Sunday, January 13, 2008

bankruptcy - credit counseling prior to filing

In re Hoshan - ED Pa. - January 7, 2008

This Chapter 13 case was held to have been properly dismissed, because the debtor/appellant did not get or certify that she got credit counseling before filing the bankruptcy, as required by 11 USC sec. 109(h)(1).

The debtor filed her petition on March 30th, lacking a number of documents, including either a certificate that she had already received credit counseling or a request for an extension or exemption from that requirement, due to exigent circumstances. She didn't actually get credit counseling until April 3rd, and filed a certificate to that effect on April 30th.

Bankruptcy Rule 9006(b)(1) allows the court discretion to excuse late filing due to "exigent circumstances" and the debtor made a "persuasive case" for that. But the court said that the "real not the late filing [but] that the appellant did not receive credit counseling before she filed her bankruptcy."

Although the court recognized that the counseling requirement is not jurisdictional, it noted that "[m]osts courts have concluded that dismissal is mandated when the debtor has not complied with the credit counseling requirement."

Noting that "[s]ome courts have waived the credit counseling requirements to avoid manifest injustice," the court said that the debtor did not meet that test, even thought it was "sympathetic to the challenges the appellant faces as the mother of seven children and the primary caretaker for her injured husband....Her family situation, while difficult, does not rise to the level of those cases in which courts avoid manifest injustice by waiving the credit counseling requirement."

The court cited In re Manalad, 360 B.R. 288, 296 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2007) (debtor’s counsel mistakenly advised him that his non-consumer debts were not subject to the requirements); In re Vollmer, 2007 WL 541747 Bankr. E.D. Va. 2007) (debtor was incarcerated at the time he filed his petition and had no access to a credit counselor); In re Petit-Louis, 344 B.R. 696 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. 2006) (debtor spoke only Creole and no Creole-speaking credit counselor was available); In re Bricksin, 346 B.R. 497 (Bankr. N.D. Cal. 2006) (debtors had set up a payment plan with a credit counseling agency and had been making payments but failed to file the certificate with their bankruptcy petition).