Category Archives: Bankruptcy Information and Requirements

What If A Creditor In A Bankruptcy Case Is An Infant or Incompetent Person?


I really do not know the utility of this article given I know this set of circumstances rarely will ever come up. I have literally had a hand in four or five thousands cases over the years and this issue has not come up so far. I also administered countless Chapter 13 cases as the staff attorney for David Burchard, the Chapter 13 Trustee for the San Francisco and Santa Rosa Divisions of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. The set of circumstances that this could be an issue are very narrow. The bankruptcy filer would at some point injured or damaged a minor somehow or the person with a claim against the bankruptcy filer became incompetent over time. Also, if the person with a claim is an adult, how would the bankruptcy filer or their Bankruptcy Attorney ever know the person is incompetent? They probably would not.

Nonetheless if this issue does come here you go. It is rare for an adult, someone over the age of 18, to be indebted to or someone under the age of 18 has a “claim” against an adult. It is also rare for someone to owe an incompetent person money. If someone is incompetent they cannot enter into a contract legally. It is possible that the debt or claim arose prior to the person becoming incompetent. So there are a some reasonable hypothetical facts to help discuss this issue. In the real world you will probably look long and hard to find this was every an issue in a bankruptcy case.

The issue is how can you provide notice of a bankruptcy filing to an infant or someone who is incompetent? An infant is defined as a person who has not attained legal majority; or under-age or under 18 or 21 years of age depending upon state law. A person that is under the age of minority cannot be served legally even if they are a creditor of the person who is filing for bankruptcy protection. Also, a person that is incompetent cannot be or accept service given they are incompetent. Incompetency is generally defined as an adult who can no longer take care of their own financial and personal affairs because of mental problems or potentially a physical problem too.

The most important parts of filing for bankruptcy protection is giving all creditors notice of the bankruptcy case. Once the bankruptcy attorney files the bankruptcy petition any and all collection activity must stop and the Bankruptcy Court is the sole place to seek remedy. So if all creditors do not receive notice or do not understand the notice that is a problem. Every bankruptcy filer wants their creditors to receive notice and stop the phone calls or harassing letters. You will also want the creditor to get the order of discharge in the mail so that they know once and for all the debt is no longer legally enforceable by federal court order.

How Do You Serve An Infant Or Incompetent Person?

First look to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 1007(m). In 2001 FRBP was amended to add section “m.” FRBP 1007(m) provides: If the bankruptcy filer knows that a person on the list of creditors or schedules is an infant or incompetent person, the bankruptcy filer also shall include the name, address, and legal relationship of any person upon whom process would be served in an adversary proceeding against the infant or incompetent person in accordance with Rule 7004(b)(2). The point is to serve someone that knows the infant or incompetent person that can accept service on their behalf. Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 7004(b)(2) provides: (b) Service by First Class Mail. Except as provided in subdivision (h), in addition to the methods of service authorized by Rule 4(e)–(j) F.R.Civ.P., service may be made within the United States by first class mail postage prepaid as follows: (2) Upon an infant or an incompetent person, by mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to the person upon whom process is prescribed to be served by the law of the state in which service is made when an action is brought against such a defendant in the courts of general jurisdiction of that state. The summons and complaint in that case shall be addressed to the person required to be served at that person’s dwelling house or usual place of abode or at the place where the person regularly conducts a business or profession.

Basically for an infant you need to also include the name and address of the infant’s parents or legal guardian. The same is true for an incompetent person. Someone has to be taking care of or appointed as a conservator or guardian of the incompetent person. Whoever is taking care of them is the person upon whom process is prescribed to be served by the law of the state in which service is made when an action is brought against a defendant in the courts of general jurisdiction of that state.

Bankruptcy and Service of Motion To Avoid Judicial Lien


The issue here is who must be served when filing a motion to avoid a judicial lien under Section 522 or 506 of the Bankruptcy Code. There could be a number of parties involved or a number of attorneys involved in obtaining and enforcing the judicial lien before a bankruptcy case is filed. So who has to be served with the motion to value or avoid the lien? Is service required on the state court attorney that obtained the judgment, the original creditor or the potential attorney now representing the creditor in the bankruptcy case?

FRBP 9014 and 7004

Once the bankruptcy case is filed the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, Federal Rules of Procedure and local bankruptcy rules take over. All states have laws governing the enforcement and collection of lien rights and judicial lien rights. Procedures for contested matters in bankruptcy cases are governed by Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9014, which requires service of a motion “in the manner provided for service of a summons and complaint by Rule 7004 . . . .” Rule 9014(a). So we have to look to FRBP 7004. Service of a summons and complaint varies depending upon the type of entity the creditor is. Whether the creditor is a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, corporation or is insured depository institution. If FDIC insured service shall be made by certified mail addressed to an officer of the institution unless— (1) the institution has appeared by its attorney, in which case the attorney shall be served by first-class mail; (2) the court orders otherwise after service upon the institution of notice of an application to permit service on the institution by first-class mail sent to an officer of the institution designated by the institution; or (3) the institution has waived in writing its entitlement to service by certified mail by designating an officer to receive service.

Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel Case

In a recent 9th Cir. BAP case; Teresa Bryant, Appellant, vs. The Bank of New York Mellon; Select Portfolio Servicing, BAP No. CC-16-1009-DKuF, discussed the proper service of a motion to avoid a judicial lien. In this case Ms. Bryant’s bankruptcy attorney served the motion by certified mail on a bank officer of Mellon pursuant to FRBP 7004 and served each attorney that appeared on behalf of Mellon in the bankruptcy case. In the Northern District of California we have a local rule that says if a claim was filed for the lien, then the address provided on the claim has to be served in addition to the requirements of FRBP 7004 be met. Mellon tried to argue that since their state court attorney was not served the motion to value service was defective. This issue was addressed in Frates v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (In re Frates), 507 B.R. 298, 301 (9th Cir. BAP 2014). The appellee bank in Frates argued their state court attorney should have been served with the motion to value or avoid. The Ninth Circuit BAP said no.

The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel previously concluded that compliance with Rule 7004(h) was all that was required. The court recognized that California law would have required service of post-judgment motions on the state court attorney, but the court did not “perceive any reason why compliance with California law should be compelled in light of the procedural due process safeguards provided by the rules themselves. This means that when enforcing the judicial lien under California law post-judgment motions must be served on the state court attorney for the judgment creditor. That is not the case after a bankruptcy case is filed.

You Do Not Have To Serve The State Court Attorney

Bankruptcy case rules make no mention of serving a motion to avoid a judicial lien on any state court attorney involved in the matter previously. In the Bryant appeal the debtor’s bankruptcy attorney served the attorney that made an appearance for Mellon and filed a motion for relief from stay filed in the bankruptcy case and still served an officer of Mellon by certified mail. The Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel held nothing more was required. The lower bankruptcy court unfortunately evaluated the circumstances of not serving the state court attorney as a possible fraud on the bankruptcy court for not serving Mellon’s state court attorney with the motion to value. The 9th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel decidedly said no. There was no fraud on the bankruptcy court.

What Creditors Attorneys Should Do

If a state court attorney wants to be noticed or a creditor wants their state court attorney that obtained the judgment to be served then the state court attorney should file a request for special notice in the bankruptcy case. Then they have to be provided notice. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases judicial liens can be avoided in no assets cases. In a no asset case there is no call for creditors to file claims or even make an appearance in the case at all. Under these circumstances no attorney will make an appearance for a creditor in the Chapter 7 no asset bankruptcy case. The only viable service is pursuant to FRBP 9014 and 7004. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases claims are called to be filed on behalf of creditors. So in theory in a Chapter 13 case there could be an attorney or other party to provide notice to and meet the requirements of FRBP 7004.

How to Properly Request a Temporary Waiver or Exemption From the Credit Counseling Course Requirement


If you are considering filing for bankruptcy protection and are researching how to request an exemption or waiver of the credit counseling course requirement for some exigent circumstance, just stop now. Making this request is a huge red flag on your bankruptcy case. Stop wasting your time and go on the internet and just do yourself a favor and complete the Credit Counseling course right now. Then come back and read the rest of this article. You will thank me later. 11 U.S.C. Section 521(b) requires debtors file with the court a certificate from the approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency that provided the debtor services under Section 109(h) describing the services provided to the debtor; a Credit Counseling Certificate of completion.

If you retained a bankruptcy attorney that is recommending that you not complete the credit counseling course and request an exemption or waiver please run away from that attorney as fast as you can. Our job is not to complicate the circumstances you are already dealing with. Not completing the credit counseling course is just asking for trouble. Look, yes, there are exceptions or circumstances where an exemption or waiver can be granted, but generally requesting an exemption or waiver of the credit counseling course requirement is not normal and rare. If I see a case that involves requesting any sort of exemption or waiver, without knowing any more information than that case, I already know the case has problems and the likelihood that the bankruptcy case will go smoothly is very little.

Incapacity or Disability Pursuant to Section 109(h)(4)

Please do not confuse Exigent Circumstances with actual Incapacity or Disability. 11 U.S.C. Section 109(h) waives the credit counseling course requirement for someone who is incapacitated due to incapacity, disability, or active military duty in a military combat zone. The credit counseling course can then be waived only after notice and a hearing though. You must file and serve a motion, declaration in support and notice of the hearing date and time. You are talking about anywhere from $500.00 to $1,200.00 in additional attorneys’ fees and costs. Incapacity means that the bankruptcy filer is impaired by reason of mental illness or mental deficiency so that he is incapable of realizing and making rational decisions with respect to his financial responsibilities. Disability means that the bankruptcy filer is so physically impaired as to be unable, after reasonable effort, to participate in an in person, telephone or internet briefing required under Section 109(h)(1).

Exigent Circumstances Pursuant to Section 109(h)(3)

So, for those of you who are not incapacitated, disabled or in an active military combat zone and do not follow my advice above, the following is how to actually request an exemption or temporary waiver regarding the credit counseling course requirement due to some exigent circumstance. I am not going to get into details about what an exigent circumstance is though. I truthfully do not know of any. Ms. Lin and I have filed over a thousand bankruptcy cases and every single one of our clients was able to fulfill the requirement to complete the credit counseling course prior to the case being filed.

The Three Part Test

All three parts of the test must be completed given the language of Section 109(h)(3) provides the three parts are conjunctive, not disjunctive.

1. The bankruptcy filer’s certification must describe the exigent circumstances meriting a waiver of the credit counseling requirement. 11 U.S.C. §109(h)(3)(A)(i)

2. The certification must provide the bankruptcy filer requested credit counseling services from an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency, but was unable to obtain the service referred to in Section 109(h)(1) during the 7-day period beginning on the date on which the bankruptcy filer made that request. 11 U.S.C. §109(h)(3)(A)(ii)

3. Then the request must be satisfactory to the court. 11 U.S.C. §109(h)(3)(A)(iii)
Part 1 and 2 will be the most difficult parts of the test to satisfy. First you have to actually have some sort of exigent circumstance that prevents you from being able to complete the credit counseling course requirement. Then the court gets to evaluate whether the exigent circumstance and request for temporary exemption or waiver is satisfactory to the court.

Your home being subject to foreclosure sale should not usually be an exigent circumstance. Some other civil court lawsuit pending in another court should not usually be an exigent circumstance. Your vehicle about to be repossessed should not usually be an exigent circumstance. Facing eviction due to an unlawful detainer suit filed against you should not usually be an exigent circumstance. Again, I cannot really say what is an exigent circumstance warranting a temporary waiver of the credit counseling course requirement. I know the following list has been denied an exemption or temporary waiver in actual cases filed.

In re Davenport, 335 B.R. 218, 221 (Bankr.M.D.Fla.2005)
In re Watson, 332 B.R. 740, 745 (Bankr.E.D.Va.2005)
In re Hubbard, 332 B.R. 285, 289 (Bankr.S.D.Tex.2005)
In re Gee, 332 B.R. 602, 604 (Bankr.W.D.Mo.2005)
In re Wallert, 332 B.R. 884, 891 (
In re LaPorta, 332 B.R. 879, 883 (Bankr.N.D.Minn.2005)

The long and the short of it is just complete the credit counseling course requirement as soon as you start considering bankruptcy as an option. It does not take that long and you may learn something that is helpful. That was the entire point of the two required courses being created to begin with. You are provided information before you can file bankruptcy in the first course then additional information in the second course to obtain a discharge in your bankruptcy case.

