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Chambers' Bulletins

Judge Waites

Fri, 3/27/2020 - 12:22 pm

After consultation with Chapter 13 Trustee Jimmy Wyman, the chapter 13 hearings scheduled for April 2, 2020 and April 16, 2020 in cases assigned to Judge Waites in the Charleston Division have been continued to April 30, 2020 (with confirmation matters scheduled for 10:00 AM and section 362 motions scheduled for 11:00 AM that day).  A copy of this global order of continuance is attached to this announcement.  

This continuance order applies only to chapter 13 cases before Judge Waites in the Charleston Division.  This continuance order does not apply to hearings: (1) before the other Bankruptcy Judges (including Judge Duncan’s chapter 13 hearings scheduled in the Charleston Division), (2) in chapter 13 cases assigned to Judge Waites in the Columbia Division, or (3) in cases assigned to Judge Waites in all other chapters of the Bankruptcy Code (including those matters in the Charleston Division).

Any questions regarding this continuance order should be sent to Andrew Powell (Andrew_Powell@scb.uscourts.gov) and Sarah Kistler (Sarah_Kistler@scb.uscourts.gov) by email.


Fri, 3/20/2020 - 10:58 am

Please be reminded that Judge Waites’ hearings for next week (scheduled for March 24, 25, and 26, 2020) remain on the docket as scheduled. Judge Waites will be liberally granting requests to appear by telephone/video conference at these hearings.

Pursuant to Judge Waites’ announcement on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, which is available here, those seeking to appear by telephone/video conference at next week’s hearing should, after consulting with opposing counsel/parties, contact the following people to make this request:

When requesting to appear by telephone/video conference, please advise of the following information:

  • That you have consulted with the opposing parties/counsel and that there is no objection to appearing by telephone/video conference;
  • That the matter is not contested or is contested but requires only argument and/or stipulated exhibits; and
  • That you will not be examining/cross-examining any witnesses or presenting any unstipulated exhibits at the hearing.

In contested matters involving the presentation of testimony and/or unstipulated exhibits, counsel/parties should contact the following people well in advance of the hearing in order to determine any possible changes in the scheduling or manner of the contested hearing:

Any questions by counsel should be addressed to Andrew Powell (Andrew_Powell@scb.uscourts.gov) and Sarah Kistler (Sarah_Kistler@scb.uscourts.gov).


Wed, 3/18/2020 - 12:43 pm

In an effort to preserve parties’ rights, for the present time, Judge Waites’ court hearings will remain scheduled as previously noticed. However, the goal will be to limit in-person attendance at hearings through the use of telephone and video conference appearances.

  • In Chapter 13 cases, Trustees Stephenson and Wyman currently expect to appear in person or by telephone to make announcements and recommendations at their scheduled hearings and may address other matters, so please continue to timely work with their offices to resolve any scheduled hearings on these dockets.
  • In chapter 7 or 11 cases, counsel should contact chambers directly for any hearing related matters or changes.
  • Pro se parties in all chapters should contact the Courtroom Deputy, Nicole Stalvey (Nicole_Stalvey@scb.uscourts.gov, 803-765-5436), regarding upcoming hearings.

Currently, all chamber guideline requirements remain in force, including the timely filing of requests for continuances, withdrawals, and reports of settlement and the need for filing joint statements of disputes.

  • Upon timely request, Judge Waites intends to liberally grant continuances (through the timely filing of a Request for Continuance event in CM/ECF) or appearances by telephone or video conference (requested by timely email correspondence sent to Chambers) in uncontested matters or contested matters with argument only.
  • For lengthy hearings or contested matters in which a party intends to offer testimony or unstipulated exhibits, counsel should consult with each other and contact chambers well in advance of the scheduled hearing to request a continuance or to determine any changes in the scheduling or the manner of hearing.   

Please also be aware that individuals who display virus symptoms or who report contact with others displaying symptoms or those who have travelled to high volume virus areas will not be allowed entry to the courthouse or courtroom by court security officers pursuant to the standing order of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. Therefore, for in person hearings at which, parties and witnesses would ordinarily be expected to attend in person, counsel should contact their clients and witnesses in advance to inquire whether each person meets the entry requirements of the courthouse and certify that neither counsel nor any other necessary attendee has a condition prohibiting entry to the courthouse to chambers by email correspondence no later than 10:00 AM one business day before the hearing.

Any questions by counsel should be addressed to Andrew Powell (Andrew_Powell@scb.uscourts.gov) and Sarah Kistler (Sarah_Kistler@scb.uscourts.gov).


