One of the most common questions in a bankruptcy case is the fee: how much will it cost? My answer is it depends on the complexity of the case. The typical attorney fees in my cases range from $900 to $1,200 for chapter 7. Occasionally the fee is higher, for more complicated cases, or where extra work may be needed. My chapter 13 fees usually range from $2,500 to $3,500.
Four years ago, I reported that bankruptcy lawsuits (known as 'adversary proceedings' or 'APs') in the Rochester Bankruptcy Court in 2010 were down by one third from the previous year. The average number of APs filed 2007 to 2010 in Rochester was 113 per year (not including clusters of APs related to one particular complicated chapter 11 case). In 2010 the number dropped to 67.
Bankruptcy Judge Paul R. Warren of our local Rochester Bankruptcy court (Western District of New York - Rochester Division), is now starting to issue written opinions. Judge Warren assumed to bench in Rochester in March 2012, and for the first two years of his tenure he issued no written opinions. The judge had announced publically that he anticipated to follow the practice of "rule and roll" -- entering prepared decisions on the record from the bench but not issuing them in written form for the general public. That practice has changed significantly in the past three months.
Through the end of August, 2012, bankruptcy filings in both the Rochester and Buffalo divisions of the Western District of New York continue to decline. In the first eight months of 2012, 1,520 bankruptcy cases were filed in Rochester, a decrease of 13.2% from the same time in 2011. Buffalo saw 2,887 filings, a decrease of 8.8%. 179 bankruptcy cases were filed in Rochester in August this year, compared to 213 in August 2011 and 288 August 2010. August filings in Buffalo declined from 465 to 359 over the same two year period. Nationally, bankruptcy filings dropped 14% during the first half of 2012, compared to 2011.
Bankruptcy cases for the Western District of New York continue their three year decline. For the first three months of 2012, only 1,615 cases were filed in the court, which includes Rochester, Buffalo and the Southern Tier. This represents a 8.7% drop from the first three months of 2011. In the Rochester Division alone, cases were off 11% this year compared to January - March 2011. Cases filed by Monroe County residents were down 11.8%.
Through the end of November, bankrutcy filings in the Western District of New Yor continue to decline, off 20% from the first eleven months of of 2010. Rochester's share of filings are down slightly more - 21%, with Buffalo's filings down 19%. This follows a 10% decline in WDNY filings in 2010, compared to 2009.
Recent Census Bureau figures show that the median income of New York families has dropped about 1% in the past half year. For bankruptcy debtors, this decrease may have an effect on both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. In Chapter 7, debtors file a 'means test' form, which calculate their monthly income for the six months prior to filing bankruptcy. If their income, on an annualized basis (that is, the monthly means test income times 12 months) is above the median for a similarly sized family in the state where they filed their bankruptcy, they are considered 'above-median income' debtors and must calculate expenses based on average expenses for various national or local categories. For more information, please see my website on the means test. In chapter 13, we do the same analysis of income received in the previous six months. A debtor who has above-median income must, at a minimum, file a chapter 13 plan that runs five years, unless all creditors can be paid in a shorter period of time. Debtors whose income is below median may, in certain circumstances, file chapter 13 plans of only three years. More information about chapter 13 is also on my website. The new median income figures will apply to any case filed after November 1, 2011. The new figures for New York State are as follows (with the current figures in parenthesis afterward): Family of 1) $45,931 (down from $46,295)
Family of 2) $56,113 (down from $57,777)
Family of 3) $66,953 (down from $68,396)
Family of 4) $81,212 (down from $83,942)
As previously reported here, bankruptcy filings have been falling in the Western District of New York. A new analysis by the National Bankruptcy Research Center (NBKRC) shows that consumer bankruptcy filings are also down nationwide. The analysis, prepared by Professor Ronald Mann of the Columbia Law School, showed that bankruptcy filing in the United States for the first three months in 2011 are down 6% compared to the first quarter of 2010. The report was released by the NBKRC April 4, 2011.
Bankruptcy filings in the Western District of New York continue to decline compared to last year. 772 bankruptcy cases were filed in WDNY in March 2011, compared to 951 in 2010. This is a decrease of 18.8% compared to March 2010.
The most recently filed bankruptcy case filed in the Rochester Division of the Western District of New York (today, March 2) is the 349th case filed in 2011. Bankruptcy case filings were way down in the first three weeks of January, as attorneys were holding off filing, waiting for the exemption law change effective January 21. But even with the larger number of cases filed since then, the local cases are way down from prior years. In 2010, case #349 was filed February 25, while in the three years prior to that the same case number was filed Feb. 17, Feb. 19 and Feb. 16.