PUBLISHED:February 23, 2023

DeMott publication cited in Supreme Court opinion


Professor Deborah DeMott, an expert in the law of agency, served as the sole reporter for an American Law Institute restatement that the Court cited in its Feb. 22 opinion in Bartenwerfer v. Buckley.

Deborah Demott Professor Deborah DeMott

In an opinion issued Feb. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court cited an American Law Institute publication for which Deborah A. DeMott, the David F. Cavers Professor of Law, was the sole reporter.

The case, Bartenwerfer v. Buckley 598 U. S. ____ (2023), involved a debtor’s obligation under bankruptcy law to pay debts incurred as a result of her partner’s  fraud. The Court ruled unanimously that such debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, even if the debtor was not culpable in the fraud. Addressing the plaintiff’s argument that she is blameless and thus should not be obligated to pay under the “fresh start” approach to bankruptcy, Justice Amy Coney Barrett cites the Restatement of the Law Third, Agency (2006).

“Ordinarily, a faultless individual is responsible for another’s debt only when the two have a special relationship, and even then, defenses to liability are available,” she writes. “For instance, though an employer is generally accountable for the wrongdoing of an employee, he usually can escape liability if he proves that the employee’s action was committed outside the scope of employment.

ALI’s restatements are aimed at clarifying and simplify discrete areas of the law primarily for the benefit of courts. Reporters draft a text  that is revised through a deliberative process before being approved for publication.

DeMott, a member of the Duke Law School faculty since 1975, is an expert on the law of agency who has written extensively on the subject. Her scholarship and teaching also focus on business organizations, fiduciary obligation, and art law. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of a treatise, Shareholder Derivative Actions, initially published in 1987 and updated annually, and a casebook, Fiduciary Obligation, Agency and Partnership, published in 1991. She is the editor, with Danny Busch, of The Liability of Asset Managers (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012).

Read the full opinion.