You’ve Found Your Personal Turnaround Partner

This is not the life you dreamed of, but it still can be

You’re here, so it’s possible your money’s gotten out of control, and you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Or maybe your relationship is falling apart, and you’re worried what the future will look like.

Let’s turn things around, together.

You’ve talked to friends, spent a lot of time Googling for answers. Seeking hope on Instagram. Watching YouTube videos.

What if you had someone you could really talk to?

Someone completely focused on supporting you. Someone who keeps conversations completely confidential.

Someone who might have some real, legal answers, but who mostly listens.

No judgment. All support.

Rediscover hope in the future

Let’s talk about how to turn your life around.

Let’s talk about a new, hopeful future whether it’s money or relationships.

My approach to law is focused more on coaching you to unlock your own abilities and opening options for you. Bankruptcy or divorce is always the last resort, and should be part of a bigger plan.

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Stress and mental health in the bankruptcy process

Bankruptcy law is an incredibly powerful tool to deploy when you engineer and start your personal turnaround story. But it’s much more complex than simply filing a statement with the bankruptcy court.

Before we can even file the case, however, there is so much work that needs to happen, and a lot of it falls on my client’s shoulders, but I have to manage. We have to gather up paystubs, bank statements, go through a silly credit counseling session, get tax returns, fill out eighty plus pages of disclosures, get wet signatures on half a dozen confusing forms, and so on.

Many of my clients get confused as to which form is missing, how to get documents, and what needs to be signed. In the best case, the process is tedious. In the worst case, some clients give up on their personal turnaround without a bankruptcy discharge.

Stress for the client

So there are two problems with this whole process. First, it stresses out the client themselves. Second, it creates tension in the attorney client relationship.

Congress and courts didn’t think about the anxiety they would create in my clients in demanding so much information. They see the process as a colder, more mechanical.

Often it’s a hard mental commitment to file for bankruptcy in the first place. You have to get through promises you’ve made to others, implied moral commitments you’ve made, and promises you’ve made to yourself.

Making the commitment to come see me and go through the process is an admission that life hasn’t turned out the way you hoped, at least not yet.

But there’s usually a little doubt. Maybe you can make it work. Maybe you shouldn’t pull the trigger on bankruptcy.

And when I start asking you for so many documents, it creates new doubts in your decision. You start to really wonder whether you can get through it. In pulling up the information, you sometimes have to face the past few years of financial stress. I’ve had more than one client start crying as we started listing her assets on Schedule B.

There’s got to be a gentler way to do this. I try to help in my practice, but Congress needs to do its part too.

Stress for your bankruptcy lawyer

Second, it creates tension between the client and myself. I have to own it and work through it, but it’s sometimes hard. Here’s why: at the beginning of the case, we decide (or don’t, in some cases) that bankruptcy is an important step in the client’s personal turnaround.

I’m your ally at the beginning, and then I start hounding you for all these docs to get your discharge. That both changes the relationship you have with me and it changes my relationship to you because I often get anxious if you’re having trouble cooperating with me and the clock is ticking.

Worse, the judges or trustees could get mad at me because they say things like, I “can’t control my client,” as if I ever had control over any of them, which is never fun. So that can be a shadow influencing my relationship with my clients.

This is why a lot of lawyers lean on their paralegals to mange the process, but I don’t think that’s a very good solution because it only reduces my stress, not yours.

Long story short, filing for bankruptcy can be a little rough on your mental health–and mine! But if we’re going through the process, then it’s worth it!

We’ll get through it together.

Lately I’ve been really trying to find ways to help clients get through this in a way that’s protective of their mental health.

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My clients are not victims

There are probably about as many different approaches to legal practice as there are lawyers. For example, some lawyers are highly technical, focusing principally on the mechanics of how law works and advising clients.

Since I had a technical background, this is largely where I started and even focused initially when I put this site and blog together.

Some lawyers are in it for the competition. They love litigation and going to battle for their clients. Personally I like litigation and trial work for the results I can get, but I’m not a highly competitive guy, and I’m usually not interested in scoring points against opposing counsel (ok, that’s not always true; I’m human after all).

Some are almost like accountants, spending a lot of time pouring over legal documents in comfy high rises. I gave that a try at one point. Hated it.

Others are “high conflict,” combative, authoritarian personalities. That’s not me at all. Yet others are more focused on the administrative aspects of law; they’re great at efficiently processing matters. I’ve known a few of these folks. You see a lot of them in the high volume consumer space.

Many lawyers define themselves by focusing on one or more practice areas. Like, “I’m a divorce lawyer.” “I’m a trial lawyer.” “Criminal defense counsel.”

