You are here
Do I need an Attorney?
While it is possible to file a bankruptcy case pro se -- i.e. without the assistance of an attorney -- it may be difficult to do so successfully. You may lose property or other rights if you do not know the law. It is recommended that a person considering bankruptcy consult with a competent attorney prior to filing a case. If you are an individual representing yourself without the benefit of an attorney, you are known as a pro se litigant. "Pro se" is a Latin term meaning "for yourself". As a pro se litigant, you enjoy every right entitled to you under the law. However, pro se litigants are expected to follow and abide by the rules that govern the practice of law in the Federal Courts. Pro se litigants should be familiar with the United States Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and the Local Rules of this Court. Any other type of debtor, including a partnership or a corporation, must be represented by an attorney in order to file and to prosecute a bankruptcy case. Any case filed on behalf of such a debtor without the retention of legal counsel is subject to immediate dismissal. For information about lawyer referral programs in the Plano area, you may contact the Plano Bar Association at (972) 424-6113 or the North Dallas Bar Association at (972) 980-0472. For lawyer referral programs in the Beaumont area, you may contact the Jefferson County Bar Association at (409) 835-8438. You may also contact the State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral Information Service toll-free at 1 (800) 252-9690 or 1 (877) 9TEXBAR or review the basics of the State Bar attorney referral program on the World Wide Web at www.texasbar.com/lris. You may also consult the attorney section of your local telephone directory. Note: Federal Law prohibits all federal judges, their law clerks, and members of the bankruptcy clerk's offices from practicing law, or from answering any legal questions regarding any case or matter before the court.
What your signature means.
If you are a debtor, your signature on the petition and statements and schedules constitutes an oath that the information is accurate and complete. The Bankruptcy Code provides serious penalties for false statements (see section 727(a)(4)(A). Title 18 of the United States Code (Crimes and Criminal Procedure) section 152 also makes it a crime to knowingly and fraudulently omit property, make a false oath or account, or make a false declaration or verification. If you are a creditor U.S.C. section 152 makes it a crime to knowingly and fraudulently present a false claim.
Can I contact a Judge?
You are prohibited from contacting a judge. Federal Bankruptcy Rule 9003 prohibits parties from "ex parte" meetings or communications with the court concerning matters affecting any particular case or proceeding. "Ex parte" means one party, without notice to or argument by any person adversely affected or interested. For example, a telephone call directly to the judge would be a prohibited ex-parte contact. Similarly, a letter to the judge, without copies to opposing parties, would be a prohibited ex-parte contact.
Where do I file my bankruptcy case?
Bankruptcy cases in the Eastern District of Texas must be filed with the Office of the Bankruptcy Clerk. The Clerk has divisional office locations in Beaumont, Plano, and Tyler. Directions to the divisional offices are available by accessing Locations section of this web site. Each of the three offices is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday except federal holidays. In most cases, the appropriate divisional office for your case may be determined by locating, in the information provided on the Divisions and Offices Page, the county of your residence for the greater portion of the preceding 180 days. The counties and divisions that comprise the Eastern District of Texas are codified in 28 U.S.C. §124. They are also listed in Appendix 1001-h (External Operating Procedures - Clerk’s Office) to the Local Rules located elsewhere on this web site.
Can I pay my filing fee in installments?
Yes. Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 1006 allows the debtor the right to apply for permission to pay the filing fee in installments. The debtor must sign an application stating that he/she is unable to pay the filing fee except in installments. The application (Official Form 3) must state the proposed terms of the installment payments. The entire filing fee must be paid within 120 days of the filing of the petition in not more than four installment payments.
Can the filing fee ever be waived?
If an individual seeking Chapter 7 relief cannot afford to pay the filing fee in full or in installments, a waiver of the filing fee may be sought by the filing of an application in accordance with Official Form B 103B. A judge will decide whether a waiver is authorized. A filing fee waiver can only be granted if your income is less than 150% of the official poverty line applicable to your family size and you are unable to pay the filing fee in installments.
What is a master mailing list (matrix)?
The master mailing list (matrix) is a list of all creditors which a debtor must provide in order to file a bankruptcy case. The list should include not only the names but the complete street address, city, state, and zip code of each creditor. This list is used to notify you and your creditors of significant events during the course of your bankruptcy case. The matrix must be submitted at the time of the filing of your case or your case will be subject to an expedited dismissal process. See Appendix 1007-b-5 of the Local Rules for instructions regarding the correct preparation of the matrix.
If I am an individual debtor, how long after filing bankruptcy will I be issued a discharge?
Individual Chapter 7 debtors are eligible to receive a Chapter 7 discharge at the expiration of the period for a party to file a complaint objecting to the entry of such a discharge. Such complaint must be filed no later than 60 days following the first date set for the first meeting of creditors (generally speaking, about 120 days after the filing of the case) however, the period may be extended by the Court for cause on the motion of any party in interest and after hearing on notice. At the end of the 60-day period or as may be extended by the Court beyond such date, the Court will issue an order granting the debtor a discharge unless: the debtor is not an individual, a complaint objecting to the discharge has been filed, the debtor has filed a waiver of discharge under §727(a)(10), or a motion to dismiss pursuant to §707(b) is pending. For all individuals filing for Chapter 7 relief on or after October 17, 2005, completion of an instructional course in personal financial management is also required. The entry of a discharge order, however, does not preclude the Court from subsequently determining the dischargeability of a particular debt if a creditor has timely requested such a determination. For Chapter 13 debtors, the Court grants the discharge as soon as practicable after the debtor completes all payments under a confirmed Chapter 13 plan and creditors have been given an opportunity to object.
Can I obtain the same login / password as I have in other districts?
Yes, make that request when submitting the attorney or creditor application. Otherwise, a login/password may be changed going to Utilities, Maintain Your ECF Account, and click More User Information.
Why am I not receiving emails from the ECF system?
There are a few reasons that you may not be receiving emails from the ECF system:
Our court will make every effort to verify your email address when bouncebacks (returned emails) occur on our end.
- Your email box may be blocked or locked. Perhaps your email box is full (or was full when the email was sent) or you are overdue on paying any fees required for you to access the internet or your email, so your provider may have restricted your email in some way.
- Your email address could not be found on the internet, or by your email server. We get many bounces which are the result of email servers being down/offline/configured wrong/etc., or when the email server does not recognize the recipient's address.
- Invalid or outdated email address. You may have moved firms, changed email addresses, etc. Your registration is yours (not the firm's) and you are required to keep your contact information current and accurate.
- "Spam" or junk/bulk email protection may be blocking or filtering the ECF emails due to how the emails are being addressed. All ECF emails have common characteristics. Quite often these emails get filtered to a "protected" email folder on your email server which can only be accessed by the administrator on the system, or may be automatically deleted. This one can be major a problem since some email spam protection blocks emails which are not sent specifically TO: the recipient. Since ECF by definition sends "bulk" email, ECF emails may be blocked and there is nothing that the court can do about it on our end. The good news however is that all email spam protection allows for what is commonly called a "White List". White Lists are email addresses which are allowed to come through despite any other email filtering or protection. ("Black Lists" in contrasts are never allowed.)