Filing without an Attorney
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.
Contacting 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 3B. 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.