Saturday, April 27, 2013

How Did My "Bad Faith" Case Go?

I previously blogged about my case relating to a bad faith case in a Bucks County Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  The hearing lasted approximately 80 minutes.  The beginning involved arguments, timeline over, and review of the case with the bankruptcy judge and the Trustee.  I called my client to testify.

My Bucks County client did a terrific job.  We reviewed my questions a day before the hearing and on that day.  Federal bankruptcy court in Philadelphia is an imposing scene.  I often joke that the courtroom is so ominous that it is perfect for a setting in a courtroom drama movie.  Many clients, in this setting, can be intimidated.  My client, however, did a great job.  We fully explained the reasons for his filing, why it was in good faith, and what his goals were in this new Bucks County filing.

The judge heard final arguments between myself and the Trustee.  He then advised that he would take the matter under consideration and issue an opinion.

We received the decision this week.  We were successful.  My client is allowed to continue on in his Bucks County bankruptcy and he could not be more excited.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bad faith in a Bucks County Bankruptcy

I have represented many people in Bucks County who have filed bankruptcy more than once.  Due to significant life changes (i.e. death of a spouse, divorce, loss of job), individuals turn back to bankruptcy for relief. 

In a Bucks County Chapter 13 case, an individual may have multiple filings.  Sometimes, the Trustee will request a "Consent Order", which an individual would sign that acknowledges that any future filings must be granted by a bankruptcy judge. 

Tomorrow, I am appearing in court for an individual where the Trustee is requesting a Consent Order.  I have advised my client to not agree to signing the order.  As an advocate for my client, I have to make sure that the client does not waive certain rights.  In this case, I don't want my client to "handcuff" their future if this bankruptcy goes through.  As a Bucks County Bankruptcy lawyers, we have to make sure they are put in the best position to protect their financial future. 

Of course, you have to know the case law surrounding "what is bad faith" in refiling a bankruptcy.  The seminal case in the matter in the United States Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania is In re Richard LegreeLegree involves a debtor with a history of at least 10 prior filings over 18 years.

The court indicated that many factors must be weighed under the "totality of the circumstances", including:
  • The nature of the debt.
  • The timing of the petition.
  • How the debt arose.
  • The debtor’s motive in filing the petition.
  • The effect on creditors.
  • The debtor’s treatment of creditors pre- and post-petition.
  • Whether the debtor has been forthcoming with the bankruptcy court. 
  • The length of time between the prior cases and the present one.
  • Whether the successive cases were filed to obtain favorable treatment afforded by the automatic stay.
    The effort made to comply with prior case plans.
  • The fact that Congress intended the debtor to achieve its goals in a single case.
  • Any other facts the court finds relevant relating to the debtor’s purposes in making successive filings.
  • Was there a material change in the debtor’s circumstances since the previous filing that warrants a fresh start?
  • Can the debtor show a confirmable and feasible Chapter 13 plan?
  • Does the debtor’s history of past filings reflect an intent to abuse the bankruptcy process through a strategy of successive filings without any real reorganization effort?
The judge in Legree prohibited the debtor from filing a bankruptcy for one year.  In my case tomorrow, my Bucks County client's specific history indicates a tremendous lack of bad faith.  As such, after weighing his case against Legree, I am confident we will prevail. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Big News: New Firm, Same Results

As of April 22, 2013, I will be departing my current firm and moving to Gallant & Parlow, PC, a highly-rated Bucks County law firm that is home to some Super Lawyers. I will continue as a Bucks County Bankruptcy lawyer.  As the years continue on, I am so happy to look back and see all the lives that I have changed for the better through bankruptcy. 

As I tell most of my clients, "No one ever wants to see me."  But, the power of bankruptcy can fix a major source of frustration for people:  debt.  It can get rid of oppressive debt that impacts marriages, one's health, sleep, children, and work.  I am honored to proved a "fresh start" through a Bucks County Chapter 7 or 13.  As I receive thank you cards and holiday cards, it makes me proud to make a difference in so many people's lives.  Thank you for choosing me and thank you for inviting me into your lives during your most difficult times.