Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bankruptcy Chief Judge To Have Open Door Hours


Chief Judge Karen S. Jennemann, the chief judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Florida, has recently announced an initiative to bring all the divisions of the bankruptcy court within the district under the same policies, local rules, and procedures. This is expected to help everyone, including attorneys, pre se parties, and court personnel, to more efficiently operate within the district.

Toward this goal, as of April 23, Raymond Waguespack will be the “project manager over the court committees created to unify the processes and procedures of our divisions.”

Judge Jennemann has also announced “open door” hours for the purpose of allowing anyone to express any concerns regarding the bankruptcy court. Obviously, she will not be able to discuss individual cases, but she is interested in hearing ones thoughts concerning the Court.

The open door office hours are as follows:

ORLANDO DIVISION
Dates: April 16, 2012, July 23, 2012, and October 29, 2012
Time: 2:00—4:00 PM
Place: Fifth Floor Conference Room (room across from Courtroom A)

TAMPA DIVISION
Dates: April 24, 2012, July 17, 2012, and October 24, 2012
Time: 2:00—4:00 PM
Place: 8th Floor Attorney Conference Room , Courtroom 8A

JACKSONVILLE DIVISION
Dates: July 9, 2012, and October 1, 2012
Time: 2:00-4:00 PM
Place: 4th Floor Conference Room

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, and Mortgage Modification: Who is Winning?

There is really no need to tell you the economy not doing very good. Although bankruptcies have slowed in the Middle District of Florida, and some people are now finding employment after being unemployed for an extended time, foreclosures appear to be steady, though it appears, as predicted by some, to be the beginning of a second wave. This would have been hard for anyone to predict in an election year.

The stories surrounding bankruptcies and foreclosures are vast, to say the least. They range from the breadwinner losing his or her job and loan documents being lost, to fraudulent loans being orchestrated and lost of destroyed documents being recreated. While some states have attempted to handle the problem by allowing non-judicial foreclosure proceedings similar to a typical collection on a titled asset (like an automobile), other states do not permit such actions. Here, in Florida, it is difficult to see how non-judicial proceedings could be done on homestead property in keeping with our Florida State Constitution which contains homestead protections.

Mortgage modifications were looked at as being a possible answer to the foreclosure crisis. The Florida Supreme Court even ordered mediation for all homestead property being foreclosed on (with some exceptions). However, both the modifications and mediations have been highly ineffective, resulting in the Florida Supreme Court to lift its order directing mediation for homestead properties.

In Central Florida, mediation through bankruptcy has been surprisingly successful. The practice is now in for a trial run in the Jacksonville Division, however, since the Florida Supreme Court lifted its mediation order, it is not yet known how successful it will be.

Friday, April 6, 2012

President of NACBA, Billy Brewer, on Fox Business' Tom Sullivan Regarding Student Loan Bankruptcy Discharge

The following is a letter disseminated to the membership of NACBA from Ike Shulma, the Chair of the NACBA Legislative Committee, regarding ongoing efforts towards allowing for the discharge of student loans.

As you may know, NACBA held a major news event drawing attention to the emerging student loan “Debt Bomb” during our annual Capitol Hill Meeting in February. The centerpiece of the news event was the NACBA survey of our members, which revealed that 4 out 5 NACBA attorneys reported a major jump in student loan debtors seeking bankruptcy assistance.

This important issue has, as you have probably seen, generated an enormous amount of media coverage in the time since we held the news event.

This week, NACBA President Billy Brewer was interviewed on Fox Business’ Tom Sullivan show. If you’d like to tune in, we have been told that the segment will air this weekend during the Tom Sullivan Show at the following times:

Saturday, April 7:  7 and 10pm (eastern)
Sunday, April 8:  8am and 8pm (eastern)

This effort to draw attention to the effect that significant student loan debt has on those seeking bankruptcy protection is just one of many legislative efforts that NACBA is taking the lead on. We welcome your participation in our legislative and advocacy efforts. If you would like more information and to be involved, feel free to contact NACBA’s Field Director, Angie Thies-Huber or Field Coordinator, Zach Manifold.
NACBA has undertaken this campaign to change the bankruptcy laws with respect to student loans at the suggestion of our legislative team in Washington, DC.  Legislative Director Maureen Thompson reported to NACBA’s Legislative Committee and Board that she had heard from a good number of NACBA members about the need to seek these changes.  Maureen and her colleagues at The Hastings Group took the primary responsibility for researching and writing the report and media materials and for the media promotion of the event.  The Hastings Group, whose role recently was expanded to include media outreach, reports that we likely will have more than 500 media hits from this event.