California Bankruptcy Exemptions May Increase Soon


In California we have two set of exemptions to protect assets against collection efforts by creditors. There are limits to what can be protected and how much of the value of the asset can be protected. Under CCP Section 703 the defining feature of this set of exemptions is the Wild Card exemption that can be applied to anything under Section 703.14(b)(5) totaling $26,925.00. This Wildcard exemption can be used to protect equity in a home too. The other set of California exemptions under CCP Section 704 include homestead exemptions with higher limits. Recently the California State Senate passed SB 308 that proposes a number of great changes to California’s exemptions. One of the most important proposed changes is the exemption that protects equity in a primary residence. Right now the homestead exemptions in California to protect equity in a primary residence are: (1) single person $75,000; (2) married or have dependent children living in residence ($100,000); and (3) debtor is a senior 65 or older; disabled, or 55 years of age or older and has limited income. California Senate Bill 308, among other things, would change California’s exemptions to give everyone a $300,000 homestead exemption to protect equity in their primary residence. If California’s exemptions are changed as proposed in SB 308 California’s residence in financial distress will get little more help in recovering or staying afloat.

California Homestead Exemption Changes Under CCP Section 704 Exemptions

1. Homestead Exemption Limit Increased To $300,000

This is probably the most dramatic proposed change to the California exemption system. As the current limits are listed above an increase to $300,000 for everyone is a significant increase, especially for a single person. At the same time California’s exemptions have not kept pace with inflation and the cost of living in California. If you review the history of the increases in California’s exemptions you will clearly see the increases have not kept pace with California’s cost of living and inflation.

2. Removes The Six-Month Reinvestment Requirement

Right now CCP Section 704 homestead exemptions requires after sale of the home and the former owners receive the exemption amount of the proceeds they will lose the entire exemptions if they do not reinvest the proceeds in a new home. So if the bankruptcy trustee sells the home the debtors have six months from the sale date to reinvest the proceeds. Okay, but they just filed for bankruptcy and that means they most likely do not have the best credit. So how is someone supposed to qualify to purchase a new home? This is a badly needed change also. I far as I know exemptions are meant to protect assets to help someone in financial distress. Pulling the rug out from under someone in financial distress six months later does not seem to be consistent with the underlying goal of having exemptions to begin with.

Increase The Vehicle Exemption to $6,000 For Everyone

Right now under the CCP Section 703 vehicle exemption the limit of the exemption is $5,100 and under CCP Section 704 the vehicle exemption limit is only $2,900. These exemptions are badly in need of an increase. As a society we need everyone to be able to move about with reliable transportation period. It does not do anyone any good to someone with a car that cannot allow them safely to and from work or transport children. A $6,000 vehicle is usually just on the line of reliability anyway and getting up there if miles. This proposed increase will provide a modest increase in the type of vehicle that can be protected and is badly needed.

New Exemption for Small Business Owners

Right now a small business owner does not have a specific exemption to protect cash or deposit accounts, accounts receivable and business inventory up to $5,000 for debtors using the CCP Section 704 exemptions. For small business owners choosing the 704 exemptions this will be valuable addition to help them continue to operate their business and achieve success after bankruptcy. The limit of the proposed exemption is extremely reasonable at $5,000. This amount should not result in giving a windfall to a small business owner.

Amends California Code Section 2983.3 Regarding Vehicle Loans

Right now the law provides a person with a vehicle loan when filing bankruptcy has three options regarding the loan. They can surrender the vehicle to satisfy the loan, enter into a reaffirmation agreement and continue payments, or redeem the vehicle for its fair market value under Section 721 of the bankruptcy code and keep the vehicle. What is not supposed to be allowed anymore is someone just continues to make the payments and does not do either of the three options listed above. They are current with the payments, but technically under the law the lender can repossess the vehicle since the loan was not reaffirmed. This change would make the filing of bankruptcy not grounds for repossession if the person is current with their payments.

What Will These Proposed Changes Mean To Bankruptcy Attorneys and Their Clients?

The ramifications will most likely be far reaching and help thousands of California residents live happier and healthier lives by obtaining a fresh start. Regarding the increase in the homestead exemption, most bankruptcy attorneys will most likely see a decrease in the number of Chapter 13 cases they file given that same bankruptcy filer can protect more equity in their home and still file a Chapter 7 case. Currently one of the reasons to file a Chapter 13 case is to protect equity in a home while reorganizing debts and not have to liquidate the home in a Chapter 7 case. More people should qualify to file a Chapter 7 case if the homestead exemption is increased. At the same time the dynamic between someone’s assets and the available exemptions is complicated and there are compromises that have to be made given the limits to the amounts of the exemptions. Then you factor in the differences between the two sets of exemptions, CCP Section 703 and CCP Section 704, and bankruptcy lawyers will have a whole new evaluation to make when discussing which set of exemptions would be most advantageous.

In all these proposed increases will not provide windfalls, but make California’s exemptions consistent with the real world we live in. When pondering a perfect world I believe the exemption limits should be based upon a county by county measurement of income and cost of living. To truly treat everyone fairly based upon their circumstances we need to look at their circumstances more closely at the county level. In California the median income and cost of living vary widely throughout our huge state. Creating exemptions by county would be a huge undertaking and probably unmanageable by the bankruptcy courts. For now the increases of California bankruptcy exemptions proposed in California State Senate Bill 308 would be a huge and long needed improvement.

What Can A Creditor or Party In Interest Do In My Bankruptcy Case To Cause Problems?


