Bankruptcy is a set of federal laws and rules that can help individuals and businesses who owe more debt than they can pay. In bankruptcy, the person, corporation, or partnership that owes money is called the debtor. Bankruptcy permits the debtor to work out a plan to repay some or all of the debt, to liquidate assets, or to have some of the debt forgiven (“discharged”) in an effort to obtain a “fresh start”. The bankruptcy laws give the debtor protection and benefits not available outside of bankruptcy, such as requiring that creditors stop all collection efforts while the debtor is in bankruptcy, unless otherwise ordered by the Bankruptcy Court. In bankruptcy, a debtor must make full disclosure of all assets, liabilities, and other financial information, and must either (1) surrender non-exempt (protected) property for liquidation and distribution to creditors, or (2) formulate a plan providing creditors at least as much as they would receive if the assets were liquidated.
Created in 1979, the Bankruptcy Code provides help for businesses or persons in financial difficulty in the form of bankruptcy chapters. Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcies are the most commonly filed chapters. The Bankruptcy Code is available at legal libraries.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court is part of the federal judiciary. Each of the 94 federal judicial districts handles bankruptcy matters, and in almost all districts, bankruptcy cases are filed in the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy cases cannot be filed in state court.
In the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8 provides that “Congress shall have Power…To establish uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.” Article VI provides that the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States…shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” For more information about the Constitution, please visit the National Archives.
The Clerk’s Office provides a variety of services to the bankruptcy judges, attorneys and the public. The Clerk’s Office staff supports the Bankruptcy Court by filing and maintaining case-related papers, collecting authorized fees, sending notices, entering judgments and orders, and setting hearings.
The Clerk’s Office also supports attorneys and the public. The staff responds to requests for information and makes copies of papers in Bankruptcy Court files. Although Clerk’s Office staff cannot give legal advice, the Bankruptcy Court is a source for many forms and local rules which must be filed in order to commence a bankruptcy case and throughout the duration of the case.
The Bankruptcy Court, as well as the Clerk’s Office, will be closed on the following federal holidays:
The Bankruptcy Court as well as the Clerk’s office is not closed on state holidays, such as Patriot’s day.
The Massachusetts Local Rules and Standing Orders may be downloaded from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts website.
Copies of the bankruptcy code may be purchased from a variety of publishers. It is important that any Code and Rules purchased and intended to be relied on be the most current. There are links to the Code and the Rules on the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts website.