys' fees as a result of his clinic blockading activity. He owes this under his own name, as well as under the names peration Rescue, Project Life, Randall F. Terry, The D.C. Project, The Resistance, and Veteran's Campaign for Life. Terry also claims to owe approximately $13,000 in unpaid taxes and approximately $33,000 in credit card debt.

The timing of Terry's filing for bankruptcy was telling. The day he filed, Terry was due to respond to court papers filed by NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund on behalf of clinics, roviders, and women's organizations, seeking information about his assets and income. The immediate effect of Terry's bankruptcy filing was to stay that proceeding. For the time being, all efforts to collect on Terry's debts are consolidated in bankruptcy court.

From our perspective, this is not all bad. Terry's bankruptcy filing actually gives us some new opportunities. For example, creditors have the right to obtain documents and question Terry under oath about his assets and income. We did so at the creditors' meeting, which Terry attended on December 3, and will have the chance to do so again when the creditors' meeting continues on January 7, as well as at a subsequent examination similar to a deposition.

Creditors can also question under oath and seek documents from other individuals and entities, such as spouses, employers, and accountants, who have information about the debtor's assets. At the same time, the bankruptcy trustee can independently ask the debtor for information about the assets and income disclosed on the bankruptcy petition. If the information sought is not provided, the trustee can initiate litigation against the debtor.

In Terry's case, for example, the trustee has already asked for a copy of Terry's extensive personal mailing list, used for his fundraising, which is considered an asset of the estate. Also considered part of the estate are any copyrights owned by Terry, as well as future royalties earned on the copyrights, for works such as Why Does a Nice Guy Like Me Keep Getting Thrown in Jail? and From Promise Keepers to Gatekeepers the working title of Terry's new manuscript.

Importantly, any assets held by Terry at the time of the bankruptcy filing except those that are exempt, such as personal clothing and household furniture), as well as certain assets that come to him in the next six months, become part of the bankruptcy estate. Terry no longer owns those assets and is barred from transferring or liquidating them. It is the bankruptcy trustee's job to determine what assets are in the estate, how much they're worth, and then to distribute them among the creditors.

What is Terry trying to accomplish by filing for bankruptcy? No doubt he wants to wipe the slate clean; he claims not to have any significant assets and hopes to get his debts discharged. But not all debts can be eliminated through bankruptcy. For example, debts that arise from intentional torts such as violations of court orders arguably are not dischargeable.

If we succeed in making that argument, not only will Terry be back at square one, but we will be armed with more information about his assets and income. Hopefully, this will be a win-win situation for the pro-choice community.

NOW LDEF, Planned Parenthood and other creditors are working together on pursuing Terry's assets in the bankruptcy proceeding. For more information, contact Yolanda Wu or Roslyn Powell at

NOW LDEF
99 Hudson Street, 12th Floor,
New York, NY 10013
212-925-6635

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