Help Is Only a Click or Call Away
"Help desks" can be initially accessed by going to the court's web site or its general telephone number. Bankruptcy court web sites utilize the format "www.XXb. uscourts.gov," where X = the district and b stands for bankruptcy—i.e., the Southern District of Florida would be FLSB, the District of Delaware would be DEB and the District of New Jersey would be NJB. An alternative would be to go to http://www.uscourts.gov and click on "Court Links." A map will appear; click on the number of the circuit where the court is located, then the court.
Once on the web site, the help needed and the help desk access will vary depending on the court. Some courts have a "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)" link to select, as well as "General Information," "Case Information" and "Local Rules" links (see New Jersey, http://www.njb.uscourts.gov). Other courts will have a link on their home pages similar to "for information or comments, please contact..." (see Southern District of Florida, http://www.flsb.uscourts.gov) or "contact us" (see Delaware, http://www.deb.uscourts.gov). The contact link will direct you to an e-mail format, where you can type in your request. Normally, someone will get back to you within 24 hours or less. E-mail is usually more effective in that the court will get your request in writing and your response will be in writing for future reference. Telephonic help desks are also available in most courts. You may, however, be transferred to voice mail for a follow-up response. When obtaining telephonic information, it is always a good idea to ask for e-mail confirmation or a reference for the information that may be on the court's web site.
Help desks can provide virtually any information you need in dealing with a particular court, judge or case. Of course, legal advice cannot be provided. Regarding case-specific information, you will be referred to the court docket, which you can usually access electronically, or to the case's attorney or trustee as appropriate.
Bankruptcy courts have recognized that they are not only in the public-service business but also the customer-service business, and they are striving to provide a high level of service with increasingly limited budgets. Automation has significantly helped the courts to do this. I would be interested in hearing about your experiences with help desk information as would, I am sure, the clerks of the courts you deal with. For more information, contact me by e-mail.