Pursuant to agreement of the Judges of the Court, Judges Waites and Burris will hear matters and may issue orders in Judge Duncan's cases beginning April 18, 2007 and thereafter until further notice.
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Judges' Corner Archive
The first presentation of the Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) program as sponsored by the Bankruptcy Court in South Carolina was made on Tuesday March 14, 2007. Judge Waites, Pamela Simmons-Beasley, Lydia Eloff and Carri Grube, an attorney with the South Carolina Dept of Consumer Affairs, travelled to Orangeburg and met with high school students at the New Vision Alternative School.The program included instructions on budgeting and the responsible use of credit, as well as the dangers of large credit card debt. All participants felt that the program was well received and worthwhile.
Many thanks to Pamela, Lydia and Carri and to members of the Clerk's staff, Lisa Dunbar and Mark Tyan, for the volunteering of their time and efforts. If you know of other schools or organizations interested in the presentation or if you would like to sign up as a volunteer, please contact Lisa at 803-765-5159 or Judge Waites.
As a consequence of the location of a resident judge in the upstate and to ensure convenient access to hearing locations, the judges of the U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Carolina are considering a redesignation of court divisions pursuant to 28 USC 154 to assist in the allocation of case work among the judges.
Under consideration is the redesignation of Abbeville, McCormick, and Greenwood counties and, possibly York county, to the Greenville/Spartanburg division with the primary court location being Spartanburg, SC and the redesignation of Allendale, Hampton, Williamsburg, and Horry counties to the Charleston division with the primary court location being Charleston, SC. Trustee assignment and the location of 341 meetings are the province of the United States Trustee and are not subject to these designations.
Based upon approximate figures from the date of the latest published projections by the state census bureau (2005), under the present designation of divisions, the relevant statistics are as follows:
Spartanburg/Greenville: 8 counties, population = 1,184,950, case filings 4189/ 27% of total,
Charlestion: 8 counties, population = 877,330, case filings 2875/18.5% of total,
Columbia: 30 counties, population = 2,167,720, case filings 8414/54.3% of total.
Under the proposed designation of divisions,(using the same figures) the statistics would change as follows:
-without York: 11 counties, population = 1,289,890, case filings 4495/ 29% of total,
-with York: 12 counties, population = 1,479,938, case filings 5101/32.9% of total,
Charleston: 12 counties, population = 1,182,881, case filings 3895/25% of total,
-without York: 23 counties, population = 1,592,756, case filings 6482/41.8% of total,
-with York: 24 counties, population = 1,782,804, case filings 7088/45% of total.
The judges request that any comments from members of the bankruptcy bar be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org on or before March 27, 2007.
The following proposals have been approved by the Judges of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Carolina, after approval of the Court's Advisory Committee and the Chapter 13 Trustees in the District.
Attorneys' Fees for Debtor's Attorneys in Chapter 13 Cases:
Statistics for 2006 show a 61% decrease in the filing of new bankruptcy cases in our District. A closer examination of this issue reveals a number of areas in South Carolina where the few attorneys who formerly filed consumer debtor cases appear to have dropped out of the practice due to lack of knowledge or fear of the Bankruptcy Reform Act. This has raised concerns regarding the availability of bankruptcy services in those areas. In addition, it is apparent that the new requirements of the Reform Act have resulted in a uniform increase in attorneys' fees for consumer cases, which has effectively priced some debtors out of representation. Due to the increased costs of representation, more debtors are filing pro se or delaying their filing while they raise money for retainer fees. The lack of representation and delay in filing often causes debtors' cases to fail. At a recent meeting, the Judges agreed in principle with the idea of improving the timing of payments to debtors' counsel in Chapter 13 cases as an encouragement to keep qualified counsel in this area of practice and to promote service in more borderline or pro se cases. A limited comparison of practices in other Districts demonstrates that South Carolina is conservative in its approach on this subject.
The Judges would appreciate the comments of the members of the bankruptcy bar on the following proposals for changes in this District:
1. Elimination of Percentage Cap on Attorneys' Fees:
Presently, all secured claims are paid first (including adequate protection, which is often the payment itself) with the only carve out being the attorneys' fees capped at 25% and domestic support claims. The elimination of the cap would allow debtors' attorneys to receive more of their fees earlier on in the case, to the extent the payment is not fully consumed by the required payments to the secured creditors. The improvement in the timing of payments to debtors' attorneys encourages better representation and creates a better process for everyone, including creditors. The following changes to Paragraph 3 of the form Chapter 13 plan are suggested (leaving the rest of the Chapter 13 plan as is):
3. Subject to review and objection, a proof of claim for the attorney's fees of the debtor(s) in the amount of $_______ will be filed, and may be amended from time to time, and shall be paid with all funds remaining each month after payment to secured and domestic support creditors as set forth below.
2. Pro Se Cases :
To further encourage attorneys to take over pro se cases, the following language could be added to the plan in applicable cases (to follow the above paragraph):
"In instances where counsel assumes representation in pro se cases and a plan is confirmed, a separate order that allows the payment of a portion of the attorney's fees ahead of payments to other creditors may be entered by the Court without further notice."
3. Payments Upon Conversion or Dismissal Before Confirmation:
Amend Local Rule 1019-1 to include a directive that upon conversion or dismissal of the case, and subject to objection by the Trustee or other party, the Trustee is authorized to pay to the debtor's attorney, rather than refunding to the debtor, the lesser of (1) the amount of the attorneys' remaining unpaid filed claim; (2) $500 or (3) the remaining balance on hand after adequate protection payments and trustee fees.
Any comments should be forwarded to email@example.com on or before March 27, 2007.
Judges Waites and Duncan and the staff of the US Bankruptcy Court wish to congratulate Judge Beth Burris on the one year anniversary of her appointment to the bankruptcy bench in South Carolina. We all wish her continued happiness in her service.
In addition to wireless capabilities in Columbia and Charleston, the Judges are please to announce that wireless access is now available in Spartanburg.
Further, attorneys registered to access the Court's wireless network and approved to bring laptop computers into the courthouse for use in making presentations to the Court are also welcome to use the Court's facilities in Columbia on days when 341 meetings are conducted in the Strom Thurmond Federal Building. The Judges of this Court trust that this will be of assistance to those of you who travel some distance to attend 341 meetings and could use the opportunity to work or communicate with your office between meetings of creditors. Wireless service is also available in Spartanburg and Charleston where the Courts are also used for 341 meetings.
A wireless signal is available on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the courthouse in Columbia and will be available in the basement canteen area in the near future. Please be considerate of those in the adjacent chambers and office space while using wireless access in the second and third floor conference rooms and in the canteen area.
See Operating Order 07-03.
After consultation with the Court's Advisory Committee, the Judges have approved a new policy which allows the Clerk to delete incorrect or incomplete addresses from the mailing matrix upon the return of mail for the failure of service or to change the address to a corrected or forwarding address if provided by the U.S. Postal Service. Returned mail will be noted on the case docket, in order to advise (by NEF) debtor's counsel, trustees and other parties of the deletion or change and indicate the opportunity to provide a corrected or complete address.
In the instance of an attorney's change of address, the notifying attorney should provide a specific list of cases in which the address change will be noted, otherwise it will be changed in all pending and closed cases in which the attorney is associated.
The Court maintains a list of experienced bankruptcy counsel who wish to be considered as mediators in bankruptcy related litigation. These counsel agree to be available on short notice and often agree to a reduction in their usual hourly rate. Any counsel who wish to be listed should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. A description of the mediation program appears under the Chambers Guidelines & Information section of the Court's Web Page.
The Judges and staff of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court wish everyone the happiest of holidays and a happy new year.