I got hung up on those categories for a long time myself, but I think they only really mean things to other lawyers. Most of the work I do implicates bankruptcy and family law, but there are some other areas too. I don’t think it helps my clients if I let myself be narrowly defined by other lawyers.

Both of those ways of trying to define myself as a lawyer puts the focus in the wrong place. It keeps the focus squarely with me as a lawyer—not my client.

Instead, I want to define myself based on the people I serve.

That’s why I’ve been describing myself as a personal turnaround lawyer—even if the cynics may roll their eyes.

I’m looking for clients who are trying to turn their lives around and know they have to do it for themselves. I’m looking for clients who have always been strong, and only need a little help getting out of a temporary tough spot.

In the areas of law I practice, others often describe my clients as victims. Victims of bad marriages, layoffs, predatory lending, cheating spouses, unconscionable interest rates, unfair institutions, or poor health care–to name just a few oppressors. Too many lawyers perpetuate this victim identity.

My clients reject the “victim” label.

Life’s circumstances put them in a tough spot, to be sure. But the clients I represent don’t define themselves circumstances. They don’t see themselves as victims. Or if they do, it’s only a momentary problem because they got caught in a hole. When I work with them, I help them remember they are strong and they’re strong enough to do anything they need to do for their families.

My clients are anything but victims.

With my help, they use the legal system to assert a new future for themselves and their families.

These are the clients I serve.

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Bankruptcy docket roundup – December 9, 2021

Apologies to my dear readers for falling behind on these posts! Will try to do better. Real life sometimes intrudes on my precious blogging time. Hope you’ve been doing well, or at least making do, without me.

Let’s start with an appeal to the Fourth Circuit. The panel looks into complex procedural issue related to a dispute over a condominium complex and, despite the condo association’s trial court loss for physical damages and Fair Housing Act issues, the association still wanted to collect its assessments against a condo owner. Clark v. Almy (19-2181) Judges Wilkinson, King, Diaz.

In the Central District of Illinois, there’s a cautionary case for practitioners to look into. Court grants US trustee’s request for attorney to disgorge $365 in filing fees over insufficient verification practices by the firm. In re Kincaid (19-70433), Judge Gorman.

In the District of Connecticut, section 523 defendant is a former financial advisor to the plaintiffs who lost a FINRA arbitration brought by the Ahuja’s based on negligent investment advice as a fiduciary. Summary judgement in favor of creditors because the debtor’s case falls under the securities subsection of 523(a)(19). Ahuja v. Fleming (19-51611), Judge Manning.

Staying in the cold country before moving south, in the Eastern District of Michigan, court sides with the debtor and dismisses a trustee’s 727 complaint because there was no allegation of fraud when the debtor transferred her exempt home six months after discharge. However, there is more to the case that may give the trustee avenues to move against the debtor. Lim v. Stewart (20-48595), Judge Tucker.

Moving down to sunnier and warmer District of Southern Florida, order granting motion to avoid liens under 522(f)(1)(A) over creditor’s objection that its lien does not actually “impair” the debtor’s exemption. Pretty interesting case in the context of Florida’s broad homestead exemptions and a split in the state on whether unenforceable recorded judgment liens impair the exemption. In re Pettengill (21-11326), Judge Russin.

Given how far Judge Russin dives into the nature or liens, I’d love to cover this one on the next podcast.

Jacobson Lives! $100k cash lost to the trustee in Idaho

Idaho. Debtors sell house while they’re in bankruptcy, but fail to follow the Idaho exemption regime which required them to reinvest the money in a new homestead within a year. Trustee comes calling, a few appeals later, and we end up with McAllister v. Wells in the Ninth Circuit.  Even the panel notes just how controversial this is.


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Subchapter 5 saves the Harbor Rose!

Long Island, New York. On the eve of a creditor’s confirmation hearing, the Small Business Reorganization Act became effective. In this groundbreaking case, Judge Grossman grapples with complex first impression issues and comes up with a new test for modifying loans on properties that debtors live in (that’s a big deal!).


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Bankruptcy docket roundup – November 29, 2021

Yes BK court really is in the post office.

Since it’s my blog and my jurisdiction, let’s start with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. Got two appeals from lower court appeals, which is to say, the appellants already had a shot at appeal, whether it was with a district court or the 9th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (BAP).

Let’s start with the appeal from the 9th Cir. BAP. Ninth Circuit rejects an appeal from the bankruptcy appellate panel as to whether an advance on an inheritance is a loan that can be discharged in bankruptcy. The BAP and this court rule that it cannot. Mellem v. Mellem (21-60020) Judges Schroeder, Fletcher, and Miller.

