Bankruptcy Judges And Bankruptcy Trustees Vary Within The Northern District Of Illinois

Consistency Lacking

If you are looking for consistency among the bankruptcy judges and the bankruptcy trustees in the Northern District of Illinois, you will be hard pressed to find it. Let’s start by examining the bankruptcy judges in Chicago. Each bankruptcy judge comes from a different background, has a different viewpoint with regard to debtors and creditors and a different method of handling cases in his or her courtroom. The latest judge to enter the fray is Judge Thorne.  She is the most recent addition to the many judges that sit in the Northern District of Illinois. In a recent case under chapter 13, she denied the debtor’s attorney’s fees for reasons stated on the record. When researching what those reasons were, it was determined that the court approved model retention agreement which was entered into by the debtor and the debtor’s attorney was not attached to the attorney’s fee application. Prior to Judge Thorne’s recent ruling, there was only one other judge in the District who was requiring that the court approved model retention agreement be attached. There was also no notice or memo on judge Thorne’s website which advised debtor’s attorneys to attach said retention agreement. This type of inconsistency among the judges without a general local rule regarding same, makes it very difficult and prejudicial in some respects for debtors counsel attempting to get compensated for the good work that they do for debtors.

Recent Bankruptcy Trustee

Let’s examine a recent trustee. Most trustees are requiring exactly what the code provides. This is generally known to be the most recent year of a debtor’s federal tax return in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case as well as two months’ of recent paycheck stubs or other proof of income. A new trustee is now requiring all of the above plus 2 months’ worth of bank statements prior to the case being actually filed. This is something that very few trustees are requesting because trustees have found the request to be intrusive and without providing any real merit. Despite the fact that all the trustees are under the umbrella of the United States Trustee’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, there is no consistency among the trustees.

No Solution

There is no solution to getting all the bankruptcy judges and all of the bankruptcy trustees on the same page with regard to the requesting of documents and rules regarding attaching agreements or not. However, the only way to combat this inconsistency effectively is to attach the model retention agreement to every application for fees regardless of which judge you are appearing in front of. With regard to the chapter 7 trustees, debtors’ counsel would be wise to make a list of the special requirements needed for each particular trustee. By contacting the debtor immediately upon knowing which trustee is assigned to the case, the debtor has a greater chance of complying with the additional requirements of providing two months’ worth of bank statements for the period immediately preceding the filing of the case.

In summary, don’t expect any consistency among the bankruptcy judges and bankruptcy trustees and you will not be disappointed. Do your best to navigate the minefield which is the different rulings, regulations, requirements and requests of both bankruptcy judges and bankruptcy trustees alike.