Debtor-Man and The Rogues Gallery

Part 1. Comics Conventions

The bankruptcy blog-reader wonders:

  • Who are the different parties to the petitioner’s bankruptcy case?  and
  • In the Game of Loans (to be canceled), which players compete?

It is, of course by way of comic-book conceit that the bankruptcy lawyer best answers the above.

But before we reach the bankruptcy portion of the program and by way of introduction, your bankruptcy lawyer has something to say on…

i. Mammals and Arthropods

superhero alter-egos commonly come courtesy of the animal kingdom.  It’s a prevalent comic-book concept, yet sometimes selection of animal muse vexes your bankruptcy lawyer. Two cases below bring to light the bankruptcy lawyer concern. We begin with…

Exhibit One: Batman

In selection of work attire and nighttime name, orphaned crusader, Bruce Wayne was inspired by the webbed-winged pointy-eared-mammal, the better to instill fear in (what’s left of) hearts of villains, because bats are spooky. But his bat-mask’s bat-ears bear resemblance to ears of the common housecat. And while indubitably diabolical, housecats remain ostensible members of the genus, Cute-and-Furries. Hence, for the sake of scaring baddies senseless, the bat’s a curious choice.

San Diego Bankruptcy Attorney on villains in bankruptcy.
Like the Bankruptcy Attorney, the Dark Knight combats a rogue’s gallery.  Pictured: the dapper playboy, Bruce Wayne prepares to suit up.

Exhibit Two: Spider-Man

Next, your vexed bankruptcy lawyer tackles teenage wall-crawler, Peter Parker alias Spider-Man. Now, spiders are terrible, horrible, no good, very-bad creatures. The archetypically abhorred arachnid is bound to creep out creepy crooks, correct?  No.  Parker’s alter-ego is as inexplicable as Master Wayne’s: Spider-Man is Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Unlike why-IS-he-so-serious Batman, Spidey is the people’s superhero: simpatico, courteous and kind– quite the contrast from the foreboding eight-legged freak that lent him his moniker.

So there you have it: the sum of San Diego bankruptcy lawyer musings on mammals and arthropods (in comics).  But before we broach bankruptcy, bear with me for one last background matter (brought to you by Spider-Man)…

San Diego Bankruptcy Lawyer on Superheroes in Bankruptcy.
Spider-Man is a hero for the people: a polite personality preferring primary hues–red and blue–in lieu of trendy, grim black.

ii. The Important Notion

The first, and more-so, the second of the Spider-Man flicks featuring vegan thespian, Tobey Maguire were superlative, for what they were. And while its sequel possessed more oomph, the Important Notion is in the first installment.

To earn dough-to-buy-a-car-to-win-a-girl, Peter Parker participates in an open-challenge wrestling match. He wins, yet the promoter denies Peter proper pay, and says to his earn-dough-to-buy-car-to-win-girl trouble,

“How is that my problem?”

Without further ado, same-promoter is robbed at gun point. Tables turned, the promoter looks to Parker’s spider-skill-set for salvation. Parker says to promoter’s pleas, “How is that my problem?” Karma, man. In a flash (lest one miss cause and effect), the unleashed robber carjacks and kills Parker’s saintly uncle, Uncle Something-or-other, I don’t recall. Parker learns that With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility (hereinafter referred to as “WGPCGR”).

It’s TV’s astute show The Simpsons, which cleverly captures the corny quality of WGPCGR. In episode number one billion and two, Common-Man-protagonist Homer over-indulges upon obtaining some (fleeting) source of super-strength.  So stickler-neighbor Ned reproves:

“WGPCGR.”

Homer retorts:

“Who said that?! I’ll kill them. With My Power!”

Luckily, the Important Notion of your San Diego bankruptcy blog is not the trite Spider-Manism WGPCGR; it’s

“How Is That My Problem?” (Hereinafter referred to as “HITMP.”)

It’s telling that HITMP is the defining characteristic of the legal system. Law is adversarial, ergo one side’s problem cannot be the other side’s problem. That’s how it has to be; otherwise we’re all compelled to get along, a notion which isn’t conducive to bankruptcy lawyer employment. [1]

Bankruptcy, the Big BK is no exception to legal antagonism.  Now, in stepping up to the bankruptcy plate, there’s no spot to spit tobacco, no cause to scratch one’s crotch, no call to kick up dirt. Theatrics are for the bankruptcy birds. But although you speak softly, you must carry your bat: know whom you’re up against on the Bankruptcy Diamond. Thus, let’s lend the land of bankruptcy-confusion some clarity.  Let’s discuss…

Part 2. Debtor-Man and The Rogues Gallery


Batman combats a multiplicity of baddies: Clayface, Two-Face, Killer Croc, Killer Moth, Man-Bat, Mister Freeze and then some. The teenage Spider-Man battles the Goblin, Venom, Sandman and acne vulgaris. [2] The bankruptcy debtor or petitioner–aka Debtor-Man–suffers her own foils, every bit as dangerous.