And, while the media coverage is important, it is only a means to an end.  Our goal is to create an opinion environment that will help convince lawmakers in Washington that changes to the bankruptcy code with respect to student loans is necessary and desirable.  The good news is that in response to the media coverage, the Senate Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing on the topic, during which NACBA’s report and survey were prominently featured.  Senator Durbin (D, IL) cited NACBA and its work in a speech on the Senate floor on this topic.  We know this will take time and the release of the report and survey is only the first step in what will be a broader campaign.  But, with the active involvement of NACBA members in the campaign, I have no doubt we will be successful.

Finally, we wanted to share with you some of the over 300 stories published about the student loan debt bomb issue:


We appreciate all the support for these efforts that we are getting from our members!

Ike Shulman
Chair, NACBA Legislative Committee

Thursday, April 5, 2012

NACBA and Student Loan Discharge in Bankruptcy


Student loan discharge has come to the forefront of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) agenda, and has caught the attention of some in congress, especially Senator Dick Durbin (D) from Illinois. Of the outstanding student loans, most notable are the private loans, as they do not have the same payback options as government based loans have.

Outstanding student debt has reached an estimated $867 Billion in the forth quarter of 2011, which is greater than the total US credit card debt. Senator Durbin introduced a bill in May to eliminate a 2005 nondischargability provision from the bankruptcy code.

In my office, I had a client that was tricked into entering into a student loan to become a airline pilot. The loan was granted to him after he informed the lender of a medical condition which he was concerned by prevent him from being able be a pilot. He was assured it would not be a problem, and the loan was granted. As it turned out, after a couple of years of schooling, he was informed he would not be able to become a pilot because of his medical condition. An adversarial hearing ensued, and the discharge of the student loan was denied. At the time of hearing, he was able to find employment as an apartment complex handyman.

Why was the loan made to begin with. The answer to that question is not known, however, at some for-profit schools, as much as 90 percent of their revenue comes from government loans and grants.

NACBA's work on students loans is indirectly reflected in a Bloomberg article, Durbin Urges Private Student Loans Be Discharged in Bankruptcy, by Janet Lorin, (March 20, 2012).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

S is for Scared: Meeting Of Creditors


So, you filed bankruptcy and have received your commencement notice from the court that includes, among other things, the date, time and place of your Meeting of Creditors.

For many of my clients, the name conjures up thoughts from a horror movie, only worse because instead of watching it on the big screen, you have suddenly been thrust into, and made a part of, the movie.
"Meeting of Creditors"; that's really a bad name, but it is what the bankruptcy code has given it. So, why is it a bad name? Because it is rare that creditors show up. Certainly they are invited when they receive the commencement notice of your case (Form B9A). Yes, this is the same form you received in the mail. But in reality, there is seldom any reason for creditors to show up.

So, naturally you ask, for the times creditors show up, why do they show up? Good question. The answer may not be very straight forward, because obviously there could be as many different reasons as there are creditors. However, in the past I have seen creditors show up for several reasons, which can for the most part be categorized as follows:
  1. The creditor is unsophisticated, and simply does not know he, she, or it does not need to be there.
  2. The creditor is not clear as to your intentions are regarding a secured asset, and simply wants a clarification as to what your intentions are.
  3. The debtor suspects fraud, or the hiding of assets.
  4. The creditor is upset, and has hired an attorney to attend the meeting of creditors to ask questions, sometimes to try to determine if there are any grounds for the court to deny the granting of a discharge.
OK, so by now I suspect you are really nervous about attending the meeting of creditors. Well, you can relax, as long as the documents supplied to the court are truthful and you have been represented by an attorney, you really do not have anything to worry about.

You should expect the trustee to ask you hard questions (similar to the ones I asked in my office during consultation). They will most likely include some of the following:
  1. Please state your name, address, and telephone number for the record.
  2. What is your work number?
  3. Did you receive and read the information sheet from the US Trustee's office?
  4. Did you read the documents your attorney prepared for you before signing?
  5. Are they truthful and correct?
  6. When you spoke with me on the phone, did you answer all my questions truthfully?
  7. Are there any changes that need to be made?
  8. Is there anybody that owes you money?
  9. Is there anybody you could bring a cause of action against for damages for anything, including a personal injury?
  10. Have you ever received an inheritance?
  11. Have you received your tax refund?
  12. How much was it, and when did you receive it?
  13. What did you do with it? (or, Do not spend the refund after receiving it before you contact my office [referring to the trustee's office]).
  14. Most of all, remember you are placed under oath. Make sure all you answers are truthful. Should you get caught lying in federal court, it can definitely ruin your day!
There may also be some questions about schedules filed with the court.
I know what your thinking, hard stuff; yeh, right ;)
 
That's it. It is usually uneventful, and that is part of the reason you hired an attorney to help you with the bankruptcy, to try to make sure it stays that way.
 
If you are still nervous, just show up about 20 minutes early to sit in the room and listen to questions the trustee is asking other debtors. Most likely, your questions will be similar.

For the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division, remember a few things:
1) take any documents with you the trustee asked you to bring (if any);
2) make sure you have your government issued Photo ID (such as a Driver License) and Social Security card; and
3) leave you cell phone in your car, as they are not allowed in the courthouse.