First, what a creditor can do usually does depends upon the chapter of the bankruptcy code you choose to file under. This article will only address some of the things a creditors can do under chapter 7 and chapter 13 of the bankruptcy code. Generally speaking most unsecured creditors to not participate in the average bankruptcy case unless there are allegations of fraud or improper conduct by debtor regarding the extension of credit or the use of the credit account by the debtor. Secured creditors usually do participate in most bankruptcy cases given the person filing for bankruptcy protection has possession of the collateral securing repayment of the loan or debt. Another class of creditors, creditors with unsecured priority claims, may participate depending upon the chapter that is filed.

What if there is an allegation of fraud or some improper conduct?

Once a chapter 7 or chapter 13 case is filed a notice of the bankruptcy case, meeting of the creditors and deadlines is served by the bankruptcy court all on creditors listed in the bankruptcy petition. This notice has a number of dates and deadlines listed on it. One of the most important deadlines is the date to object to the debtor’s discharge or to challenge the dischargeability of specific debts. Under Section 727 of the bankruptcy code a party in interest may object to the debtor receiving a discharge in the bankruptcy case. Under Section 523 a creditor may try and prove that the debt owed to them specifically should not be discharged. This deadline is 60 days after the date of the first schedule meeting of the creditors. The meeting of the creditors is usually held approximately 30 days after the bankruptcy petition is filed. That means there is about 90 days for a creditor or party in interest to conduct an investigation regarding the bankruptcy filer’s income, expenses and assets if there is an allegation of fraud or improper conduct. In the 9th Circuit the 60 day deadline is a hard deadline. If a creditor or party in interest does not file their adversary complaint within that deadline it will most likely be dismissed as late filed. An extension of the deadline to file an adversary proceeding can be requested and granted by the court for cause, but do not expect the deadline to be extended if you have done nothing in the case and waited until the last minute to participate in the bankruptcy case. It is not fair to the debtor for the 60 day deadline to be extended because a creditor’s bankruptcy lawyer or party in interest was lazy, incompetent or negligent in investigating the financial condition of the debtor timely. The Supreme Court of the United States has made it clear that a debtor is entitled to the expeditious handling of all matters regarding discharge. See Taylor v. Freeland & Kronz, 503 U.S. 638, 112 S.Ct. 1644, 118 L.Ed.2d 280 (1992).

The first opportunity to ask questions by a creditor is at the 341 meeting of the creditors

The first opportunity to cause a problem is at the meeting of the creditors. It really is not causing a problem because that is what the meeting of the creditors is for, for creditors to come ask questions and determine if there are any issues to raise or allege the debtor is not entitled to a discharge of their debts, or the debt specifically owed to the creditor for some reason. The meeting of the creditors is a limited forum to ask questions though. In both chapter 7 or chapter 13 cases a creditor will only be given around 5 minutes or less to ask question of the debtor. There are many cases on the calendar and trustees have to keep the calendar moving to a certain extent. If the questions asked by a creditor or their attorney truly raise issues the trustee is interested in the questioning may take longer and the trustee may jump in to question the debtor more too. If a creditor wants to continue their investigation they will need to file an application for a Rule 2004 examination of the debtor.

Rule 2004 Examinations

A rule 2004 examination refers to the section of the bankruptcy code that allows for a party in interest and/or creditor to depose the debtor and request documents. A rule 2004 examination is a very powerful tool because it has a broad scope of what can be requested of the debtor. A rule 2004 has been described as a “fishing expedition” given the broad nature. The scope of the examination may encompass “the acts, conduct, or property or to the liabilities and financial condition of the debtor, or to any matter which may affect the administration of the debtor’s estate, or the debtors right to a discharge period.” See Rule 2004(b). The extent of the inquiry under Rule 2004 is intended to be very broad and permits the party invoking it great latitude of inquiry. See In re Valley Forge Plaza Assoc., 109 B.R. 669, 674 (Bankr. E.D. Pa. 1990). Furthermore, examinations under rule 2004 are allowed for the purpose of discovering assets and unearthing funds.” See 8 Collier on Bankruptcy, 2004.4, 2004-10 (15th ed. 1993).

The actual filing of an adversary complaint under Section 523 or Section 727 of the Bankruptcy Code

A creditor or party in interest may skip attending the 341 meeting of the creditors or conduct as rule 2004 examination of the debtor altogether. I a creditor or party in interest has all the cause or evidence they feel they need to initiate a lawsuit that may do just that. The standard to survive the complaint being dismissed is not a strict standard. To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Once the complaint is filed a creditor or party in interest will begin the discover process and try and obtain additional damaging documents or information through the discovery process in the adversary proceeding. Whether a creditor or party in interest is successful in taking away a debtor’s discharge entirely or having a specific debt deemed not discharged depends upon many factors and ultimately a favorable ruling by a bankruptcy judge. The goal when filing bankruptcy is to have an issue free case that results in the relief initially sought, an order of discharge signed by the bankruptcy court.

Is it Okay to File Multiple Bankruptcy Petitions Over and Over Again and What are the Possible Repercussions?


I found the all-time record holder for the most bankruptcy petitions filed I have ever witnessed. I have redacted the person’s name even though it is technically a public record. This individual has filed 14 Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions and 1 Chapter 7 petition since 2009. Yes, 15 total separate bankruptcy petitions for relief and they all have been dismissed for one reason or another except the most recent filing. Please see the cases and dates filed at the end of this article. I cannot think of a reason why someone would file this many petitions for relief and actually obtain some sort of value for it. So is it okay to file 15 petitions for relief in five years under the Bankruptcy Code? I cannot specifically answer that question for this person given I do not know the bankruptcy filers circumstances or facts surrounding the many filings. What I do know is this person may have spent a lot of money on filing fees (possibly exceeding $4,000.00, unless a fee waiver or installment payment was made for the filing fee) and used a lot of the Chapter 13 trustee and courts time to administer these cases before dismissal. This article will discuss the effect on the automatic stay regarding multiple bankruptcy filings and the possible repercussions against someone that files this many petitions for relief in such a short period of time.