So without further ado we introduce you to the complete cast of characters, a group of ten bankruptcy-women and -men. The bankruptcy rogues gallery:

I. Creditor-Man

Note: the hyphenation with “man” is gender neutral throughout.

  • He: You’ve been pre-approved!
  • You: Like, holy smokes, I didn’t even try. You Must Like Me, You Must Really Like Me!
  • He: And what’s more, we’re offering introductory 0% APR and you may select between a baby-seal- and a bald-eagle-skin on your card.
  • You: You had me at pre-approved.
  • He: Just sign here.
  • You (pointing): here?
  • He: yes, right beneath where it says card-issuer may change terms, interest, and otherwise do what it may with impunity.
  • You (thinking baby seal over bald eagle) : A’ight, man.
  • You (three days later, lying in bed stroking your card): Wait, what was that about “impunity?”

He is the Creditor, man. Or rather, “Creditor-Man” complete with hard “C” symbol embossed on his breast.  Now, unlike say, The Joker armed with acid-spewing-roses, Creditor-Man’s weapon-of-choice is the Teaser Rate. Once the tease reverts to usury, she won’t hesitate to take a jot of blood to procure your pound of flesh.

A’ight, that’s a bit dramatic, self-righteous and silly, and you know, creditors are people too. Sort of. But the point is, when hardship happens, you can call your friendly-neighborhood creditor, say you’re out of work, can’t cover minimum dues, need a reprieve and Creditor-Man will without doubt say,

HITMP?

Is that wrong? Wrong or right, it’s capitalism in America; it’s the place we prefer to populate, a place sans sympathy for the debtor.

What comes next?  Creditor-Man charges off the debt and conveys it to…

II. Collector-Man

After you default on your credit card, Creditor-Man forwards your file to Collector-Man. Collector-Man is employed by virtue of your default, yet does not refrain from self-righteous accusation, because it’s what he’s paid to do. (Of course, he could get paid to do something else. Just sayin’.)

Debts can be collected, yet that end doesn’t merit all means. Collector-Man can call you, then call you, call you, then call some more. Your phone will be blown. He’ll be glad to ring dad, keen to call mom, happy to harass your boss to cause you loss. He will do so because it inflicts pain, it mortifies and it gets him paid. Sure, it’s better than a bookie breaking arms, but it’s still pathetic.

colleague of Collector-Man is Military-Collector-Man or MCM. If you are a service-member who cannot pay her military credit cards, MCM will call your commanding officer. This is why a soldier should be wise not to apply for in-house credit.

Civilian employees likewise suffer prejudice should they borrow from their employer. Nordstrom workers are fired if they default on their Nordies-issued credit cards. Creditors do not protect “their own.”

Yet, Nordstrom CANNOT fire Debtor-Man if he files for bankruptcy protection. In bankruptcy, Federal Law preempts Nordstrom Law.

All that aside, Nordstrom is useful to me ’cause its downtown second floor is convenient shortcut from free mall-parking to the Bankruptcy Court. Then again, your bankruptcy attorney is given dirty employee-looks each time he pauses to play the Nordies piano. Possibly, the bankruptcy lawyer tip jar takes it too far.

San Diego Bankruptcy Lawyer on Adversarial Elements in Bankruptcy.
Combating Callous Collectors Concerns the Fight for Truth, Justice and the American Bankruptcy Way.

III. Creditor-Attorney-Man (part un) 

When Collector-Man can’t collect, he engages Creditor-Attorney-Man (“CAM”). CAM’s job is to sue you, seek judgment and snatch your funds (no fun). This is the inevitable culmination of the collection process. Absent costly judicial answer, you might not meet CAM, yet you’ll see Process-Server-Man who summons you, then be shamed by Sheriff-Man, armed and ready to garnish and levy.  Sheriff-Man commands the boss to pluck your pay; she’ll compel the credit union to cough up your cash and demand the bank to dole out your dough.

Though debtors may have long suffered abuse, mortification and possibly termination, many don’t take corrective measures until the money’s already gone (by way of bank levy or garnishment). Yet, it’s not too late to file bankruptcy, void a judgment and cut out the collections.

