STOCKTON — A federal judge ruled Monday that Stockton is eligible for bankruptcy protection, over the objection of creditors who argued the city could come up with more money.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein said Stockton can move forward with a plan to reorganize debt. He twice stated that the creditors had acted in bad faith and had refused to pay their share of the costs for negotiations.
“The creditors got a big black eye today,” said Karol Denniston, an attorney who helped draft the legislation that guided Stockton’s mandated mediation before filing for bankruptcy protection. “Now the stage is set for the real dogfight.”
In late June, Stockton became the nation’s largest city to fail financially. At that time, all eyes were on the port city of 300,000 as experts warned the action could set off a string of similar filings among cash-strapped municipalities. Since then, a half-dozen cities have filed for Chapter 9 protection under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, including the city of San Bernardino.
During the 90-day mediation period, Stockton’s creditors refused to negotiate unless the city cut payments to the state pension plan, CalPERS.
By law, the negotiations were confidential, but that detail emerged during the three-day trial that concluded last week.