Multiple Filings and the Automatic Stay

One of the most powerful bars to filing multiple bankruptcy petitions is the limitations of the automatic stay past the first case that is filed. In the first bankruptcy case filed the debtor will get an unlimited automatic stay stopping any and all collection activity as to all creditors. If the same debtor files another case within a year of the first case and the first case was dismissed due to not filing the required paperwork, not paying the fees on time, not showing up for the mandatory meeting of creditors and other reasons, then the automatic stay only lasts for 30 days. If the same debtor files a third case within a year of the first two cases then there is no automatic stay at all. In the second filed case the automatic stay can be extended past the 30 days if an order extending the stay is entered prior to the 30 day stay expiring. In the third case the automatic stay can be imposed by filing a motion with the bankruptcy court.

Possible Repercussions for Filing Multiple Bankruptcy Petitions – Vexatious Litigants

Section 109(g) of the Bankruptcy Code provides: (g) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, no individual or family farmer may be a debtor under this title who has been a debtor in a case pending under this title at any time in the preceding 180 days if— (1) the case was dismissed by the court for willful failure of the debtor to abide by orders of the court, or to appear before the court in proper prosecution of the case; or (2) the debtor requested and obtained the voluntary dismissal of the case following the filing of a request for relief from the automatic stay provided by section 362 of this title.

I mostly practice bankruptcy law in the Northern District of California. We actually have a published opinion on this subject. In re Walker, No. C-98-20966-JW. In the Walker case the debtors filed ten petitions total. Their ninth bankruptcy case was dismissed with prejudice and the Bankruptcy Judge, the Honorable James R. Grube, barred the Walkers from filing another petition for 180 days and seeking a discharge of their existing debts for two years. Judge Grube also did not continue a hearing to dismiss with the case with prejudice so the Walkers could retain counsel. The Walkers appealed and lost.

In the Walkers’ case they testified that they filed three of the cases to stop the garnishment of Mrs. Walker’s wages. The rest of the cases appear to have been filed to stop the collection of utilities by the City of Santa Clara and not make pre/post-petition mortgage payments on their home. Focusing on the ninth bankruptcy petition filed, this case was dismissed for the Walkers’ failure to complete the petition schedules and they also did not appear at the 341 Meeting of the Creditors.

So what is a willful failure to abide by the bankruptcy courts order under Section 109(g)? Unfortunately the Bankruptcy Code does not define the word or term willful. Courts have interpreted “willful” to mean deliberate or intentional. In re Herrera, 194 B.R. 178, 188 (N.D. Ill 1996). To determine is willful conduct took place a court can consider repeated failure to appear or lack of diligence as willful conduct. A court can infer from multiple dismissals and re-filing of bankruptcy petitions without a change in circumstances willful failure to comply with order of the bankruptcy court. In re Nelkovski, 46 B.R. 542, 545 (N.D.Ill. 1985).

In the Walker case the debtors filed nine petitions for relief and never completed the petitions or fully prosecuted the cases. Interestingly enough, there is no absolute bar against filing nine successive bankruptcy petitions or serial filings. Tsafaroff v. Taylor, 884 F.2d 478 (9th Cir. 1989). On appeal the Court agreed with Judge Grube and affirmed the dismissal for the Walkers’ repeated willful failures to follow the Court’s orders under Section 109(g)(1).

Dismissal of the Walkers’ Case With Prejudice

Section 349 of the Bankruptcy Code provides (a) unless the court, for cause, orders otherwise, the dismissal of a case under this title does not bar the discharge, in a later case under this title, of debts that were dischargeable in the case dismissed; nor does the dismissal of a case under this title prejudice the debtor with regard to the filing of a subsequent petition under this title, except as provided in section 109(g) of this title. So there you go. A court can for cause bar a debtor from filing an additional bankruptcy for a period of time or seeking a discharge of their debts listed in the dismissed case. In re Leavitt, 209 B.R. 935 (9th Cir. 1997). In order to have cause, the debtors conduct must have been “egregious;” a finding of bad faith constitutes egregious behavior. Leavitt 209 B.R. at 939. A Bankruptcy Court may dismiss a case with prejudice in order “to punish abusive or bad faith filing.” In re Leavitt, 209 B.R. at 939.

In evaluating a debtor’s history of filings and dismissals, it is useful to consider five factors: “(1) the time between the prior case and the present one; (2) whether the second case was filed to obtain the favorable treatment afforded by the automatic stay; (3) the effort made to comply with the prior case plan; (4) the fact that Congress intended the debtor to achieve its goals in a single case; (5) any other facts the court finds relevant.” In re Hureta, 137 B.R. 356, 367 (B.R. CD Cal.1992).

In the Walker appeal the court noted that the Walkers filed case after case over a six year period with nine of the petition within a four year period and the petition subject to appeal was filed only 24 days after the previous bankruptcy petition was dismissed. On appeal the court noted that the Walkers petitions were dismissed as follows: 3 for failure to appear at the meeting of creditors or appearing at a hearing regarding the chapter 13 plan; 3 were dismissed for failure to appear the 341 meeting of creditors; 1 for failure to make the Chapter 13 Plan payments; and for failure to comply with court orders to file appropriate papers and confirm chapter 13 plans. The
Walkers were determined to have filed the ninth bankruptcy petition in bad faith and were abusing the bankruptcy process.

Vexatious Litigant Determination

A little known area of the law is the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. Section 1651(a). Section 1651(a) provides: The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.

I suppose this is the like the necessary and proper clause of Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution or Section 105(a) of the Bankruptcy Code. They potentially can allow the entity they refer to make any law, order or holding that is deemed proper. 28 U.S.C. Section 1651(a) is no different. It has been determined that Section 1651(a) allows the district court to enjoin litigants that abuse the court system. Tripati v. Beaman, 878 F.2d 351 (10th Cir. 1989); In re Oliver, 682 F.2d 443, 445 (3rd Cir. 1982). However, the conditions cannot be so burdensome as to deny a litigant meaningful access to the courts. Tripati, 878 F.2d at 352.

So the Walkers filing nine bankruptcy petitions in four years was an abuse and the number of dismissals for failure to prosecute the cases provides evidence and supports the conclusion that the Walkers’ were abusing the bankruptcy court system. There are six factors the court identified to help determine if a debtor is a vexatious litigant:
(1) the litigant’s history of litigation and in particular whether it entailed vexatious, harassing or duplicative lawsuits;
(2) the litigant’s motive in pursuing the litigation;
(3) whether the litigant is represented by counsel;
(4) whether the litigant has caused needless expense to other parties . . . or has posed an unnecessary burden on the courts and their personnel; and
(5) whether other sanctions would be adequate to protect the courts and other parties.

