Bankruptcy cases are filed in federal rather than state court. There are 94 bankruptcy courts that function throughout the country. U.S. district courts technically have jurisdiction over bankruptcy matters but most commonly refer bankruptcy petitions to bankruptcy courts. However, district courts can handle specific cases or may withdraw a reference from the bankruptcy court. This system was developed by Congress in 1978 and has been in effect since 1984.
The majority of bankruptcy proceedings are held before a bankruptcy judge. Bankruptcy judges are appointed and act as a unit of their specific district court for 14 year terms. Bankruptcy trustees are also appointed. The U.S. Trustee appoints Chapter 7 trustees for one-year renewable terms. Chapter 13 trustees work differently. They act as “standing trustees” in a particular region. Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 trustees have responsibilities that including administering each case and representing the interests of the various affected creditors.
The Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure govern all proceedings in a bankruptcy court.
The decisions of the bankruptcy judge can be appealed to the district court although some may go before a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. Although the decisions are not officially published by the court or government, Thomson West, a legal publisher, privately publishes all bankruptcy proceedings.
People are able to represent themselves in bankruptcy proceedings, but the process can be complex and confusing. Unfortunately, a single mistake could cost you your case, leaving you to refile and go through the entire process again. This is not just stressful and expensive, but it also delays the discharge of your debts and your financial freedom.
An experienced bankruptcy attorney can provide invaluable guidance while ensuring your petition is comprehensive and your case is properly filed. Contact First America Law today to learn more about how bankruptcy courts work and to get a free case evaluation.