Dream of: 10 January 1996 "Change Of Law"

I was sitting in the large, comfortable office of Bartholow (a female Dallas attorney). Bartholow and Kennon (a male Dallas attorney)were both also in the office. I had been talking with Bartholow, who had been quite friendly, and I asked her about something I had heard through the grapevine. It seemed that in chapter 13 cases a new method was now being used to determine the amount of money which would be paid to auto creditors to pay for cars being paid off through the chapter 13 plans. It had come to my attention that due to the change, extra money would generally be left over at the end of the plan because the auto creditor would be paid less.

I wanted to know what would happen to the extra money. I had learned that the extra money would be divided up among the remaining creditors instead of being returned to the debtor and I was opposed to the money's going to the creditors -- I thought the money should be returned to the debtor. I questioned Bartholow closely to be sure I had the facts straight, and she confirmed that the money would indeed go to the creditors. She also pointed out that since I was the attorney for the debtor, I would also receive a portion of the money.

I mentally calculated that I might receive 15% of the extra money. I wasn't opposed to that, and I told Bartholow I would of course accept any funds sent to me. However, I was still opposed to the idea. I was willing to sacrifice any money which might be sent to me so the debtor could receive all the money.

I pointed out that the extra money was being paid due to no fault of the debtor. I also noted that the law itself hadn't been changed in the bankruptcy code, but that the judges were simply interpreting the law differently. I also said that chapter 13 debtors had relied on the advice of their attorneys in formulating their plans, and thus the attorneys were ultimately responsible. Of course the attorneys couldn't be held to blame in this case, because the judges had changed the calculation method after the chapter 13 plans had been submitted. I did however point out that half the attorneys practicing chapter 13 law weren't fully aware of the complexity of the chapter 13 laws, and that the debtors certainly shouldn't be expected to understand these laws.

Bartholow listened intently and seemed more sympathetic to my views than she normally did. She told me she would look for the file of a case which had already gone to court and had been decided by the judge so I could see how the judge had ruled. Kennon said practically nothing, but he seemed to be paying close attention.

I myself knew I wasn't going to get that involved in the issue. I only had about 90 chapter 13 cases still pending and I would soon be out of the bankruptcy business altogether. Of the few cases I still had left, this issue would probably only be relevant in one or two. Satisfied that I had said my piece and made my point known, I rose and prepared to leave.

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