The ultimate consideration is “whether the litigant who has a history of vexatious litigation is likely to continue to abuse the judicial process . . . “ See Safir v. United States Lines, Inc., et. al., 792 F.2d 19, 23 (2nd Cir. 1986). The court of appeal wasted no time in determining the Walkers were in fact vexatious litigants and their access to filing more petitions should be restricted by applying the factors listed above. The Walkers’ petitions were duplicative, failed to prosecute all nine cases, they were not represented by counsel, caused needless expense to creditors and burdened the courts. Finally the court determined if the Walkers’ access was not restricted they would continue to file bankruptcy petitions. So the court of appeals ordered the Walkers be limited as follows: (1) the Walkers have to notify the clerk of the Bankruptcy Court if they desire to file a petition and they are vexatious litigants; (2) before the Walkers can file a petition the clerk shall lodge it with the General Duty Bankruptcy Judge and be granted leave to file; (3) once the petition is accepted for filing, the Walkers must obtain leave of the Bankruptcy Court to voluntarily dismiss the petition and (4) the order will remain in effect for 10 years without further order of the court.

So, 15 petitions filed since 2009 and the debtor listed below is still going strong. An interesting part of the history below is the time between the filing of the petitions. The debtors 13th case was dismissed in 2012, then the debtor comes back and files two cases in 2014, the 14th and 15th cases. So without spending too much time the debtor listed below has intermittently fallen within Section 109(g) and arguably depending upon the facts is not a vexatious litigant given the length of time between some of the filings. The debtor also properly received the benefit of the automatic stay in a number of the cases given the timing of filing. The bottom line is this debtor has not been barred from continuing to file bankruptcy petitions and there is probably a good reason why.
“Notice of Debtor’s Prior Filings for debtor XXXX XX Case Number 09-61041, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 12/17/2009 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 01/06/2010; Case Number 11-58863, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 09/23/2011 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 10/14/2011; Case Number 11-60087, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 10/31/2011 , Dismissed for Other Reason on 11/16/2011; Case Number 14-54381, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 10/28/2014; Case Number 09-59783, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 11/09/2009 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 12/01/2009; Case Number 10-54170, Chapter 7 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 04/23/2010 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 06/08/2010; Case Number 10-59424, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 09/10/2010 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 09/29/2010; Case Number 11-56990, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 07/27/2011 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 08/12/2011; Case Number 10-57982, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 08/02/2010 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 08/18/2010; Case Number 11-54700, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 05/17/2011 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 06/02/2011; Case Number 12-50023, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 01/03/2012 , Dismissed for Other Reason on 01/19/2012; Case Number 10-52271, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 03/09/2010 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 03/24/2010; Case Number 11-55983, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 06/27/2011 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 07/13/2011; Case Number 10-56584, Chapter 13 filed in California Northern Bankruptcy Court on 06/25/2010 , Dismissed for Failure to File Information on 07/14/2010.(Admin) (Entered: 11/26/2014)”

What Can I Do If A Collection Agency Harasses Me or Tries to Collect a Debt After Filing For Bankruptcy?


One of the not so great parts of filing bankruptcy for Bay Area residents is dealing with unlawful acts of collection agencies and creditors. Yes, everyone understands that a creditor has every right to seek payment for the debts owed to them. The problem is when a creditor tells one of our client’s mother that they are going to through her daughter into jail and arrest her if the mother does not send them money that same day. There are so many problems with this attempt to collect a debt I do not know where to start. If this type of conduct by a creditor happens after a bankruptcy case is filed is most likely a violation of the automatic stay. So, can a bankruptcy filer receive punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and damages for their emotional distress if a creditor is found guilty of willfully violating the automatic stay? According to In re: Snowden No. 13-35291 (9th Cir. 2014) recently published on September 12, 2014.

In re Snowden

In this case the bankruptcy petitioner obtained a $575 payday loan. Things unfortunately did not improve financially for Snowden and she filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The pay day loan company, Check Into Cash, was very aggressive from the moment they found out Snowden would not be able to pay back the payday loan as agreed. Check Into Cash called Snowden at work even after she told them not to. After Snowden filed for bankruptcy Check Into Cash chose to cash the check Snowden gave them to secure payment of the payday loan. This resulted in Snoweden’s bank account becoming overdrawn and throwing her into further financial turmoil. Snowden eventually filed a motion for sanctions against Check Into Cash for their cashing of the check post-petition and their continued harassing phone calls post-petition in violation of the automatic stay.

Emotional Distress Damages

Section 362 of the Bankruptcy Code provides for the automatic stay as soon as a bankruptcy case is filed. Section 362(k) deals with damages for the willful violation of the automatic stay. Section 362(k)(1) provides in part: . . . an individual injure by any willful violation of a stay provided by this section shall recover actual damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, and, in appropriate circumstances, may recover punitive damages. This section permits an award for emotional distress damages if the bankruptcy petitioner (1) suffered significant harm, (2) clearly establishes the significant harm, and (3) demonstrates a causal connection between that significant hard and the violation of the automatic stay. See Dawson, 390 F.3d at 1149. In the Snowden case the creditor took issues with the second prong of the analysis. The creditor argued through their experienced bankruptcy lawyers that Snowden did not prove significant emotional harm, but just fleeting or trivial anxiety or distress. The court disagreed though given that the post-petition cashing of the check and continued phone calls. Even worse was the fact that Check Into Cash did not rectify the situation timely. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found the district court did not error in confirming the emotional distress damages award. The bottom line is this analysis is a case by case analysis. Whether any court will award damages for emotional distress depends upon the severity of the violation, the distress caused and what the creditor did or did not do about it once the creditor was put on notice that a violation had occurred.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are damages to punish a party for their conduct and deter any further violations in the future. Section 362(k) provides for punitive damages in “appropriate circumstances.” Good bankruptcy lawyers will be able to prove some showing of reckless or callous disregard for the law or rights of others. See In re Bloom, 875 F.2d 224, 228 (9th Cir. 1989) In the Snowden case Check Into Cash argues on appeal that the bankruptcy court applied the wrong standard, willful violation rather than the reckless disregard standard. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The court found that Check Into Cash failed to provide a policy for employee training about how to address debt collection following a bankruptcy filing. This demonstrated reckless and callous disregard for the law making punitive damages appropriate under the facts of the Snowden case.

