A Day in Bankruptcy Court

When I woke up in the morning, I wasn’t planning on spending part of the day in a courtroom.  But, just before lunch, with a few hours in the afternoon free, I decided to figure out what was going on in bankruptcy court that day and, if possible, sit in on a few proceedings.  I went to the website for the United States Bankruptcy Court For the District of Arizona and determined there were a few proceedings scheduled for 1:30 that afternoon.  So, I did what any wanna-be bankruptcy scholar would do, I got in the car and drove downtown to the courthouse.

Parking in downtown Phoenix is a nightmare and it’s expensive.  Although the garage charged $1 for every 20 minutes, I figured it was a bargain considering what I might learn observing court.  Even a domestic beer costs $3 at a cheap bar, and I figured an hour of bankruptcy court observation was better for my health.  Ok, I wasn’t certain but I thought it was possible.

As I walked through the front doors of the building that is home to the court, I approached the security booth and metal detectors.  I told the two guards I was a recent law school graduate and here to listen to some “bankruptcy stuff.”  They laughed and asked me exactly what I wanted to hear, informed me that the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel was in town for one day and one day only, and that it was my lucky day.  Three hearings would start in an hour.

I was surprised how friendly the guards were and how much they knew.  In the past day, after speaking with other lawyers, I have learned it’s that way in many courts around the country.  I asked the guards whether they had a lot of visitors attend court on a regular basis and was notified that it was usually only the parties involved, and an occasional law student, but that, by and large, they received no outside visitors.  I was surprised not many aspiring bankruptcy practitioners would take the initiative to attend court.  Especially in downtown Phoenix, a metro area that is home to 5 million people (the 5th largest city in the country) and that covers 600 square miles (bigger than Los Angeles).  What a great resource, free of charge.  I can’t imagine many that might be better.

As I waited in the hallway outside the courtroom for the hearings to start, a woman came out of the court room to check the operability of the doors.  One of the two doors wouldn’t open, so she hoped the court’s attendees would figure out to use the other door.  We made some small talk and she told me she was the clerk for the BAP, that they are based out of Pasadena and have no court room, they’re sort of a floating court with no home.  She was very kind and engaging, and I definitely felt welcome being there.

I entered the court room about twenty minutes before the time scheduled for the first hearing.  The lawyers and other parties subsequently trickled in and shortly after the clock struck 2:00 the first case was quickly underway.  The Appellant was given 15 minutes to argue his case, the Appellee 15 minutes to argue his, and each was given the opportunity to reserve time to respond, typically 5 minutes.

The hearings went like clockwork.  As the parties argued their respective positions, they were peppered with questions from the judges.  As a spectator sitting in the back of the room, and as a know-nothing, soon-to-be lawyer, the process seemed expeditious but not necessarily easy.  Most of the lawyers knew their cases cold but were probed by the judges on both small factual details and also larger policy issues.  The three hearings – varying widely in subject matter and including cases on dischargability, bankruptcy court jurisdiction, and lien priority – were over in under two hours.  Times flies when you are having fun.

Sitting in on court was enjoyable and I plan on doing it again, perhaps regularly.  I believe it’s an invaluable resource to aspiring bankruptcy lawyers who want to learn at the highest level.  After all, cases are in court because there are disputed issues and they’re important enough to the parties that they litigate them.  One of the cases on appeal, concerning a debtor hindering creditor collection efforts and consequently losing his discharge, was litigated for four days in the lower court.  I would encourage other aspiring practitioners to sit in on any bankruptcy proceedings that they are able to.  I don’t think there are too many, if any, better uses of your educational time.


Vijary Malik Mr. Malik is a law student at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Prior to law school, Mr. Malik worked in real estate private equity and investing banking for various firms in New York and Washington, D.C.

No Author Biography has been linked to this Article.

Related Articles

Copy of Hildebrand-2016
March 27, 2022
The issuance of a subpoena to a Chapter 7 trustee by a third party was subject to the Barton Doctrine and could not be permitted without the parties seeking bankruptcy court consent. (Clarkson) In re Eagan Avenatti, LLP, 2022 WL 630332 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. March 3, 2022) Case Summary Eagan Avenatti, LLP, was the California law firm of the somewhat...
September 20, 2020
By The Honorable William Houston Brown (Retired) Debt buyer was debt collector under FDCPA. The Ninth Circuit agreed with the Third Circuit that an entity purchasing consumer debts qualified as a debt collector under the Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692(a)(6), even though it outsourced the actual debt collection activity. McAdory v. M.N.S. & Assoc., LLC, 952 F.3d 1089 (9th Cir....
Recent case authority has not been favorable for consumer debtor attorneys seeking approval of bifurcated fees in Chapter 7 cases.
June 13, 2021
By Daniel M. Tavera, Law Clerk to the Honorable John P. Gustafson, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Toledo) Objections to claims may generally be served on the claimant by first-class mail to the person designated to receive notices on the most recent proof of claim for the creditor. This simplifies the service for claim objections for...
September 29, 2019
By The Honorable Guy R. Humphrey, Southern District of Ohio It is with heavy hearts that we in Dayton, Ohio say our farewells to Jeff Kellner as our Chapter 13 Trustee. Jeff will be concluding his duties as the Trustee on September 30th and handing the reins over to John Jansing on October 1st. Listing Jeff’s contributions to the bankruptcy...
March 8, 2020
By The Honorable William Houston Brown (Retired) Plan did not properly address 910 creditor’s liens. Finding that the plan did not satisfy one of the three options for addressing a secured claim under § 1325(a)(5), specifically failing to provide for the 910 creditor’s retention of lien, the Panel observed that in response to the creditor’s objection to confirmation, the debtors...
December 6, 2020
13 documents by Independence Software – Identity theft is a real and constant threat when transmitting information through the Internet. For Trusteeships, using e-mail to receive documents from the debtor bar is insecure, placing sensitive debtor information at risk. Founded in 2011, 13 Documents is unlike other filing systems — it is a complete document management solution for your Trusteeship...
Copy of Hildebrand-2016
December 12, 2021
If a Chapter 13 plan makes no provision for a mortgage obligation, omits any treatment of the mortgage claims, and prohibits the Trustee from making disbursements toward the claims, the claims are not provided for by the plan and the plan can be confirmed over the objection of the creditor and the trustee; nothing requires a plan to provide for...
March 15, 2020
By Professor Nancy Rapoport, University of Nevada Dear Readers: The marvelous, indefatigable Regina Logsdon just forwarded me this hypothetical: Post-confirmation, debtor/client gets upset with attorney. Let’s assume for this scenario that the attorney hasn’t done anything wrong – perhaps just a difference of opinion on a plan modification (or not). Debtor/client says ugly things to attorney – name-calling, etc. THEN...
Academy Circle Logo Final
February 18, 2024
Judge Raymond Lohier (Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals) Shares His Immigration Story and the Diverse Perspective it Brings

Looking to Become a Member?

ConsiderChapter13.org offers a forum to advance continuing education of consumer bankruptcy via access to insightful articles, informative webinars, and the latest industry news. Join now to benefit from expert resources and stay informed.


These informative sessions are led by industry experts and cover a range of consumer bankruptcy topics.

Member Articles

Written by industry experts, these articles provide in-depth analysis and practical guidance on consumer bankruptcy topics.

Industry News

The Academy is the go-to source for the latest news and analysis in the Chapter 13 bankruptcy industry.

To get started, please let us know which of these best fits your current position: