Last Friday the Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan issued Administrative Order 13-088. This order will keep all Federal Courts open during the current government shutdown, and will make sure that the Bankruptcy Court remains operating. In the order, Judge Paul Maloney deemed all judicial officers and staff of the United States Bankruptcy Court necessary and essential. So what does this mean to you?
Bankruptcy Petitions can still be filed.
This is a big one for bankruptcy attorneys such as myself. Obviously if we can’t file bankruptcies, we don’t have any business. But it also means that if there is a foreclosure sale of your home scheduled, we can still file a bankruptcy and stop it. It means that the citizens of Grand Rapids and all of West Michigan still have access to the constitutionally guaranteed protections of the bankruptcy court.
Court Hearings will still occur.
There had been some question about whether or not court hearings such as confirmation hearings and meetings of creditors would still go forwards. This ensures that they will, so if you have a meeting of creditors coming up in your bankruptcy case, make sure you go. It also means that if you filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy and there is a confirmation hearing scheduled, it will go forward and your bankruptcy plan will have the full force and effect of the Bankruptcy Court.
New Bankruptcy Judges will be appointed.
In the same order, the courts are prohibited from hiring new personnel unless expressly authorized. Luckily, filling the two judicial vacancies in the bankruptcy court is now considered essential and it will go forward.
So overall, good news, but it does mean the bankruptcy court is still operating on a shoestring budget. This will likely mean delays in filings, delays in hearings and overworked staff. Hopefully the political theater will end soon and we can get back to business. But it is at least good to know that if you live in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, or anywhere else in West Michigan, you can still file bankruptcy.