One Woman’s Opinion

By Margaret A. Burks, Chapter 13 Standing Trustee for the Southern District of Ohio (Cincinnati)

Chapter 13 works.

Some people wish to continually criticize Chapter 13.

They criticize the success rate.

They criticize racial bias.

They criticize how Chapter 13 works.

They also criticize the fact that Chapter 13 appears less voluntary than it was before access to Chapter 7 was limited by application of the “means test.” This ignores the fact that many (I suggest still a majority) of Chapter 13 debtors freely choose Chapter 13 – when advised by competent counsel – because they expect to accomplish something.

What is a success?

In Cincinnati I have a high success rate when measured by the obvious metric – Plan completion.

2014 Statistics

53% completed
2% converted pre-confirmation
8% converted post-confirmation
12% dismissed pre-confirmation
24% dismissed post-confirmation

86% of all the cases got confirmed.
Of those confirmed cases:
62% completed
9% converted
28% dismissed

One might ask about the cases which did not complete.

Maybe Debtors let the Chapter 13 dismiss because their son finished high school and they no longer needed the house? Or maybe they lost a job. Or maybe the car was just too expensive to maintain. Those are still successes as Chapter 13 gave the Debtors time to think.

To our naysayers – Come to a 341 Meeting of Creditors. It’s easy now. They are virtual.
Meet the people who are our Debtors.

As we all know, Senators Warren and Nadler introduced the Consumer Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2020 on December 9, 2020.

Contact your Senator or Congressman as the Bill will resurface in 2021.

The proposed Act tears down two chapters of bankruptcy and makes one. This change will cost millions and not improve service to our debtors.

In my opinion, it seems the more we tinker with the Code the more expensive it becomes. We already ask a great deal of debtors’ counsel these days.

I welcome the chance to discuss the new Bill and to discuss with our legislators the GOOD things in the current system.

Chapter 13 has kept people in their homes and kept the economy going during this pandemic.

My simple suggestions for improvement to the Bankruptcy Code are as follows:

1. Pay Chapter 7 Trustees more per case

2. Pay Chapter 7 attorney fees after filing

3. Eliminate no money down Chapter 13’s

4. Eliminate the means test and go with reasonable Schedule J as we did in the past.

5. Raise the debt limits in Chapter 13

If an untruth is repeated often enough – it becomes the truth as my learned Chapter 13 colleague Byron Meredith (Savannah) said to me.

So, refute the naysayers.

And as Chapter 13 Trustee David Peake (Houston) recently said to me,
“Systemic racism is a difficult topic. Any racial disparities in bankruptcy are a symptom of ongoing issues in our society.”

We need to get the real story out.

Chapter 13 works.


burksMargaret A. Burks, Esq. was appointed as the Chapter 13 Trustee for the Southern District of Ohio at Cincinnati in July of 1992. Ms. Burks received a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Cincinnati in 1977, magna cum laude. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She received her Juris Doctor from Salmon P. Chase, College of Law in 1985. While at Chase College of Law, Ms. Burks was a member of the Law Review. She was Law Clerk to Honorable J. Vincent Aug, Jr., U.S. Bankruptcy Judge from 1988 to 1991, and Counsel to PNC Bank in the areas of bankruptcy and commercial law. Ms. Burks has served as Chairperson of the CBA Bankruptcy Committee. She is a past President of the National Association of Ch. 13 Trustees and currently serves on the Board. She has also co-chaired the ABI Consumer Bankruptcy Committee.

No Author Biography has been linked to this Article.

Related Articles

Copy of Hildebrand-2016
August 7, 2022
Even though the Chapter 13 debtor’s 36 cats were property of the estate, the county animal control office could pursue possession of the cats and resulting disposition (by way of adoption). (Hagenau) In re Karen Mitchell-Smith, 2022 WL 2195466 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. June 17, 2022) Case Summary Sometime in 2021, Henry County Animal Control took possession of 36 cats that...
August 25, 2019
By Cameron Kelly & Michael Carroll, Law Students, The University of Texas School of Law I. Starting the Journey Instead of starting class by cold-calling people, Professor Westbrook chose to suspend my terror briefly. While I was thankful for the reprieve from what would inevitably be a disappointing cold call, I was more thankful for what he had to say....
May 10, 2020
By Cathy Moran, Esq. (Redwood City, CA) The timeless questions asked by mankind include “why are we here“, “which came first ...” and “coffee or tea“. Bankruptcy lawyers wrestle with “which controls, b-22 or Schedules I and J“. Having argued and lost the Pak case when BAPCPA was new, and felt vindicated when
October 1, 2023
Dan grew up in Spokane, Washington, and graduated from Gonzaga University in 1966 with a BA in political science.  After finishing his undergraduate degree, Dan entered active duty in the United States Army.  He was stationed in Korea from 1967 to 1968 where he commanded a HAWK missile battery.  Dan retired from the United States Army in 1994 with the...
May 17, 2020
By Marsha M. Brown, Staff Attorney to Chapter 13 Trustee Douglas W. Neway (Jacksonville, FL) We talk about it daily - emailing issues back and forth as to what is reasonable and what is not. Should every Court have a basic reasonable fee structure or should every attorney be required to file an application to prove the reasonableness of his/her...
March 7, 2021
By Dynele Schinker-Kuharich, Chapter 13 Standing Trustee (Canton, OH) I vividly remember getting the call that I was to be appointed as a Standing Chapter 13 Trustee (effective October 1, 2018). I was so honored, and humbled, and excited. At the time I was a panel Chapter 7 Trustee, but my heart had always been in Chapter 13. As corny...
Academy Circle Logo Final
April 2, 2023
It is our distinct honor to inform you that Acting U.S. Trustee Paul Randolph has selected Debra L. Miller as the next Standing Chapter 13 Trustee for the Eastern District of Tennessee (Northern and Northeastern Divisions). Ms. Miller has served as a Standing Chapter 13 Trustee in the Northern District of Indiana since 2000. Her wealth of experience will allow...
Copy of Hildebrand-2016
March 12, 2023
When a mortgage servicer objects to the plan based on its failure to pay mortgage arrears in equal monthly payments, § 1325(a)(5)(B) requires the debtor to amend to pay the arrears in equal monthly payments. (Hanan) In re Randell, 638 B.R. 104 (Bankr. E.D. Wis. January 19, 2022) Case Summary Ms. Randell proposed a rather conventional Chapter 13 plan, seeking...
Merideth Akers
February 13, 2022
Bowl games… playoff games… championship games… Super Bowls. We start each New Year with a football craze. So what organizational lessons can we learn from football… other than do not spike the ball on fourth down to stop the clock? First, football is played as a team. Highly functioning teams win championships, while dysfunctional teams lose games and the coach...
February 21, 2021
By Lawrence R. Ahern, III, Brown & Ahern (Nashville, TN) Introduction The Academy has focused at length on the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (SBRA).1 SBRA deals on its face with a non-consumer topic, but it is of interest also to Chapter 12 and 13 trustees and debtors, creating a new, more debtor-friendly subchapter V of Chapter 11 for...