While my practice is limited to Massachusetts, I understand that people all over the country read this blog. (Of course, they do so with the understanding that it’s not legal advice and that they should confer with a local attorney who can help them.) With that said, my observations this morning in Bankruptcy Court might be helpful to just about anyone facing bankruptcy.
Last week, a Chapter 13 case was filed by a debtor who had a pending Chapter 7 case which had been filed earlier this summer. The judge asked “why do I have two pending bankruptcy cases at the same time?” A good question.
Debtor’s counsel essentially told the Court that they wanted to convert the case to Chapter 13.
“So then instead of filing a Motion to Convert, or a Notice of Conversion, you simply filed another case?” the Court asked.
“Yes, your honor.”
This was stupid move. There are rules in place that allow a Chapter 7 debtor to convert or seek conversion of their case to Chapter 13 without the need of filing a new case (and preparing the paperwork for a new case, and paying a filing fee for a new case). A little research would have gone a long way. This move ended up costing the debtor more, and also taxed the resources of the court, which ultimately affects us all. While I cannot comment on counsel’s overall competence, bankruptcy is clearly not on the list of strong practice areas.
Ultimately, the Court dismissed the “new” case and converted the Chapter 7 to a Chapter 13. However, all of this was done after the new case was filed, was assigned to a judge, and then reassigned to the judge who already presided over the Chapter 7.
My point is this: if you’re filing bankruptcy, not just any attorney is going to be able to help you. Don’t get me wrong: no attorney is perfect. We all strive for perfection, but none of us ever really get there. But at least get someone who knows what they are doing…or at least has the wherewithal to quickly learn. It’s fair to you. It’s fair to the court that you hope can help you through a difficult process. And ultimately, it’s fair to us all.
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