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IN RE: RONALD J. SMITH,
Debtor.
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RONALD J. SMITH,
Appellant,
v.
U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, AS TRUSTEE FOR CERTIFICATE HOLDERS OF BEAR STERNS ASSETBACKED SECURITIES LLC ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATE SERIES 2004-HE5,
Appellee.
   No. 20-3150
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Youngstown;
No. 4:19-cv-02682—Benita Y. Pearson, District Judge.
United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Youngstown
No. 4:19-bk-40227—Russ Kendig, Judge.
Decided and Filed: June 9, 2021
Before: GIBBONS, KETHLEDGE, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.


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OPINION
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KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judge. Among the several requirements for the rule of law is that the law be reasonably certain. Certainty in the law is what allows citizens to plan their actions knowing that neither the state nor other individuals will interfere with them. That same certainty is what constrains government officials to exercise their coercive powers according to rules—rather than according to their own will, which is what the Founding generation called arbitrary action, or a “government . . . of men.” John Adams, “The Constitution of Massachusetts,” in The Political Writings of John Adams 98 (George A. Peek, Jr. ed. 1954). And when those rules take statutory form, the courts must apply them, regardless of whether a court likes the results of that application in a particular case. Otherwise all statutory law becomes discretionary, and the law itself is rendered uncertain.

At issue in this case is a straightforward statutory rule: that, subject to one condition, if the debtor in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy moves to dismiss his case, “the court shall dismiss” it. 11 U.S.C. § 1307(b). Here, on three separate occasions, Ronald Smith filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition shortly before a scheduled foreclosure sale of his home—thereby preventing the sale—only to move for the dismissal of his bankruptcy case shortly afterward. The bankruptcy court granted those motions and dismissed Smith’s cases, notwithstanding his bad faith, because 11 U.S.C. § 1307(b) plainly commanded the court to dismiss them. A few months later, however, the bankruptcy court invoked its putative equitable powers and reinstated Smith’s most recent bankruptcy case. But a court may exercise those powers only in furtherance of the Bankruptcy Code’s provisions, not in circumvention of them. The court’s order here did the latter. We reverse.