High court seems sympathetic to Puerto Rico in debt case

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four liberal justices on a short-handed Supreme Court seemed sympathetic to arguments that Puerto Rico officials should be allowed to restructure the debt of its financially struggling public utilities.

Some of those justices on Tuesday expressed early doubts about the island's position as arguments in the case began. But by the end of the one-hour session, they appeared open to the idea that federal bankruptcy law does not prevent the island from passing its own measure offering debt relief to local municipalities.

Puerto Rico lawmakers passed the law in 2014 to help cash-strapped utilities meet obligations to bondholders and creditors. The commonwealth is mired in recession and cannot pay $72 billion in public debt.

Only seven justices are hearing the case and the court's four liberals could control the outcome.