A judicial officer of the United States district court who is the court official with decision-making power over federal bankruptcy cases.
Bankruptcy judges serve as judicial officers of the U.S. district courts and constitute the bankruptcy court for their respective districts. The U.S. court of appeals for each circuit appoints bankruptcy judges to renewable fourteen-years terms. The number of bankruptcy judgeships is determined by Congress, which receives periodic advice from the Judicial Conference of the United States on the need for additional judges. There are currently 352 bankruptcy judgeships, including 36 temporary judgeships, authorized for the districts.
The position of bankruptcy judge was established by Congress in 1978 as part of broad legislation that reorganized the nation’s bankruptcy system (92 Stat. 2657). Under the Bankruptcy Act of 1898, referees appointed by district judges oversaw the administration of bankruptcy cases in the district courts, and a series of subsequent acts increased the judicial duties of the referees. In 1973 the Supreme Court issued rules that recognized the importance of these judicial duties and applied the title of bankruptcy judge to the referees. Also in 1973, the congressionally chartered Commission on Bankruptcy Laws of the United States recommended the formal establishment of bankruptcy judgeships to preside over judicial proceedings related to bankruptcy in courts that would be independent of the U.S. district courts. The commission called for the appointment of executive branch officers to carry out administrative responsibilities related to bankruptcy cases.