Chapter 13 Hearing
I was a brand new attorney and following the suggestion of a friend of mine, I attended some chapter 13 bankruptcy hearings in Downtown San Diego. Intent on gaining a greater understanding of the process I made my way to Trustee David Skelton’s offices to watch the hearings for a couple of hours.
The audience was made up of people who had filed bankruptcy, their attorneys, some creditors and attorneys for creditors. There were probably about 60 to 70 people there that day. I sat about 5 rows back on the right side, aisle seat. Next to me sat a tall man with a congenial smile who was African American and slightly balding.
Typical for the First Half Hour
I sat through at least a half hour or some fairly typical cases. People were paying the arrears on houses or the payments they were behind on their homes, managing car payments and paying off the principal of their credit cards interest free. All the benefits of typical Chapter 13 cases.
Funniest Case I’ve Ever Seen
I can’t remember the debtor’s name anymore, (for the purposes of this story). But he had a gotee and the first thing that struck me was that Trustee Skelton, just said, “Hello, I’m Trustee Skelton, and my attorney will be taking over now,” and he got up and left. Wow, what was happening? Maybe he just had to go relieve himself, I didn’t know, I’d never been to a chapter 13 hearing before.
With this particular debtor, (or person who files a bankruptcy), sitting in font of him, the trustee’s attorney asked a lot of the more usual questions, did the debtor understand the penalty of perjury, did he list everything he owned, did he list all of his debts, did he understand that the penalty for perjury is up to 5 years in prison and or $500,000 in fines, blah blah blah . .. What? I had’t heard the Trustee ask those extra perjury questions of anyone else.
Then the attorney moved onto more specific questions such as, how did he choose values for his cars? How did he look up the value of his house? Whom did he owe the mortgage to? Had he transferred any money to anyone prior to filing? Had he ever been married to Dagmar Coleridge (name changed)?
Now, the debtor had been sitting there with his chin resting on his thumb and his fingers kind of resting over his chin. He was silent. The room fell silent. During the silence his head dropped slowly until he was looking down at his feet. Then slowly he spoke and said only the word: “No.”
I could not have laughed harder or louder if the man had been Eddie Murphy. All of the audience laughed. After almost falling out of my chair, the tall man next to me said with a big grin, “I’m the other Chapter 13 Trustee and I’d heard this one was going to be good.” And that was my introduction to Trustee Billingslea.
So remember out there, tell the truth, you want your case to be nice and boring.