Reinstatement of Dismissed Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In a recent decision, In re Trine, Bk. 13-21520 (W.D.N.Y. 2015), the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York held that once dismissed, a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case cannot be reopened absent “extraordinary circumstances”. The failure of the debtor and her attorney to respond to the letters from the court and motions does not meet “extraordinary circumstances” standard.

In Trine, the debtor made a motion to reopen a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case that had been dismissed two months earlier. The reason for the motion was debtor’s failure to make payments pursuant to the terms of the plan.

In  most Rochester Chapter 13 Bankruptcy cases, plan payments are deducted from the debtor’s wages pursuant to the order of the bankruptcy court. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy debtor is obligated to start plan payments within 30 days of filing the plan whether or not the employer has started to deduct payments from wages. In Rochester, the debtors are typically informed by their attorneys as well as Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee when plan payments must start, and are given specific instructions as to how to make these payment, in what amounts, and where to send them.

For reasons that are unclear, the debtor in Trine did not make any plan payments during the first three months of the case.  Subsequently, the Chapter 13 Trustee sent the debtor and her attorney a letter stating that the plan payments were in default, and requesting that the debtor or attorney respond withing 10 days, that if they failed to respond a motion to dismiss the case would follow, and that if the case was dismissed the creditors would be immediately notified of the dismissal.  The trustee stated he would be willing to accept an arrangement where  the default could be cured over a period of time.

Neither debtor nor her attorney responded to the letter.  Subsequently, the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee brought a motion to dismiss. After several court appearances, the court gave to the debtor an additional three months to bring the plan current. When that time expired and the plan was still in arrears, the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee filed a report that the payments had not been brought current and the court entered an order dismissing the case.

Once the case was dismissed, one of the creditor’s repossessed the debtor’s car. Only after the car was repossessed, the debtor’s attorney made a motion, asking for the dismissal to be vacated and the case reinstated so that the car could be returned to the debtor. The Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee opposed the motion, and the court denied it.

The debtor in this case relied on the ‘catch-all’ grounds of Rule 60(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which allows relief from a judgment or order for “any other reason that justifies relief.” Case law interpreting Rule 60(b) states that relief will only be granted by the existence of “extraordinary circumstances”. Judge Warren stated in his decision that this provision “does not provide the easy procedural do-over frequently envisioned by litigants appearing before this court”. The court found that since neither the debtor nor the attorney responded to the default letter or the motion to dismiss, and did not appear at the hearings, the debtor did not present any extraordinary circumstances that would justify the reopening of the case.

Once the debtor received the first letter from the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee, she should have immediately contacted her attorney as well as Trustee to find out why the payments were not being made.  Further, if the debtor receives a notice of hearing from the Bankruptcy Court, that notice should not be ignored.

If you contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

New Bankruptcy Court Judge in Rochester

The uncertainty with regard to the next bankruptcy court judge in Rochester has finally been resolved. On March 15, 2012, Paul R. Warren, Esq., the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York, was sworn in as the next Bankruptcy Judge for the Rochester Division of the Bankruptcy Court.  Judge Warren replaced Judge Kaplan who was sitting in Rochester following Judge Ninfo’s retirement.

Mr. Warren received his undergraduate degree from St. John Fisher College and his law degree from the University of Dayton. He was admitted to practice in the Western District of New York in 1984. In the past, Mr. Warren served as a Chapter 7 panal trustee. A few years later, he was appointed the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court. Based in Rochester, Mr. Warren had worked in both Rochester and Buffalo offices of the Clerk’s office.

While Judge Warren has been on the bench for only two days, I already heard positive feedback from fellow bankruptcy lawyers who appeared before him during the motion term last week. I look forward to having some first hand experience appearing before him, and I will post my own impressions on this blog.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

Who Will Be the Next Bankruptcy Judge in Rochester?

At the end of the year, Judge John C. Ninfo II, who has been presiding over the bankruptcy court in Rochester since 1992, will be retiring. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has been interviewing candidates to replace Judge Ninfo since early this fall.

However, since the Second Circuit has not made its selection so far, the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York has established a contingency plan for January and February 2012. The Hon. Michael Kaplan, one of the two Buffalo bankruptcy judges, will be coming to Rochester and Watkins Glen to preside over motions and hearings.

The administrative order posted on the Court’s Website states that the motion calendars for Rochester in January and February will be held on Fridays rather than Wednesdays, but will not be changed otherwise. Since Judge Ninfo has presided over the bankruptcy court in Rochester for the last 20 years, Judge Kaplan may represent a significant change and Rochester bankruptcy lawyers will have to learn about his approach to bankruptcy cases and judicial philosophy.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

Upcoming Changes to the Means Test Figures

Once again, the means test figures for median income are changing as of November 1, 2011. In New York, it means that the amount of income that the debtor can have before being forced into a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is going to decrease.

Through October 31, 2011, a single debtor in New York could have $46,295 in income in income and still be able to file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  Starting November 1, 2011, that figure is decreasing to $45,931.  Similar decreases will take place for all family sizes. The comparison of the existing and new income limits is below.