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Other notable terms starting with S:


Schedules and Statements Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell
Security Interest Jay S. Fleischman
Spouse Cleveland Bankruptcy Attorney Bill Balena
Statement of Intention Metro Richmond Consumer and Bankruptcy Attorney, Mitchell Goldstein
Statutory Lien Dorota Trzeciecka Bankruptcy Blog
Step Plan Kurt O'Keefe Michigan bankruptcy lawyer
Strip Bay Area bankruptcy lawyer Cathy Moran
Student Loans Colorado Springs Bankruptcy Lawyer Bob Doig
Student Loans Hawaii Bankruptcy Lawyer, Stuart T. Ing
Stuff WilksLaw, - DC Metro
Surrender Metro Richmond Consumer and Bankruptcy Attorney, Mitchell Goldstein

Monday, April 2, 2012

F is for FREE Annual Credit Report

"F" is for FREE. What is free without lots of adds trying to solicit your business; how about a free credit report. Have you ever wondered why they would go to the expense of advertising something for FREE?

Well, I imagine you have guessed the correct answer. It's because its not really free. You have to sign up for a service by giving them account or credit card information. So, how is their service free. Well, some services allow you to cancel your agreement within a given number of days, and be charged nothing. So, it's really not free if you have to do extra work to get it.

The good news is, there actually is a source for getting a free credit report once every 12 months. It is from annualcreditreport.com. According to the Federal Trade Commission, annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law. You can go to their website or call 877-322-8228. You can also order by mail by filling out the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

The following is taken from the FTC website.

What is AnnualCreditReport.com?

AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for the free annual credit report that's yours by law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, and yet couldn't get it without paying fees or buying other services. TV ads, email offers, or online search results may tout "free" credit reports, but there is only one authorized source for a truly free credit report.

I’ve seen a box at the top of some websites saying:

"You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law."

What’s this about?

A new law requires commercial websites that say they offer free credit reports to include a box letting you know you can get a free credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Click on the link to www.AnnualCreditReport.com, the only place to get the free report that's yours by law.

Many companies claim to offer free credit reports – and some do. But others give you a report only if you buy other products or services. Still others say they’re giving you a “free” report and then bill you for services you have to cancel. If you go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the prompts for your free credit report, you can be sure the reports you get really are free.

How do I request my free credit report?

You can request your free report online, by phone or by mail. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or fill out the Annual Credit Report Request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.  No matter how you request your report, you have the option to request all three reports at once or to order one report at a time.  By requesting the reports separately, you can monitor your credit more frequently throughout the year.  

Why should I request my credit report?

Because the information in your credit report is used to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and renting a home, you should be sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.  In addition, monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to spot identity theft.  Check your credit report at least once a year to correct errors and detect unauthorized activity. 

What should I look for when I review my credit report?

If you see accounts you don’t recognize or information that is inaccurate, contact the credit reporting agency and the information provider.  For more information, read the FTC’s tips on how to dispute credit errors. 
If you suspect identity theft, you may need to place a fraud alert on your credit report, close compromised accounts, file a complaint with the FTC, or file a police report.  Start by visiting the FTC’s identity theft website.

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Other notable "F is for..." links are as follows:

Failure Begets Success    Philadelphia Suburban Bankruptcy Lawyer, Chris Carr MBA   

Family Farmer/Fisherman    Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell   


Financial Fatigue    Cleveland Area Bankruptcy Lawyer, Bill Balena   


First    Northern California Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cathy Moran   


Foreclosure    Colorado Springs Bankruptcy Attorney Bob Doig   


Foreclosure    Kauai Bankruptcy Attorney, Stuart Ing   


Foreclosure    Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorney, Monica D. Shepard   


Forgiveness of Debt    Los Angeles Bankruptcy Attorney, Mark J. Markus   


Forms    Jacksonville, Florida Bankruptcy Attorney, J. Dinkins G. Grange   


Fraud    Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney, Kim Coleman   


Fraudulent Transfer    Allen Park, Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney, Christopher McAvoy   


Fraudulent Transfer    San Francisco Bankruptcy Attorney, Jeena Cho   


Free Consultation    Wisconsin Bankruptcy Lawyer, Bret Nason   


Fresh Start    Marin County Bankruptcy Attorney, Catherine Eranthe   


Fresh Start    Metro Richmond Consumer and Bankruptcy Attorney, Mitchell Goldstein   


Fresh start    Daniel J. Winter, Chicago Bankruptcy Lawyer   


Future Flow Agreement    New York Bankruptcy Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman   


Free Consultation    Livonia, Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney, Peter Behrmann   


Bankruptcy Attorney Fees    Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney Kurt OKeefe   


Filing Requirements    Miami Bankruptcy Attorney, Dorota Trzeciecka