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
February 4, 2022
Chapter 13 debtor’s counsel’s fee award was reduced to $48,116 from the requested $95,480 due to pre-petition payments, confusing and “lumped” time entries, and excessive hourly rates for some services performed, even though the debtor’s Chapter 13 plan was never even proposed much less confirmed. The debtor never attended a meeting of creditors, but the debtor managed to recover his...
May 1, 2022
Traps and grey areas abound when one spouse files bankruptcy during or after a divorce. Inattention by the non-filing spouse can result in the bankruptcy discharge of spousal claims that might actually be nondischargeable. One of those traps involves the differing treatment in bankruptcy of debts to a former spouse incurred in the course of a divorce (Bankruptcy Code §523(a)15))...
February 7, 2021
By Ken Siomos, Staff Attorney for Marsha L. Combs-Skinner (Newman, IL) The December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, more commonly known as the second covid-19 stimulus bill, contains a few bankruptcy related provisions, but none stood out more with respect to Chapter 13 than the newly created § 1328(i). This provision provides that a court may grant a full 1328(a)...
May 31, 2020
(Reprinted with permission: By M. Jonathan Hayes, Resnik Hayes, Moradi LLP (Los Angeles) I met with my best friend Jim King, consumer bankruptcy attorney extraordinaire, during the Thanksgiving break in 2014, several weeks before his untimely death. We met at his office in Glendale to do his oral history. Somewhere in there I told him he could borrow my...
June 2, 2024
Bankruptcy lawyers can better present non-mortgage homeownership expenses to reflect current economic realities on the means test. By advocating for realistic expense allowances, based on a percentage of the home’s purchase price, attorneys can ensure fairer assessments and more successful bankruptcy plans. Additionally, Trustees and Judges should look at Atty Moran’s analysis here – change will take the whole village.
Copy of Hildebrand-2016
January 21, 2024
There is a presumption that the trustee will make disbursements under a confirmed Chapter 13 plan and the debtor bears the burden of demonstrating sufficient grounds to justify acting as her own disbursing agent.
August 13, 2023
In this brief synopsis, Fraser compares Lac du Flambeauto a case from the Middle District Court of North Carolina and its connection to the automatic stay.
July 7, 2019
By Henry E. Hildebrand, III, Chapter 13 Standing Trustee (Nashville, TN) The Commission heard from several individuals and attorneys that related tales of Chapter 7 trustees negotiating a “carve out” with a lienholder on the debtor’s real property when there was no equity available in the property. The way this works is that when property came into a Chapter 7...
February 25, 2024
“Over the years courts have struggled to apply the lien-avoidance provisions under § 522(f) to jointly owned property. . . .Things get even more confusing when the debtor owns property as a tenancy by the entireties. That antiquated form of ownership has odd characteristics that do not fit well into the § 522(f) calculation.”
March 24, 2019
By Wm. Houston Brown, United States Bankruptcy Judge (Retired) Discharge - Section 523(a)(8)(A)(ii) does not include “loan.” Denying Navient’s motion to dismiss debtors’ complaint, reviewing the split of authority on whether § 523(a)(8)(A)(ii)’s “educational benefit” included loans, and finding no controlling authority in the Tenth Circuit, the Court concluded that Congress made a distinction between “loan” in § 523(a)(8)(A)(i) and...

Looking to Become a Member? 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: