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May 2014

Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing fees go up–is that fair?

Posted by / in Blog, Personal Bankruptcy, Weekly Posts / No comments yet


Apple paid $350 filing fee for a two billion dollar legal battle that tied up this Federal court house for a month. You pay $335 for a bankruptcy hearing lasting four minutes.

On June 1, the filing fee for a consumer chapter 7 bankruptcy goes up from $306 to $335.  Is that fee fair?

Let’s do a comparison.  In a month-long jury trial ending yesterday, Apple was awarded $119 million in their patent lawsuit Samsung.   Apple had asked for lots more–$2.2 billion–in this battle of smartphone giants.  The case started in February 2012.  Apple had 82 lawyers, just on their side.  More than 1800 documents were filed–the very first one had 252 pages.

Apple had to pay a filing fee of all of $350.00 to sue its smart phone rival for two billion dollars, using 80 lawyers, filing more than one hundred thousand total pages and tying up the Federal courthouse in a jury trial for a month.

My Chapter 7 bankruptcy clients have to pay a filing fee of $335.   In most cases, I’ll be the only lawyer, we’ll file less than a hundred pages, have a four minute administrative hearing, and never see a judge.  These working, retired, and disabled Americans get a $15 discount over what Apple had to pay.

The average consumer chapter 7 bankruptcy does not take 0.1% (maybe not .01%) of the court resources tied up in in the Apple v Samsung fight, but our fee is 95% of their fee.

Put it another way:  a fair price to charge Apple might be $350,000,  it might even be $3.5 million.  But the taxpayers pick up 99% (or 99.9%) of the tab.

Virginia Consumer, who lost her house in the mortgage crisis, is expected to pay the full cost of using the court system to get her financial fresh start.    Apple, trying to smack down Samsung, gets a 99% corporate discount.

The corporate giants get subsidy and socialism, working people down on their luck pay market price.

Do most things in America now work that way?

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Aug 2013

Can I leave one credit card out of bankruptcy?

Posted by / in Personal Bankruptcy /

Can I leave one credit card out of bankruptcy?

People ask me that probably twice a week.  The short answer, is, No, you can’t.  You can’t leave one credit card out of bankruptcy.

Here’s the long answer.

Travis, not his real name, did NOT ask his lawyer.  He just decided, on his own, to leave one credit card out of bankruptcy.

Travis bought furniture on a store credit card, two weeks before he came to see his lawyer.  His store credit card was so new, it didn’t show up yet on his credit report.  (I strongly encourage everyone I talk to, to bring  their credit report from experian.com/reportaccess.  I explain why that’s my favorite, here.)

He might have guessed that might not look good.  So he decided to leave one credit card out of bankruptcy–that furniture store credit card.

leave one credit card out of bankruptcy

Right before he saw a bankruptcy lawyer, Travis bought furniture on a store credit card. He planned to leave that one credit card out of his bankruptcy.

When he filed his bankruptcy case, a few weeks later, that furniture store card wasn’t on the papers.  Probably Travis figured he’d get a monthly bill and pay it like nothing happened.  That didn’t work out.

What happened instead.

The furniture card found out that Travis filed bankruptcy within forty-eight hours.  They hit the ceiling.  They ran down to the bankruptcy court complaining about Travis’ “bankruptcy fraud.”  They pointed out that Travis lied on his credit application with them–because he promised to pay them back over four years, knowing that he was filing bankruptcy in a couple weeks.  And he lied to the bankruptcy court, by leaving their card off the list, when he swore he listed everybody.

(Just to make it clear, when you sign your bankruptcy papers you are signing under penalty of perjury–the truth, the whole truth, you know how that goes.)

Where did this end up?  Travis got a judgment against him for the entire amount of the furniture.  It was all due NOW.  On top of that, the furniture company added their attorney’s fees to what he owed for the furniture.

It could be worse.  Since his lie to the bankruptcy court was so blatant, a really mean bankruptcy judge could have turned down his whole bankruptcy.  He could even–now this almost never happens–be looking at five years in prison.   (As a practical matter, that doesn’t happen when you leave out a creditor or two.  It can happen if you “forget” to tell the court about valuable property you own.  Here’s the story of how that happened to a guy named Jon Mays.)

After they got a judgment, the furniture store credit card did work out a payment agreement–but if they wanted to, they could just hit him with a garnishment.  Getting a garnishment right after your bankruptcy is NOT a good way to build back up your good credit.

So, can you leave one credit card out of bankruptcy?  No, you can’t.  You are required to list everybody you owe money to.

And, if you you try, you’ll find out all the big credit card companies check your credit at least once a month, more like once a week, or even daily.

Also, lying to your lawyer is not a good policy either.  It will rarely work out the way you plan.


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