Now, when you do file chapter 7 bankruptcy or chapter 13 bankruptcy, a bankruptcy case trustee is appointed. Trustee-Man’s role is particular to the bankruptcy chapter….

IV. (Chapter 7) Trustee-Man 

Trustee-Man’s job in chapter 7 bankruptcy is two-fold. 1) Determine if you have enough stuff to merit liquidation (don’t fret, it’s rare) and 2) Refer your matter to the United States Trustee (more on UST-Man later) if there’s something fishy in your case. (Historical bankruptcy tidbit: misguided literal-fixation-on-fishiness had led to undue trustee-suspicion of commercial-fishermen debtors. The resulting prejudice prompted inception of Title 11, Chapter 12: Adjustment of Debts of a Fisherman and yes, there is such a thing.)

You– Debtor-Man (DM) will come across Trustee-Man (TM) at your bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors [hakuna matata: creditors seldom come to the bankruptcy Meeting of… Creditors. (Natch.)], which is–for the honest and prepared–a zippy affair. Its setting is not the bankruptcy court, but an everyday office-building. There’s no judge to render final decision and at times it can be cordial. Yet, DM must testify under penalty of perjury; hence, he better know who is who, and what it’s all about….

TM does not represent Creditor-Man, Collector-Man or Creditor-Attorney-Man. Yet, TM’s interests align with those parties insofar as she’s obliged on rare occasion–like it or not– to liquidate Debtor-Man’s assets. This can occur if Debtor-Man believes he can keep his cake after it’s consumed. Asset turnover necessarily enriches TM; the Bankruptcy Code provides for TM compensation from liquidation proceeds. Nothing wrong with that–but Debtor-Man must know the bankruptcy Meeting of Creditors wasn’t conceived to be a friendly get-together. In fact, they don’t even tolerate food in the anteroom. [3]

V. Chapter 7 Trustee-Man-Attorney-Man

By the numbers, most Chapter 7 bankruptcy Trustee-Mans are attorneys (they don’t need to be attorneys), yet if a disputatious dispute arises with Debtor-Man, TM shall employ Trustee-Man-Attorney-Man (TM-AM). In other words, the attorney TM employs his own (big-gun) attorney to litigate; this attorney-within-attorney scheme is commonly referred to (by me) as the Bankruptcy Russian-Nesting-Doll. Again, it’s cool so long as Debtor-Man understands what he’s up against.

VI. (Chapter 13) Trustee-Man

Chapter 13 bankruptcy–in a wee nutshell–entails repayment of debt (often pennies on the buck) through a bankruptcy payment plan, which we call… the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Payment Plan.

Trustee-Man’s role in chapter 13 bankruptcy is to disburse Debtor-Man’s bankruptcy Plan payments among DM’s creditors. In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Land, Chapter 13-TM, Chapter 13-TM-Attorney-Man (yes, Russian dolls nest again) and… (welcome back!) Creditor-Attorney-Man (more about him below), all seek to increase DM’s plan payments or to dismiss DM’s bankruptcy matter. Alone, DM seeks to maintain lower payments and preserve his bankruptcy case.

VII. Creditor-Attorney-Man (part deux)

CAM came about before in the context of pre-petition (before bankruptcy filing) lawsuits.  Post bankruptcy filing, CAM can come again and object to the discharge of debt. This means that if CAM figures you didn’t do right by Amex , Discover, and Capital One, he can sue after you filed bankruptcy. The purpose is to obtain a ruling that a particular debt shall survive your bankruptcy. How so? Is bankruptcy not a forgiving, second-chance kind-of-thing? Well, it IS, but there are limits. Bankruptcy is a privilege for an honest, yet out-of-luck debtor. If CAM reveals you charged $2K for plane tix on “bankruptcy eve,” he’ll flag you; if you flew to attend a parent’s deathbed, you may still be deemed guilty till proven otherwise.

VIII. United-States-Trustee-Man

A member of the Department of Justice, UST-Man investigates fraud, abuse, and other unpleasantries.  (Think Tom Hanks‘s dauntless G-Man dogging Leonardo Dicaprio in Catch Me if You Can or Kyle Chandler’s G-Man hounding… Leonard Dicaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.) In chapter 7 bankruptcy, UST-Man may seek dismissal for “presumed abuse.” This happens if on paper it shows you have ample dough to repay (some) debt in chapter 13 bankruptcy. Yet, repayment ability is not black and white. The presumption of abuse may merit rebuttal.