Old Income Limits

FAMILY SIZE

1 EARNER         2 PEOPLE              3 PEOPLE              4 PEOPLE *

$46,295               $57,777                    $68,396                  $83,942

New Income Limits

FAMILY SIZE

1 EARNER         2 PEOPLE                3 PEOPLE             4 PEOPLE *

$45,931               $56,113                    $66,953                  $81,212

* Add $7,500 for each individual in excess of 4.

While the decreases are not large, they are going to make it more difficult for some individuals and families to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The figures used for the each state’s median income are based on United States Census data, and adopted by the Office of the United States Trustee.  Usually, these figures are adjusted based upon the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Urban Consumers once or twice per year.

When the economy is growing, typically income rises because of the cost of living increases, inflation and other reasons. When the economy is not growing, income actually decreased from the prior year. As a result, the means test is adjusted and lower median income figures are used which make it more difficult for debtors to qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

Meeting of Creditors and Debtors’ Duty to Provide Bank Statements

Debtors who filed Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy cases are required to provide certain documents to the trustee prior to the Meeting of Creditors. It is responsibility of bankruptcy attorneys to make sure that all of the required documents are collected in advance and provided to the trustee ahead of the meeting.

According to Bankruptcy Rule 4002, the trustee must be provided sixty days of pay stubs and the most recent tax return.  In addition, debtors who own real estate that they intend on keeping must provide the trustee with some kind of valuation or appraisal.  Here in Rochester, bankruptcy trustees also require copies of deed, mortgage, if any, as well as the most recent mortgage statement.

In addition, Bankruptcy Rule 4002 requires the debtor to bring to the Meeting of Creditors all bank and other financial account statements showing the balances in the accounts on the date the bankruptcy petition was filed.  All bankruptcy trustees here in Rochester adhere to this rule. Turning the statements over at the meeting of creditors will save debtors time and will allow the trustee to resolve any issues related to exempt funds.

If debtors do not have such statements and are unable to obtain them from their bank, Bankruptcy Rule 4002 provides a solution by allowing debtors to submit a verified statement to that effect.

If you contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

Bankruptcy Filings in Western New York

While  bankruptcies have been on increase nationally, Rochester-area bankruptcy filings have been declining during the last month and for the year to date.

Rochester region filings were down 19.5 percent in January and down 19.5 percent for the year, statistics released by the Western District of New York Bankruptcy Court clerk show.

The January total of 434 bankruptcy petitions filed in the Western District’s nine-county Rochester region was lower than 540  filings in January 2010.

The January filings in Rochester consisted of 88 consumer Chapter 7 Bankruptcy petitions and 54 consumer Chapter 13 Bankruptcies.   In Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, often referred to as “liquidation bankruptcy”, debtors, subject to available exemptions, may have to liquidate assets to pay creditors part or all of what they owe. In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, otherwise referred to as “repayment plan”, the debtors submit proposed repayment plan to pay creditors part or all of what they owe over time without liquidating assets.

The Western District’s Rochester region encompasses the counties of Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Livingston, Seneca, Yates, Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

Debtors Get More Time to Take Personal Financial Management Course

One of the basic procedural requirements that the debtors have to satisfy before receiving their discharge in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is completing the personal financial management course.

Starting on December 1, 2010, the new rules went into effect giving the debtors in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 60 days to file a statement of completion of a course in personal financial management.  The statement of completion is also known as Official Form 23.

After December 1, 2010, debtors must complete the course within 60 days from the first date set for the meeting of creditors, also know as 341 Hearing. This is an increase of 15 days, up from the prior 45 day time limit.

If debtors fail to satisfy this requirement, they are denied a discharge of their debts.  If debtors do not receive their discharge, their bankruptcy was not successful in discharging their debts, and they will not be able to file for bankruptcy again for a long time.

The rules for individuals in Chapter 13 cases were not changed, and still provide that the personal financial management course has to be completed no later than the date when the last payment was made by the debtor as required by the plan or the filing of a motion for discharge.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

Changes to New York’s Bankruptcy Exemptions

Back in July I have written about a pending bill which would have changed New York’s bankruptcy exemptions and allowed debtors to use the current federal exemptions or the exemptions in New York Law. At the time, it was impossible to predict whether the bill would ever become law.

On December 23, 2010, the bill was signed into law and will become effective in 30 days. This is the biggest change in New York’s bankruptcy exemptions in years, and will make a tremendous impact on the debtors filing both Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

Homestead Exemption Increases to $75,000 per person for those in Rochester and Western New York

Right now each homeowner can protect only $50,000 worth of equity in a house. However, for those living in Rochester and Western New York Counties, that amount will increase to $75,000. Since a married couple can combine their exemptions, that means that a couple will be able to protect a$150,000 worth of equity in their home.

This will enable almost any typical Rochester middle class family to file bankruptcy to eliminate their credit card debts while protecting their home. In my Rochester, New York, bankruptcy practice, I periodically meet with homeowners who are forced to file for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy instead of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy because they have too much equity in their homes.  Now, almost everyone will be able to seek Chapter 7 Bankruptcy relief and keep and protect their homes.