Tue, 3/03/2020 - 11:08 am

 ATTORNEY’S FEES FOR DEBTOR’S COUNSEL IN CHAPTER 13 CASES

To reflect the recent changes regarding the removal of a cap on supplemental fees and the increase in the expedite fee amount in cases assigned to Judge Waites effective March 1, 2020, the following is provided as guidance to the bar:

Expedited Fee Amount under SC LBR 2016-1(b)(1) for cases filed on or after March 1, 2020:

  • Consumer Chapter 13 Case: $4,000
  • Business Chapter 13 Case: $4,500

The Expedited Fee is conditionally approved and earned upon confirmation. The expedited fee includes post-confirmation communications, including correspondence with Debtors, Trustee, and the Court regarding case administration, and the creation and filing of a Certification of Plan Completion and Request for Discharge and the Financial Management Certificate or other documents contemplated and necessary for case closing and discharge.

Supplemental Fees- There is no longer a threshold or cap for supplemental fees in any pending case for additional work necessary as a result of unanticipated issues arising pre or post confirmation, matters involving the default under or variance from the terms of a confirmed plan, an adversary proceeding, an appeal, or for other compelling factors not present in a typical chapter 13 case. As a result, the procedures found in SC LBR 2016-1(b)(2)(B) are no longer necessary. Attorneys should continue to follow the procedures for application set for in SC LBR 2016-1(b)(2)(A) regarding an amended Statement and Application.

MEMO ON DISCHARGE AND MISSED MAINTENANCE PAYMENTS

Chambers has produced a memorandum to assist counsel in considering a debtor’s options in addressing a failure to make maintenance payments to a residential creditor under a cure and maintain plan under  § 1322(b)(2) as it pertains to the debtor’s discharge, which is attached to this announcement. This memo only applies to chapter 13 cases assigned to Judge Waites.


Mon, 1/13/2020 - 9:50 am

During January and February 2020, Judge Waites’ Charleston court dockets will be, in most instances, conducted at the scheduled time by video conference capability with the trustees, attorneys, parties, and witnesses appearing in the Charleston courtroom and the Judge appearing by video from Columbia.

During this period, it is imperative that counsel observe Judge Waites’ Chambers Guidelines and timely submit continuance requests, withdrawals, settlements and joint statements of dispute. Joint statements of dispute are due in all contested matters, including objections to confirmation and objections to motions for relief from stay.

Testimony and documentary evidence shall be presented in Charleston. For all exhibits, to the extent counsel wants the Judge to have a copy for review during the hearing, an additional copy shall be provided to the Columbia Chambers by email (Andrew_Powell@scb.uscourts.gov) no later than 12:00 PM, one business day prior to the scheduled hearing.

Contested matters or trials which are expected to require significant court time may be rescheduled by the Court to be heard on a separate day.

The parties, counsel, and applicable case trustee may jointly request to move the location of a Charleston hearing to the Columbia courthouse. Any request to move a Charleston hearing to the Columbia courthouse shall be made to Chambers by email (Andrew_Powell@scb.uscourts.gov) no later than 10:00 AM two business days prior to the scheduled hearing. A hearing moved to the Columbia courthouse may be rescheduled depending on the Court’s schedule.

In matters involving only arguments (i.e., no testimony or contested exhibits to be presented) and with the consent of all counsel, pro se parties, and the applicable case trustee, the Court will allow attorneys to appear in Columbia while opposing attorneys appear in Charleston. Such a request and consents shall be presented to the Courtroom Deputy (Nicole Stalvey, Nicole_Stalvey@scb.uscourts.gov) and Chambers (Andrew Powell Andrew_Powell@scb.uscourts.gov, Agnes Babb, Agnes_Babb@scb.uscourts.gov) by email no later than the deadline for filing the joint statement of dispute in the contested matter.


Tue, 10/22/2019 - 9:03 am

In recognition of Pro Bono Week, the Judges of the United States Bankruptcy Court would like to thank the many members of the South Carolina Bar who selflessly volunteer to help the public in matters related to the work of our Court. A list of those volunteers is attached to this announcement.

Below are highlights of some of the bankruptcy-related pro bono programs offered in South Carolina:

Bankruptcy Court’s Ask-A-Lawyer Program: The Court, in partnership with the South Carolina Bar, sponsors a bankruptcy-related Ask-A-Lawyer program, which consists of two monthly opportunities for the public to call and speak with a volunteer attorney on bankruptcy and other debt collection issues. The calls are transferred to the voluntary attorney’s office directly from the Bankruptcy Court during a designated two-hour period. The attorney may remain anonymous in the discussions with the caller. Malpractice insurance is provided at no cost to the volunteer attorney by the South Carolina Bar for the legal guidance provided during the call.

Credit Abuse Resistance Education (C.A.R.E.) Program of South Carolina: C.A.R.E. is a financial literacy education program for students and young adults taught by volunteer attorneys at schools, conferences, churches and other community centers. Volunteer attorneys conduct a one-hour presentation on the use of credit and its related consequences as well as the advantages of budgeting and creating savings. Prior to giving a presentation, volunteer attorneys are provided interactive presentation materials and training.