Attorneys’ Fees

It is well settled that a debtor can receive attorneys’ fees and costs related to enforcing the automatic stay and remedying the stay violation, but not attorneys’ fees earned when filing an adversary proceeding to be awarded punitive damages and damages for emotional distress. As soon as the violation of the stay is remedied a bankruptcy filer cannot collect from the creditor attorneys’ fees and costs going forward. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the ‘American Rule’ applies and each party to an adversary proceeding bears their own costs for litigation. There are exceptions. If a court rules a violation of the automatic stay took place and the creditor appeals the ruling, then the debtor has no choice but to incur additional attorneys’ fees and costs to defend the bankruptcy court’s decision and their right to collect damages for the willful violation of the automatic stay. Under these circumstances the bankruptcy filer would be able to recover attorneys’ fees. See In re Schwartz-Tallard, No. 12-60052, 2014 WL 4251571 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2014).

Can a Non-Filing Spouse of a Spouse that Filed Bankruptcy Buy a Community Property Asset From the Bankruptcy Estate?


The short answer is yes, a non-filing spouse of a spouse that filed bankruptcy can buy a community property asset from the bankruptcy estate. See 11 U.S.C. §363(i) and In re Lewis; BAP No. CC-13-1367. For some this question alone might be confusing. When a couple is married either spouse may file for bankruptcy protection without the other spouse. All of the separate property of the filing spouse and community property of the filing spouse must be listed in the petition. In California, community property consists of: all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during marriage while domiciled in California is community property. Cal. Fam. Code §760. In the Lewis case the community property at issue is an employment law lawsuit filed, but not resolved, prior to the bankruptcy case being filed. The cause of action is therefore an asset of the filing spouse’s bankruptcy case. See Vick v. DaCorsi, 110 Cal. App. 4th 206, 212 n.35 (2003).

A twist in the Lewis case was that the bankruptcy trustee sold the bankruptcy estate’s interest in the lawsuit to a company named Kallman & Company, LLP for $40,000 pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §363(b). Section 363(b) allows the trustee, after notice and a hearing, may use, sell, or lease, other than in the ordinary course of business, property of the estate . . . . . . The Chapter 7 trustee’s bankruptcy lawyer filed, served and correctly provided notice of the motion for approval to sell the cause of action to Kallman & Company, LLP. A hearing was held and the bankruptcy court approved the sale to Kallman & Company, LLP. According to the terms of the sale Kallman did not have to pay the $40,000 until 30 days after the closing date of the sale, and the closing date occurred only when the order approving the sale became final and not appealable. Given the delay in closing the sale the non-filing spouse had time to act and her bankruptcy attorney and her did indeed act.

The non-filing spouse informed the Chapter 7 Trustee and counsel that she intended to exercise her rights pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §363(i). 11 U.S.C. §363(i) provides: before the consummation of a sale of . . . . . . property of the estate that was community property of the debtor and the debtor’s spouse immediately before the commencement of the case, the debtor’s spouse, or a co-owner of such property, as the case may be, may purchase such property at the price at which such sale is to be consummated. So the Chapter 7 trustee then filed a motion under 11 U.S.C. §363(i) under the grounds that the lawsuit claim is community property and the sale to Kallman & Company, LLC was not consummated yet. Kallman & Company, LLC of course opposed the sale to the non-filing spouse. The bankruptcy court granted the motion to sell the lawsuit claim to the non-filing spouse and held that the lawsuit claim was community property and the sale to Kallman & Company, LLC was not consummated. After various legal wrangling the order approving the sale to the non-filing spouse was appealed to the 9th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. The 9th Circuit BAP found the act of the non-filing spouse asserting her claim to the lawsuit asset and obtaining an order from the court granting the sale was an intervening event that prevented the consummation of the sale to Kallman & Company, LLC. The 9th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel went further to say that Kallman & Company, LLC have no one but themselves to blame. Kallman could have consummated the sale immediately by tendering the purchase amount to the Chapter 7 Trustee and Kallman could have asked to have the stay pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 6004(h) to be waived. FRBP 6004(h) provides that an order authorizing the use, sale, or lease of property other than cash collateral is stayed until the expiration of 14 days after entry of the order, unless the court orders otherwise. The 9th Cir. BAP further said that Kallman instead provided the non-filing spouse with sufficient time to assert her §363(i) right and to prove that she had the ability to make good on her offer to purchase the lawsuit claim from the bankruptcy estate. What is there to take away from this case? If you are a purchaser of assets under 363 of the Bankruptcy Code and you really want the assets you are purchasing consummate the sale as soon as possible if there is a non-filing spouse.

How To Avoid or Prevent the Necessity of Filing for Bankruptcy?


One of the most common remarks we here from clients is, “I never thought I would file for bankruptcy protection.” Our response is usually, “No one ever does.” They probably never thought the bad thing that happened to them or, their family, that led to having to file for bankruptcy protection would happen either. Bad things happen every day that are not in our control. So unfortunately for some there is no avoiding the necessity of filing for bankruptcy. For example: being laid off from a job, medical debts, debts resulting from car accidents or a natural disaster. While these circumstances are not traditionally in our control there are plenty of other pieces of the financial puzzle that are within our control.

