Massachusetts Bankruptcy Overview: “Jurisdiction and Local Rules”
The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the District Courts of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. The U.S. has 12 circuits (colorful circuit map). The “Structure” of the 1st Circuit which Massachusetts is a part of breaks down like this:
Massachusetts Bankruptcy Rules and Protections
Special rules and or protections are determined according to the district the debtor files in. Massachusetts has its own district and so every pleading is headed with
United States Bankruptcy Court
District of Massachusetts
District of Massachusetts has three (3) different “divisions”. They are the Eastern Division, Central Division and Western Division.
How are Bankruptcy Cases assigned?
Every bankruptcy case is automatically assigned to a bankruptcy judge the moment a case is electronically filed. Your judge is assigned according to the division you are in. If you file your case in the Eastern Division (a majority of cases filed here because of Boston) then you will get assigned one of the three eastern judges:
- Hon. Frank J. Bailey (Chief Judge)
- Hon. Joan N. Feeney
- Hon. William C. Hillman
If you file in the Central Division (Worcester) then you will get either:
- Hon. Henry J. Boroff
- Hon. Melvin S. Hoffman
Western Division (Springfield) cases are signed exclusively to the Hon. Henry J. Boroff.
Each district has special “local rules”, which distinguishes one district from another.
Fun Fact: it just so happens that Massachusetts is one district. The country is comprised of 94 federal districts so sometimes it takes more than one district to span the more highly populated states.
What Your Attorney Should Know
An attorney needs a specialized knowledge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code (“the Code”) in order to successfully practice bankruptcy law. There are special procedural rules used in bankruptcy court that are outlined in the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (“FRBP”). And here is where those local rules come in. If you practice in Massachusetts then you are required to know and follow the local rules, which often differ greatly from the rules outlined on the FRBP.
The court has a complete list of the local rules and appendices here.
Common Massachusetts Bankruptcy Local Rules
1) How much does it costs to file a case under chapter 7 (or chapter 13/chapter 11)?
- Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing: $306
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing: $281,
- Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing: $1,046.
2) If I file bankruptcy do I have to go to court? If so, when?
A. Yes you have to go to the court for a meeting of creditors. If your case is one under chapter 7 then your meeting will take place 30 days after the date you filed. If it is chapter 13 then the meeting is held anywhere from 30-60 days after filing. Chapter 11 cases are much more complex and there is no “rule of thumb” answer with regard to a time frame.
3) Do I have to tell all of my creditors that I filed bankruptcy or can I leave some out?
A. Yes, but it is the court, not you, who lets them know about it. You give the court the list of addresses and the court sends out the Order for Relief on its own letterhead. The purpose of this is to protect you and because if they got some letter from you saying you filed bankruptcy they will be more apt to ignore it and harass you. When they get a notice from a federal court signed by a judge it sends a message of legitimacy and respect.
4) What are all of these papers I’m filling out?
A. The forms you fill out make up your bankruptcy “petition”. It’s called a petition because it is supposed to instill the idea that you are coming to the court asking for relief afforded by the Code. If the court deems you to be truthful and in conformity with the Code then you will be granted the relief you seek.
5) Do I have to sign and date every single page?
A. No, in fact your attorney will electronically sign most of the pages for you. But your electronic signature is deemed to be the SAME as if you signed the form yourself. This district requires you physically sign only two (2) pages. First, you must sign Local Form 7, which is a district-specific form that says that you read and understood every page of your petition and that your signature is your testimony that your petition is true and accurate. Second, there is a new local rules that says that the third page of your bankruptcy petition must be physically signed by you and your lawyer.
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