This Article reconsiders the implementation of Article III in the bankruptcy context. Recent rulings that limit the delegation of adjudicative power to non–Article III tribunals have generated uncertainty and profuse litigation. The Supreme Court’s Article III cases in this domain lack any foundational account of why the power granted to bankruptcy judges implicates a constitutional problem. This Article identifies more precisely the Article III stakes in bankruptcy. Drawing on the well-tested creditors’-bargain theory of bankruptcy, this Article proposes a tractable, economically sophisticated constraint on congressional delegations. Our proposed account of bankruptcy courts’ permissible domain minimizes Article III and federalism harms—the normative desiderata identified by the Court—while also enabling bankruptcy’s core operations to continue unhindered. To illustrate its utility, the Article applies this account to a range of common bankruptcy disputes, demonstrating that most (but not all) of the Court’s existing jurisprudence is sound in result, if not in reasoning.
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