As promised during the South Carolina Bankruptcy Law Association 2021 Virtual Seminar judges' presentation, I have added practice pointers and a few preferred form orders to my chamber's guidelines page. The materials were designed to help lawyers anticipate issues that might prompt questions from chambers, take valuable attorney time for clarification, and/or cause delay in obtaining orders your clients may need. The orders are currently in use in my chambers and, while procedures may change with coming local rules amendments or considering several recently announced decisions by the judges, most will continue to be useful in the context of relief from stay motions and when creditors, insurers, buyers, and other parties in interest want judicial approval or comfort orders in chapter 13 cases. Many relief from stay orders easily generate from CMECF events but the forms available through the chambers guideline page can be adapted for use when it is necessary to manually generate the proposed order. The exhibits are in Word format. Please replace any existing proposed order forms you may regularly use with these that I have made available.The material and forms are applicable only to bankruptcy cases assigned to me.
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Miranda B. Nelson has joined Judge Duncan's chambers as a law clerk. Miranda is a 2020 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law and comes to chambers after a one-year clerkship with Senior United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr.
Lucas Fautua's last day in Judge Duncan's chambers is today, August 13, 2021. He will be joining Riley Pope & Laney. Lucas came to chambers from a small Virginia consumer debtor practice in April 2020. Arriving in the early days of the Covid pandemic, Lucas provided a steady hand, continuity, and a good work ethic. His contribution to the Court and chambers is much appreciated.
Dawn Hardesty, Judge Duncan’s career law clerk, will leave the Court today, August 6, 2021, to begin service as a staff attorney to chapter 13 trustee Pamela Simmons-Beasley. Dawn served as a term clerk 2010-2012, then engaged in private practice, and returned as a career clerk in 2016. She has managed and organized chambers, provided outstanding research and writing, dealt professionally and courteously with the bar, worked with others across the court, district, circuit, and Administrative Office during much of my term as Chief Judge, and been a wonderful counsellor, sounding board, friend, and advisor. I wish her much success and enjoyment in the next phase of her professional life and am pleased that Dawn will remain a part of the bankruptcy bar.
C. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Weston has joined Judge Duncan's chambers as a law clerk. Lizzie is a 2017 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law and comes to chambers from Haynsworth, Sinker, Boyd.
In June 2021, Judge Duncan will begin holding in person hearings in contested matters, including contested chapter 13 confirmation hearings, motions for relief from stay, and matters in chapter 7, 11, and 12 cases. These hearings will ordinarily be scheduled in person; however, if extenuating circumstances exist and all parties agree, the hearing may be held virtually. Parties should advise the Court as soon as possible if they wish for a hearing to be held remotely. Masks will still be required for all parties attending in person hearings, and social distancing guidelines will still be observed.
In order to facilitate the Court's scheduling, parties should be diligent about settling matters and reporting any settlements to the Court. Additionally, parties may not attend in person hearings if displaying any symptoms of Covid-19 or if quarantining due to possible exposure to Covid-19. Chief United States District Judge R. Bryan Harwell's standing order restricting entry to federal courthouses by certain persons remains in effect. If any party is unable to attend a hearing due to illness or exposure, the Court must be notified as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made to continue the matter to a later date.
For chapter 13 matters, Judge Duncan will continue his current practice of reviewing and disposing of all matters scheduled for 10 a.m. in advance of the hearing date. If any party believes that a matter scheduled for 10 a.m. should be heard on the hearing date, chambers should be contacted as soon as possible. To reduce the number of people in the courtroom, Judge Duncan will also continue his current practice of rescheduling matters scheduled for 10:30 a.m. for different times throughout the morning. Chambers will provide parties with the time of their hearing by email.
Judge Waites is pleased to welcome back to chambers Brian Calub as a law clerk in Columbia. Brian previously clerked for both Judge Waites and Judge Bishop in 2003-2006 and went on to a successful practice with Nelson Mullins in Columbia (7 years), The Hunoval Law Firm in Charlotte (2 years) and most recently with McGuire Woods in Charlotte (6 years).
Unless announced otherwise, Judge Waites will continue to use videoconferencing or telephonic appearances as the primary means of conducting uncontested hearings or hearings in which the trustee wishes to question the debtor in Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 cases. This would include the roll call of recommendations by the trustee and the conducting of status hearings in Subchapter V chapter 11 cases. Counsel should contact or coordinate with the applicable trustee to ensure you have the correct information for appearances in such matters.
The presumption of an in person hearing mentioned in operating order 20-14 posted on June 7, 2021 will apply to matters in which joint or separate statements of dispute indicate that the matter is contested and there is an expectation of the submission of evidence or testimony. Counsel in such matters should affirmatively contact courtroom deputy Nicole Stalvey to ensure the appearance requirement, to request an alternative means of appearance or hearing date and to ensure the correct location for any in person hearing. In person hearings may be held in the Columbia or Charleston court location regardless of the location originally noticed depending on other matters scheduled before the court that day.
In Chapter 11 cases, counsel should presume an in person hearing but should affirmatively contact the courtroom deputy to determine whether videoconference or telephonic hearings may be alternatively allowed and to determine the location of any in person hearing. In the instance where the attendance of out of state witnesses or counsel is expected, please contact the courtroom deputy before travel arrangements are made.
Hearing times and locations may be changed depending upon the schedule of other matters, the time necessary for the subject hearing and the location of witnesses and counsel.
Andrew Powell, Judge Waites’ career law clerk in Columbia, will be leaving the Court on June 4, 2021 to serve as the staff attorney for new chapter 13 trustee, Annemarie Mathews. Since 2015, Andrew has been an outstanding law clerk, friend, and advisor to the Judge. He has managed chambers with professionalism, skillfulness, and civility, which has been appreciated by his colleagues at the Court and the Bar. He will be missed and we wish him the best as he embarks on the next step in his career.
Agnes Babb, judicial assistant for Judge Waites for the last two years, will leave the Court on June 2, 2021 to resume her retirement. Agnes started with the Court in 1987, retired from the Court in 2019 but returned to help Judge Waites by special allowance from the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Throughout her career, Agnes has shown skill, courtesy, and a kind and helpful attitude to all. Her friendship and positive spirit will be missed. We wish her many happy years in retirement.
Local Rule 9013-4 was recently amended to revise notice and service requirements for certain motions. The revised Rule now provides detailed charts in Exhibit A and B that list the parties to be served with each motion and the applicable response deadlines, as well as the party responsible for service of the resulting order. Some of the changes regarding service were made to reduce costs and expenses for counsel. For example, the Court has resumed service of confirmation and conversion orders as well as other orders set forth in Exhibits A and B.
In addition, in his Chambers Guidelines, Judge Waites has clarified that case-wide service for certain motions, including motions for hardship discharge, motions to reopen, and motions to continue administration, is not required in his cases and has listed several motions that may be filed in a closed case without the filing of a motion to reopen and the payment of a filing fee. Chambers Guidelines was also recently updated to assist with requesting supplemental fees in chapter 13 cases. To assist the bar, Chambers has prepared a summary to provide a quick reference guide to those changes and to provide other helpful information. The summary of recent changes is available here.