Follow our appeal:
Bayer Wishman & Leotta v. Danielson (In re Walker)
We’ve taken issue with the process used to set supplemental fee awards in one of our Chapter 13 cases pending in the Riverside Bankruptcy Court, the Honorable Wayne Johnson presiding, and we’ve filed an appeal. You may follow this appeal by accessing the relevant appellate documents (linked above) for Bayer Wishman & Leotta v. Danielson (In re Walker), EDCV13-01430-DDP. We don’t do this lightly and it is our desire to protect debtors from arbitrary practices that encourage sloppy and ineffective representation in Chapter 13 cases.
We’ve been practicing bankruptcy in the Central District of California for a few decades and we understand the desire for courts and trustees to streamline and regularize the process, particularly in Chapter 13 cases. That’s why Local Rules have been developed by the Court–typically in consultation with trustees and representative attorneys–that are consistent with the Bankruptcy Code and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure.
But sometimes “local-local” practices develop that are inconsistent with the law and the rules. That is the situation we find in the Riverside Division of the Bankruptcy Court with Supplemental Fee Applications and “awards” in Chapter 13 cases. Local practitioners are essentially told that, no matter the importance, quality and quantity of work they do, and even where that work is specifically demanded by the Court (as in our case), the practitioners will receive an arbitrary, predetermined amount “set” informally by the Chapter 13 Trustee and acquiesced to by the Court. Obviously, we think this situation needs a fresh look.
In our case, the Court was highly complimentary of our work but chose to award an arbitrarily low amount of fees that were “recommended” by the Chapter 13 Trustee for post-confirmation work done at the request of the Court. We believe, respectfully, that this approach is not fair or appropriate given the applicable law and rules. In addition, this “local-local practice” peculiar to the Riverside Division, if allowed to continue, will be a disservice to the competent and effective representation of debtors in Chapter 13 cases.
Trustees often complain about the sloppy paperwork and practice of lawyers appearing in Chapter 13 cases. We often hear the same thing from clients that come to us after being poorly represented or virtually ignored by their prior counsel. We take pride in our work for each and every client. We want our clients to successfully complete their Chapter 13 plans despite the inevitable bumps in the road along the way. Chapter 13 cases can easily get off track and be dismissed if attorneys do not faithfully stand up for their clients and represent them in court after Chapter 13 plans are confirmed.
But when arbitrary limits are imposed on the fee process with no basis in law or in the applicable Federal or Local rules, Courts and Trustees denigrate the process and send a message to Chapter 13 attorneys that you shouldn’t try very hard to represent clients after plans are confirmed because the system doesn’t value or care about your work, even if your clients do care and do depend on you in serious times of need.