Judge Gregory Kishel, Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota, said last week at the bar association’s Bankruptcy Institute that the bankruptcy court for our state had enough money to make payroll and pay expenses through Monday October 14th or thereabouts. After that he said it was his intention and the intention of all the staff to continue working without pay. As close as I can tell, that must be what they are doing. I just got a routine legal notice from the court in my email about two hours ago. So I know that somebody is there and on the job right now.
I don’t know how long they can go on like that, but the way the judge was talking it sounded as if they were prepared to stick it out for the duration. This has been a good thing from my perspective, because I have been able to continue my work with very little noticeable side effects from the shutdown. So far the only thing that has come up has been that I found a mistake in a proof of claim form which the IRS filed in one of my Chapter 13 cases. When I picked up the phone to call the IRS guy who had prepared the claim form, I got a message that the IRS office was closed because of the government shutdown.
The news I heard this morning before coming to the office was all about possible default on the national debt unless something is done in the next few hours. That would mean, depending on who one listens to, anything between possibly almost nothing at best and a terrible crash and depression like that of 1929 at worst. So in looking for a graphic to go with this post, I have decided to pull out my picture of the fiscal cliff. Hard to know what is really going to happen. Guess I’ll fasten my seat belt and hang on for the ride.
Late yesterday I received the following email from the clerk of bankruptcy court in Minneapolis:
“In the event of a government shutdown on October 1, 2013, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota will be open and will maintain normal hours and operations for approximately 10 business days. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled and CM/ECF will be available for the electronic filing and review of documents.”
This somewhat surprised me because last week I received the following email from the clerk of federal court’s office in Minneapolis:
"JUDICIARY TO REMAIN OPEN IF GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN
In the event there is a government shutdown beginning October 1, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota will continue normal operations Tuesday, October 1, 2013. All cases, including civil and criminal jury trials, will be processed and argued and judgments will be issued and enforced according to usual schedules and priorities. The Clerk’s Office will be fully operational and CM/ECF will continue to be fully functional.” (CM/ECF means Case Management/Electronic Case Files.)
I always thought of the bankruptcy court as being a branch of the federal judiciary, and the earlier of the two emails seemed to be saying that the federal judiciary would not be shut down at all. Guess I misunderstood that. Apparently if the government shutdown continues for more than two weeks, we can expect the bankruptcy court to close.
Either way the news for now is that the Minnesota bankruptcy court is open for business as usual. Filings are being accepted and nothing is being postponed or rescheduled. I expect that this is at least in part because there are very stiff filing fees in bankruptcy court. Right now the filing fee for a Chapter 7 is $306 and the filing fee for a Chapter 13 is $281. Late last week I was charged $30 to file an amended document with the court. I imagine that at any one time there are enough of these fees in the pipeline to keep the place going for a while.
Nevertheless, I invite all my clients to keep an eye out for emails and phone messages from me concerning possible delay or rescheduling of creditor meetings or other events. The word for today is UNCERTAINTY.
This post is for general information purposes only, is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. I am a debt relief agency. I help people file for relief under the federal bankruptcy code.