UST-Man and UST-Man-Attorney-Man (Russian nesting is rampant) may also object to bankruptcy discharge and deny you the privilege of debt relief. This might happen if you bought those bankruptcy-eve plane tix. (A flight to a funeral or wedding may be fine, but say, flying to Four Weddings and a Funeral–all booked in Belize–may be pushing it.)

UST-Man will also prosecute if you conceal assets or lie under oath. Don’t do those things. A $500,000 (non-dischargeable) fine and/or up to 5 years in prison apply. To illustrate the severity, that is tantamount to the penalty for copying your DVD of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. By the way, how do you skip those prolonged piracy prosecution labels? It takes for-f*@$in-EVER to queue up a film.

IX. Judge-Man 

Now, you know, the whole “man” business is generic. In the Southern District, the majority of the bench is female, which is pretty cool. It was in the not-too-distant-past that benighted law schools banned women altogether. But that’s another story.

The Bankruptcy Court is the final destination.  It’s there that complaints of Trustee-Man-Attorney-Man (TM-AM), US Trustee-Man-Attorney-Man (USTM-AM) and Creditor-Attorney-Man (CAM) are heard.  Yet, their complaints are subject to due process: it’s Judge-Man’s call in the end. JM is neutral; he’ll listen to Debtor-Man (DM). Alas, she’ll also lend ears to the multiplicity of voices, which oppose lonely DM: TM-AM, USTM-AM and CAM. (If you’re lost in initials, don’t fret: I, too haven’t a clue what I said). The point is that any one of the above parties to bankruptcy’s alphabet soup shall say to Debtor-Man’s troubles…

HITMP?

X. Debtor-Attorney-Man

With the sheer number of elements in potential opposition, Debtor-Man is alone and perhaps scared. People tell me sometimes, “I haven’t done this before….” I tell em, that’s okay. I have.

We’re in this together, man.

I didn’t know where this blog would take me. I thought I’d quit at the housecat part, just because I like ragging on Batman.  But, the bankruptcy blog takes me in the end back to Spider-Man. In the first movie–the one with the Important Notions–Peter Parker learns that safety of the citizenry IS his problem. He asks rhetorically,

Who am I?


I shan’t answer for Parker, lest I further spoil the profundity of Spider-Man. But I can answer for myself that debtors’ problems are my problem; I’m

a Debtor Attorney, man. [4]

____________________
[1]
The adversarial system, of course, is our deliberate scheme for achieving either justice, fairness, compromise or non-ruffling of feathers. Truth shall be manifest if each camp may hold the conch and speak freely and shrilly. It’s the lesser of dispute-resolution evils, the alternative being the inquisitorial or beat-it-out-of-em system.
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[2]
Your bankruptcy lawyer professes a layman’s knowledge of these things; for the bankruptcy attorney blog, he was compelled to “Wiki-search” the appellations of common comic-book villains. Editors note: after eliciting an epic eye roll, the bankruptcy lawyer conceded he might have already known most some of them.
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[3]
Notwithstanding dearth of hors d’oeuvres, your bankruptcy lawyer ensures the Meeting of Creditors creates no sweat.  It’s done by virtue of indefatigable advance pressing of Debtor-Man to produce documentation. The requested docs keep Trustee-Man happy(er) and really aren’t hard to procure, so please do it already.
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[4]
If that whole “man” affectation/verbal-tic is overdone, it’s partially the superhero-thing, and partially George Carlin voicing a VW van. While wasting a weekend on blogging upstairs, I hear my three year-old downstairs watching the cartoon Cars (the one concerning anthropomorphized… cars) for the umpteenth time. George Carlin’s hippie-van keeps talking up his “special organic fuel,” man.

George Carlin passed away since Cars came, and so did philanthropic Paul Newman, a fellow cast-member. Cars 2 premiers this summer sans George and Paul. Owen Wilson–who plays the protagonist, Lightning McQueen—will be there, but barely. Post-release of Cars and pre-production of its sequel, Wilson survived a much-publicized suicide attempt. In moving on, perhaps Owen realized that lending voice to a Cars-car beloved by 3 year-olds everywhere is something special, and with that kind of power– oh, never mind.
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San Diego Bankruptcy Attorney, Asaph Abrams. Offering free, no-obligation Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy consultations in San Diego. Visit us online or call 858-240-6751. E-mail admin@abramslawsd.com to set an appointment. Also representing Imperial County and Riverside County residents. Se habla español.