The Final Countdown Shutdown…

Happy Government Shutdown! Okay, it hasn’t completely shut down but all ‘non-essential’ services are shut down. So how will this affect your bankruptcy? Well, that all depends on how quickly it gets fixed, but let’s take a look at what is going on with the players in the meantime:

1.       The Bankruptcy Court: Well this one is definitely still open – for now. The Bankruptcy Court has an emergency fund that will last for ten business days. That is unfortunately the only concrete thing I can say about the Courts. Last Thursday the Administrative Offices of the U.S. Courts for the Federal Judiciary issued the following statement:

“In the event of a government shutdown on October 1, 2013, the federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts.”

Reassuring, isn’t it. Essentially let’s wait and see what happens. So the court will be open for at least ten more days, we bankruptcy attorneys in Grand Rapids and everywhere else still have to abide by deadlines, and carry on as if everything is normal. (Am I the only one who pictures Kevin Bacon in Animal House yelling “Remain Calm! All is Well!” right now?). But at least the ECF electronic filing system is still in effect.

It does however lead me to wonder what happens after ten days? Can we still file bankruptcies? If a house is about to be foreclosed and the filing system is down, is there anything we can do to stop it? I’m really hoping I don’t have to be able to answer those questions. So the court is open temporarily, but what about the trustees?

2.       The United States Trustee: Well, as of midnight last night, this one is shut down. There is currently a sign posted on their main office in Grand Rapids explaining they are shut down due to the budget shortfall. I have been assured they have ‘critical staff’ in place, but I very much doubt they are able to operate as they normally would.  It should be noted that the panel trustees who conduct the 341 Meeting of Creditors are not governmental employees, and they are not directly affected by the shut down, so for now at least the meetings will continue.

If the shutdown persists you should expect the following: Delays or cancellations of Meetings of Creditors, Delays in confirmation of Chapter 13 Plans; and Delays or cancellation of Bankruptcy Court hearings.  For now, we aren’t experiencing any of those, but stay tuned because it could happen soon. So let’s all remain calm, and pray for our leaders in Washington are able to remove their heads from certain body parts and get things moving again.