Credit Cards/Payday Loans/Cash Advances/Vehicle or Title Loans

These four types of debts are primarily the types of debts that can have incredibly high interest rates. If you have never heard of usury laws you are not alone. Each state has or had usury laws to limit the amount of interest a lender could charge a borrower. The laws are designed to protect all of us from unfair or unconscionable interest rates. These laws have been weakened over and over again in the name of greed and corporate profits. For more detailed information please read “How Can Credit Card Companies Charge Such High Interest Rates?” So the law now allows for the ridiculous and unconscionable interest rate as high as 29% on some credit cards. If you do not pay off the credit card each month that has a high interest rate the underlying debt will balloon quickly. Spread that problem around four or five different credit cards are you are heading in the direction of a bankruptcy lawyers office unfortunately. So do your best to limit the use of creditor cards and especially the use of your highest interest rate credit cards. Payday loans and cash advances are even worse. The highest interest rate I have ever seen on an actual loan documents was over 1,000%. Somehow this is legal. Standard vehicle loans can have generous interest rates. Title loans are when your vehicle is paid in full, but you take loan and use the vehicle as collateral. The loan company will take your pick slip/title until the loan is paid in full. Title loans are traditionally horrible for the borrower. Again, very high interest rates and title loan companies rarely keep very accurate records regarding payments and accrued interest.

Home Mortgages

Do not buy too much house. Other than banks handing out questionable loans and fraudulent appraisals artificially increasing the value of homes, the next largest factor as to why so many people lost their homes in my opinion was because they bought too much house. That means they purchased a house that was too large and too expensive given their income and expenses. The cause of this was mostly interest only mortgages and adjustable rate mortgages. So do not buy too much house. If you income is reduced 20% will you still be able to afford your mortgage payment each month? How long can you pay your mortgage if you are laid off? We all hope that these unfortunate events do not happen to us, but they happen to everyone without discrimination.


The thing with taxes is you have to pay them, period. So just let the government have the money upfront so you do not have an issue when it comes time to file your taxes each year. In California the Franchise Tax Board is does aggressively collect unpaid taxes. The FTB will garnish your wages and attached a tax lien to your home if you own real property. If you have changed your deductions on your paycheck to artificially increase your net income each month you are creating a tax debt each paycheck. Will you have the money to pay the taxes at the end of the year? No, you will not because you changed your deductions to increase your net income because you are currently having trouble paying your bills. Do not change your deductions to artificially increase your net income. It is a recipe for disaster. If you take an early distribution from a retirement account pay the penalty/taxes at the time you have the money taken out. Do not defer the penalty/taxes to when you have to file your return. Again, this is a recipe for disaster. Every bankruptcy attorney will tell you that ERISA and other qualified retirement accounts (Tax Deferred) are 100% protectable when filing bankruptcy under almost all circumstances. So another reason to not raid a retirement accounts because you can keep the retirement money and still discharge your debts.

If you are having difficulty paying your bills each month bankruptcy might be the best option to get back on track financially.

How to Choose a Reputable Bankruptcy Attorney in the Bay Area?


It is actually very simple to find a reputable bankruptcy attorney in the Bay Area if you take the time. We truly want our prospective clients to speak with other attorneys, preferably before they speak with us. The best thing someone can do for us is speak to other bankruptcy attorneys to find out firsthand how superior our services are from start to finish. If you follow the approach below we are confident you will find the right law firm and person to represent you, even if it is not us. Although, the best thing to do is obtain a referral from a friend, colleague or family member. We know this is a difficult thing to discuss sometimes, but going through this process with an attorney that has already done right by someone you know is priceless.

Take the time to choose a reputable bankruptcy attorney in the Bay Area.

Take the time to choose a reputable bankruptcy attorney in the Bay Area.

Talk to at least three different bankruptcy attorneys that have an office around where you live or work.

It is important to take the time to meet with at least three different law firms. How you are treated when you call and at the initial consultation will be a sign as to what is to come. If your initial consultation is not with an attorney run away. Some firms use legal assistants or paralegals that are not authorized to practice law, give legal advice or answer your legal questions. This is ethically wrong and you deserve better. After speaking with one or more law firms you will understand what filing bankruptcy requires, what your options are and know what range of attorney fees is appropriate. You should receive a breakdown of the fees. How much are for the attorney, the filing fee, the required courses and credit report. If you receive a quote around $30 per course for the required course run away. The required course for any individual filing bankruptcy should not exceed $12.95 TOTAL! If a law firm is suggesting you have to pay them $100 or more for the required courses run away. They are pocketing processing fees and not telling you. Also stay clear of anyone trying to sell you on post-bankruptcy credit repair. It is a scam, just ask the FTC by going to and read for yourself. Only time can heal your credit woes.

Do a Google or Other Search Engine Search of the Law Firm and Attorney Name

Do a Google search of the business name and the word complaints or reviews. Do a Google search of the bankruptcy lawyer name you met with and complaints or reviews. If you look at Yelp you also need to look at the “Filtered Reviews.” There is a link towards the bottom of the Yelp page that is gray. To get the whole story you need to look at the reviews that Yelp for whatever reason chose to filter out. If there is one bad review do not be concerned. If there are a number of bad reviews you know that it is not an isolated incident, but a pattern of poor service that you do not want to pay money for.

Now Here Are the Tough Questions to Ask

How many of your Chapter 7 cases did you have to convert to a case under Chapter 13 because the United States Trustee objected? You may not receive an honest answer to this question. I can tell you as of the writing of this article none of our Chapter 7 cases have had to be converted to Chapter 13 to save the case, but that could change. This questions targets whether the attorney can properly evaluate whether you qualify to file a Chapter 7 case, or should the case be filed as a Chapter 13 to begin with.

Do you enjoy what you do, if so why? If they do not enjoy it do not retain them. Surprisingly enough this question can tell you a lot about who you give your money to. If they are just doing a job and have no passion why do you want them to represent you? You will be surprised at the responses you get. You will know the right response when you receive it.

How long does it take you to respond to my phone calls or questions? This is a good question to ask because communication is important. We return all emails and phones calls within 24 hours. The point is to make the attorney give you some sort of response to rely on. If they do not respond to you timely in the future be sure to let them know what the represented to you before you retained their services.

Will I be able to speak with an attorney after I retain your services? Amazingly this is a good question to ask. Again, you may not receive an honest answer to this question. Read the complaints and reviews and you will read that a common complaint is they were never able to speak with an attorney and had no idea who the attorney was that showed up at the 341 meeting of the creditors to represent them. I see it all the time and it is shameful.