Bankruptcy Procedure Question? Ask a Clerk

The  bankruptcy judge ordered me to get the signature of an absent party on the written version of the order just made from the bench.  So, what to do when that party was unwilling to sign?

When the judge signed the order anyway, opposing counsel complemented me on knowing how to deal with the problem.  He’s practiced law even longer than I have and he said he wouldn’t have known how to quickly address the glitch.

Perhaps immodestly, I didn’t tell him how I did it.  I’d  sent an email to the court room deputy, with whom I’ve interacted for years, and asked!  I told her that I couldn’t get the signature, and wanted to know whether to put the story before the judge by a letter (with copies to all involved) or by a pleading.  She said “File something”.

My next question was whether I needed to provide a chambers copy of my pleading to the judge.  No, she said, let her know when it was filed and she’d pull it off of PACER.

So, I prepared my declaration, with a short recap of what had happened in the courtroom, my attempt to get the absent trustee’s signature, and the trustee’s reasons for being unwilling to sign. The order came back signed within the hour, helpfully faxed to me by the courtroom deputy.

The willingness to help with this sort of question, of course, varies from clerk to clerk, and often reflects the attitude of the judge.  But, cultivate court personnel, let them know you want to get this stuff right and make their job run more smoothly.

It’s easy, when everything is new to you, to assume that there are answers to every question, known to veterans but not to newcomers.   But one thing that keeps me interested in bankruptcy practice is the fact that there’s  routinely something new for which I don’t know the answer.  If after reading the local rules, you can’t figure out how the court would like it done, ask.

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