Bankruptcy Court Bar Clinics (Charleston & Columbia): The Court also sponsors monthly free legal clinics where an individual may discuss bankruptcy or debt related issues with a volunteer attorney for up to one hour. The clinics are conducted at a time and date agreed upon by the volunteer attorney and the individual, and are now held by telephone or, if preferred by the volunteer attorney, at the attorney’s office or the Court. Many of the attendees of the legal clinics are individuals who are considering filing a bankruptcy case, who are creditors, or who seek other general bankruptcy information. Consultations from the legal clinics have led to representation agreements between the volunteer attorney and the individual. 

Judge Waites’ Debtor Assistance Program: The Debtor Assistance Program applies only in Judge Waites cases and seeks to encourage representation by referring and matching pro se filers in the early stages of their case with consumer debtor's attorneys who have experience in chapter 13 cases. The referral process considers the attorney's geographic proximity to the debtor and the debtor's income level, but representation and its terms are subject to agreement between the debtor and the attorney. A separate referral program with South Carolina Legal Services is used for debtors with a qualifying low income.

South Carolina Legal Services Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) Program: South Carolina Legal Services Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) Program conducts a separate free monthly bankruptcy clinic for low income individuals who qualify under certain income guidelines.

South Carolina Bar’s Pro Bono Program: In addition to other services, the South Carolina Bar’s Pro Bono Program refers indigent debtors to attorneys for pro bono representation. Attorneys who accept pro bono cases through the program are offered malpractice insurance coverage for the case at no cost.

South Carolina Bar’s Free Legal Answers Program: In coordination with the American Bar Association, the S.C. Bar offers South Carolina Free Legal Answers, an online service in which qualified low income individuals may post legal questions, including those related to bankruptcy law, that are answered by volunteer attorneys. Volunteer attorneys are provided malpractice insurance at no cost for the legal guidance that they provide on the South Carolina Free Legal Answers website.

Volunteers are always needed and appreciated for these programs. If you are interested in volunteering for one of these pro bono programs, please contact Andrew Powell on behalf of Judge Waites at Andrew_Powell@scb.uscourts.gov.


Wed, 9/18/2019 - 8:33 am

Judge Waites has recently updated his Chambers Guidelines to increase the no-look fees allowed for Debtor’s counsel who provide services to debtors in addressing student loan debt in the chapter 13 cases assigned to him.  Counsel is now allowed a no-look fee of $1,250 (increased from $1,000) for assisting a debtor with the confirmation of a plan providing for the debtor’s enrollment in or maintenance of an Income Driven Repayment Plan with the U.S. Department of Education. Further, counsel is now allowed a no-look fee of $1,500 (increased from $1,000) for participating in a court ordered mediation regarding student loan debt in lieu of a contested hearing.

The updated guidelines are attached to this message.


Thu, 6/27/2019 - 9:11 am

Upon the recent retirement of Judge Waites’ Courtroom Deputy, in order to assist the transition of duties to other staff, effective July 1, 2019, Judge Waites will strictly follow the deadline requirements for timely submissions of continuance requests, settlements, and withdrawals (allowing for matters to be removed from the docket in advance of the hearings in uncontested matters) and joint statements of dispute and proposed exhibits in contested matters.

Failure to adhere to the requirements will require counsel to appear at all hearings and may require the postponement of a contested hearing or denial of the relief requested in the Judge’s discretion. Untimely requests to appear at hearings telephonically may also be denied.

For reference, the relevant sections of Chambers Guidelines are attached.

 


Tue, 4/23/2019 - 9:51 am

On March 14, 2019, the Bankruptcy Court announced modifications to the local form chapter 13 plan that will be effective for all cases filed on or after May 1, 2019.

Judge Waites invites members of the South Carolina Bankruptcy Bar that practice before him to a meeting to discuss how these District-wide changes will specifically affect the chapter 13 cases assigned to him. This meeting will address the cases assigned to both Trustee Wyman and Trustee Stephenson.

The meeting will be held at 11:30 AM after the close of the docket in Charleston scheduled for Thursday, April 25, 2019. Attorneys and staff from either the Charleston or Columbia divisions may attend in person or by telephone. Please RSVP for the meeting to Agnes Babb at Agnes_Babb@scb.uscourts.gov no later than today at 3:00 PM. In the RSVP, please indicate whether you anticipate attending in person or by telephone.


Fri, 4/19/2019 - 8:48 am

Judge Waites’ term law clerk, Claire Voegele, has accepted the opportunity to serve as the law clerk for a United States District Court Judge in Columbia beginning at the end of this month. The Judge and members of his chambers and case team would like to thank Claire for her service and wish her well. Claire’s last day in chambers will be April 26, 2019.

With Claire’s departure, Judge Waites is happy to welcome back Sarah Kistler to his chambers as a law clerk on a part-time basis. She has previously served with distinction as Judge Waites’ career law clerk for many years prior to her family’s move to Georgia in 2016. Sarah will be teleworking from Georgia.


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