Amounts for Almost All Other New York’s Exemptions Categories Are Being Increased and New Categories Are Being Added

The new law also increases the exemptions for many other assets such as cars, and adds some new categories like home computers and vehicles for the handicapped.

Comparison of New York’s Old and New, 2011 Bankruptcy Exemption Statutes

Existing New York State Bankruptcy Exemptions NEW New York State Bankruptcy Exemptions
Homestead Exemption (note:  this can be combined for married couples filing jointly, who own the real estate together)

$50,000

Homestead Exemption (note:  this can be combined for married couples filing jointly, who own the real estate together)

$150,000 for property in the downstate New York (Counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Kings, Queens, Bronx, Richmond, Rockland, Westchester and Putnam)

$125,000 for property in the Counties of Dutchess, Albany, Columbia, Orange, Saratoga and Ulster

$75,000 for all other counties

Motor Vehicle

$2,400

Motor Vehicle

$4,000

Motor Vehicle equipped for use by a disabled person (new category)

$10,000

Cash Exemption if Homestead Exemption is taken

None

Cash Exemption if Homestead Exemption is taken

$1,000.   (Note:  New exemption.  Can also be used for personal property.   However, the Federal Exemption is much greater and allows debtors to protect much more in appropriate situations.)

Jewelry and Art

a wedding ring

a watch worth up to $35

Jewelry and Art

a wedding ring

a watch, jewelry and art worth up to a total of $1,000 (Notes:  New exemption.  This will make it much more difficult for trustees to seek payment for engagement rings)

Tools of Trade  (these are the working tools and implements that are necessary to carry on one’s business)

$600

Tools of Trade  (these are the working tools and implements that are necessary to carry on one’s business)

$3,000

Aggregate Individual Bankruptcy Exemption for Cash, Household Goods and Clothing

$5,000

Aggregate Individual Bankruptcy Exemption for Cash, Household Goods and Clothing

$10,000

The New and Increased Exemptions Will Benefit Future Bankruptcy Debtors

Not only will more consumers be able to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, but it will also help those debtors filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy since they may be paying substantially less through their monthly Chapter 13 plan. In addition, existing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy debtors may be able to convert their cases to Chapter 7 and eliminate all future monthly payments.


I have attached a copy of the actual bill here.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

Who Will Find Out That I Filed For Bankruptcy?

One of the most common questions that I am asked during the initial bankruptcy consultation or subsequent meetings with clients is, who will find out that I filed for bankruptcy? It is a reasonable question to ask, because, for some people, bankruptcy tends to carry negative connotations, and debtors are often embarrassed of their need to seek bankruptcy relief.

Initially, filing for bankruptcy under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 results in a court proceeding. The information about the filing will be available to anyone at the bankruptcy court or anyone who is willing to accesses bankruptcy information online. All bankruptcy cases are listed in the on-line database known as PACER. In order to access PACER, you need to have an account, and pay a small fee for every page of the document being accessed. All bankruptcy attorneys use PACER since it allows us check on pending and previously filed cases and get other information.

As I discussed previously, bankruptcies also appear on credit reports.

In addition, here in Rochester, there are two newspapers that publish information about bankruptcy filings. First, Democrat & Chronicle publishes information about recent bankruptcy filings once a week. From what I observed, there is a significant lag between the actual date of filing and the publication date. Second, another, much smaller local newspaper, the Daily Record, publishes information about recent bankruptcy filings as well. Unlike Democrat & Chronicle, the Daily Record is targeted toward attorneys and is not usually seen by general public. In my experience, most people do not pay any attention to the bankruptcy filing information and none of my clients ever mentioned that anyone learned about their bankruptcy filings from the newspaper.

Notice of a bankruptcy case also goes out to every every creditor. In addition, the notice may go out to the debtor’s employer in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy cases where the debtor will be making payments to the plan. In a typical Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case here in Rochester, such payments are made by wage deduction, and the debtor’s employer is sent a wage deduction order. However, notice of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing will not go out to the debtor’s employer just because the debtor has a 401(k) loan.

At the end, it is most likely that only the past and future creditors and bankruptcy court personnel will learn of your bankruptcy filing.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

Bankruptcy Filings In Western New York

While  bankruptcies have been on increase nationally, Rochester-area bankruptcy filings have been declining during the last month and for the year to date.

Rochester region filings were down 21.4 percent in October and down 8.7 percent for the year, statistics released by the Western District of New York Bankruptcy Court clerk show.

The October total of 254 bankruptcy petitions filed in the Western District’s nine-county Rochester region was lower than 323  filings in October 2009, which totaled 323 a year ago. Filings in the first ten months totaled 2,708 locally versus 2,965 during the same period in 2009.

The October filings consisted of 173 Chapter 7 Bankruptcy petitions and 81 Chapter 13 Bankruptcies.   In Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, often referred to as “liquidation bankruptcy”, debtors, subject to available exemptions, may have to liquidate assets to pay creditors part or all of what they owe. In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, otherwise referred to as “repayment plan”, the debtors submit proposed repayment plan to pay creditors part or all of what they owe over time without liquidating assets.

The Western District’s Rochester region encompasses the counties of Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Livingston, Seneca, Yates, Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.