Second, the Ninth Circuit summarily affirmed the district court’s ruling from a pro se appeal from a bankruptcy court. Roughly, the appellant failed to follow the rules correctly, including FRBP 8003. Brugnara v. Brugnara (19-17267) Judges Owen, Bade, and Lee.

We have some more appellate court action as well, albeit pretty lightweight like the Ninth. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal summarily denied a petition to appeal from the lower district court because the underlying bankruptcy case was dismissed, so… no jurisdiction. Holmes v. Haynsworth (21-153)

Returning to the 90 or so bankruptcy trial courts, starting in Atlanta in the Northern District of Georgia, ruling on summary judgment arising out of disputes between the debtor and her mortgage servicer. Servicer wins most of the summary judgment points; however, trial will proceed on allegations of discharge and stay injunction violations. White-Lett v. Bank of NY Mellon (20-6278-BEM), Judge Ellis-Monro.

Moving up to the Southern District of New York, objection to pilots’ proofs of claims because of technicalities in collective-bargaining agreements is sustained. Interesting issues related to the confluence of collective bargaining contracts and “flow through” agreements intersecting with the POCs. In re: AMR Corp. (11-15463), Judge Lane.

In the Eastern District of Michigan, an adversary proceeding based on a fraudulent investment scheme to create software for healthcare organizations is ongoing. Today’s opinion arises out of a motion for summary judgment where Judge Randon concludes that “by a fine margin” there are sufficient facts in dispute to proceed to trial. Bojkovic v Kutsomarkos (20-04348), Judge Randon.

Up near Gerry Spence territory in the District of Montana, summary judgment on an undue hardship student loan case is denied (go debtor!). She owes $160k on a salary of $40k. I know the facts are, generally, rooted in cold, hard numbers, but summary judgement seems like it would super dangerous for a sympathetic debtor like this. Luckily, her case lives (I’m partial to student loan plaintiffs). Bonus for readers: interesting discussion of key nuances of the Brunner test in the Ninth Circuit as well. Box v. Granite State Mgmt. & Res. (21-9004-BPH), Judge Hursh.

And another student loan case! Returning to the Northern District of Georgia, post-trial judgment and opinion that debtors’ student loans are not an undue hardship (ugh) where co-signor debtors were caring for their adult child. Think I got the facts right on this, will review. Clark v. Wells Fargo (18-4012), Judge Ellis-Monro.

Seeing as how I have a pending student loan adversary, I think Box and Clark are next up for the podcast (Apple Podcasts link)!

See you tomorrow bankruptcy geeks!

Disclaimer: on these posts, I do not necessarily read the entire case. Often I don’t, in fact. I usually skim them briefly, so if you see anything I got really wrong or an important nuance I missed… please let me know by sending me an email! michael@michaelricelaw.com


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Landlord slapped with 523(d) attorney fees

Hey podcast listeners! Got a new episode for you today.

Down in Bradenton, Florida, a disgruntled landlord chased his former tenants into bankruptcy court attempting to keep his eviction judgment alive. The tenants, now bankruptcy court debtors, not only beat the 523(a)(2)(B) complaint but won attorney’s fees against the landlord.

Give today’s podcast a listen and let me know what you think. This is only my third episode, so I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing.

The case is Diaz-Saavedra v. Pearson (In re Pearson) (M.D. Fla., Oct. 28, 2021), which I’ve attached to this post below.


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Not so fast debtor!

Not so fast individual Chapter 11 debtor’s counsel! You might need a few days before reopening the case and discharging an individual chapter 11 debtor.

Before I start, you should know this is the kind of case only a civil and bankruptcy procedure nerd would love, which is precisely the category I fall in. And it’s definitely of interest to a small percentage of the bankruptcy bar. 

Today’s post and podcast is about In re Hill out of Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, 13-18344-PDR, filed yesterday on November 23. It’s an individual Chapter 11 case, which are pretty rare, although I got a unique opportunity to get exposed to them when I was clerking in bankruptcy in Arizona during the Great Recession.

As is fairly common, the case was temporarily closed while the debtor was making payments. This is a fairly common practice to avoid hefty quarterly United States Trustee payments.

Bankruptcy courts have routinely approved the practice in confirmed individual chapter 11 cases of administratively closing the case while the debtor makes payments under the plan progressing towards earning a discharge. This practice, approved by the United States Trustee, benefits the estate because the debtor need not bear the expense of filing operating reports or paying quarterly UST fees. In this case, after having made all plan payments, the Debtor seeks to simultaneously reopen the case, have his final report approved, obtain a discharge, and close the case all on the same date and in doing so avoid having to file operating reports and paying the associated UST fees. 

