4 things I learned from Bankruptcy Judges

Bankruptcy judges inspire me. As I head into my 10th year of practice, I appreciate being an attorney even more than I did my first year. I find the enjoyment of my practice is due to the professionalism of the judges and the other attorneys that I practice with. I enjoy going to court. I know that I have the benefit of intelligent and warm judges who provide guidance and opportunity.


  1. Bankruptcy Judges see people at their absolute worst.

When people find themselves in front of a bankruptcy judge, they are usually dealing with significant financial issues. These significant financial issues cause people stress and emotions can run high. People can feel shame, anger, or even embarrassment during the bankruptcy process. Because of these stresses, it is important that bankruptcy judges are a calming presence in their courtroom to help diffuse any of the emotions that individuals may have while in the courtroom. Bankruptcy judges must be compassionate to the debtors while still focusing on the issues at hand.


  1. Bankruptcy Judges do not like lies.

It doesn’t matter where the lies come from – a piece of paper, a creditor, a debtor, or an attorney. A lie, in any form, shows the court that you do not respect the court and that you cannot be trusted. One lie can destroy your credibility not only for that case, but for any other cases. As a young lawyer I learned that clients come and go but lawyers and judges are forever. If you appear before this judge in this case, it is possible that you may cross paths with this judge again. Especially if you are an attorney, your chances of coming before a judge again in your jurisdiction is extremely probable and your reputation will continue.


  1. Bankruptcy Judges expect everyone to act professionally in the courtroom, whether you are an attorney or not.

Professionalism is a requirement that is now a part of the Oath of Attorney that all new lawyers take upon being sworn in as an attorney. All judges expect anyone in their courtroom, either attorneys or self-represented parties, to behave appropriately. This includes dressing appropriately – no jeans, no shorts, no tank tops, no hats, and no gum are good rules of practice. Additionally, directing comments to the court and not to the opposing side is also a good rule. Finally, speaking politely to other people in the courthouse is expected – no cursing, no yelling, no taking a loss badly. Above all, be polite.


  1. Bankruptcy Judges have to make the difficult decisions.

The bankruptcy laws may seem black and white, but there is gray area in the law also. When it comes to those gray areas, the bankruptcy judge is required to make a determination as to whether to afford a debtor relief, whether to allow a matter to go to trial, and whether to cut a lawyer some slack are all difficult decisions.


If you are nervous about attending a hearing or going to court by yourself, the peace of mind that a knowledgeable, professional, and polite attorney can provide can very well be worth it.

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