The debtor in this case got to the end of the payments, so he moved to reopen the case and obtain a discharge. 

The catch in this case is that he was trying to get all the relief on the same day: reopen the case and get a discharge. 

The US trustee objected because the creditors couldn’t object while the case was closed. 

The court agreed and ruled the case could be reopened but that the discharge hearing would have to wait until the creditors had thirty days to object. 


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Bankruptcy docket round up – November 23, 2021

Lobby of Bankruptcy Judges Kwan and Russell in the Central District of California

Got up early this morning on the hunt for a case or two to cover in my new podcast series. As always, even with bankruptcy cases at historic lows, there’s a lot going on!

In a new published case out of the Ninth Circuit BAP, Judges Lafferty, Faris, and Spraker affirmed trial court’s dismissal of an adversary proceeding against the debtor. Plaintiff failed to perfect its lien under California law. This court published because it wanted to clarify that 108(c) doesn’t toll filing notices under 546(b). Philmont Management v. 450 S. Western Ave. (2:20-bk-10264-ER).

Turning to the trial courts, there were two opinions out of the Eastern District of Michigan. A subchapter V case was dismissed for failing to file a plan. In re Back To Life Properties. In a different case, Judge Opperman granted summary judgment for a 523(a)(4) complaint over a construction dispute. Miller v. Safford.

Heading south to Kansas, Judge Somers wrote a fairly long and complex opinion regarding Summary judgment in a chapter 12 case regard a 363 sale. In re Parsons.

In a District of Nebraska court, a chapter 11 plan was denied because of concerns over a 1111(b) election. Those elections always confused the daylights out of me, so I think I’ll skip it for today’s podcast! In re Topp’s Mechanical.

Over in Delaware, the court denied cram down on a debtor’s primary residence. Pedicone v. Ajax Mortgage.

Nearby, in the District of Columbia, summary judgment was granted in dispute over the sale of a house and fraud claims under 523(a)(2). Johnson v Johnson.

In South Carolina, a “frequent” pro se litigant’s chapter 7 was dismissed. In re France.

In the case I’ll probably cover in the podcast, a Southern District of Florida court issued a decision about temporarily closing an individual chapter 11 case to avoid administrative fees. In re Hill.

Let’s head back West! Next door to California, in Arizona, Judge Collins who recently paneled an interesting conversation at the ABI’s Consumer Bankruptcy Extravaganza and who’s court I observed in person once, issued an amusing opinion about objections to proofs of claim under the Affordable Care Act. In re Vallejo.

Disclaimer: on these posts, I do not necessarily read the entire case. Often I don’t, in fact. I usually skim them briefly, so if you see anything I got really wrong or an important nuance I missed… please let me know by sending me an email! michael@michaelricelaw.com


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Bankruptcy docket roundup – November 22, 2021

View of a bankruptcy courtroom in Chicago, Illinois

This might be a fun project to do… round up bankruptcy cases from the day before. Let’s go!

In the storied Southern District of New York, there’s an involuntary case proceeding against a law firm where $8 million in escrow accounts went missing. The managing partner of the firm is facing criminal charges, and now Judge Jones is threatening jail time for misconduct in the bankruptcy case. Pretty interesting because it implicates a conflict between the debtor’s Fifth Amendment rights and bankruptcy court power. In re Kossoff PLLC (21-10699).

Fewer fireworks, but possibly more interesting to Western District of Virginia practitioners, Judge Connelly overruled the chapter 7 trustee’s objection to debtor’s claimed $10,000 in farming equipment. In re Ross (20-50885).

Returning to the Northeast, in New Hampshire Judge Harwood denied a motion to avoid what looks to be a judicial lien against the debtor’s house. In re Delong (20-10837-BAH).

Finally, in the Eastern District of Michigan, Judge Opperman denied a liquidating trustee’s motion against the State of Michigan. In my podcast, I talk about bringing you into the bankruptcy conversation, but this case looks more likely to be a long-running dispute that would be summarize in just a few moments. In re Boyce Hydro, LLC (20-21214-dob).

Disclaimer: on these posts, I do not necessarily read the entire case. Often I don’t, in fact. I usually skim them briefly, so if you see anything I got really wrong or an important nuance I missed… please let me know by sending me an email! michael@michaelricelaw.com


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Like what you read but worried you’ll forget to visit my website? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. Just sign up to get these posts delivered straight to your inbox!