Implementation of BAPCPAMaking It Work
Shortly after Congress passed, and the President signed, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) into law, it became apparent that there was a potentially overwhelming amount of work that had to be done to prepare for the implementation of the new law by Oct. 17, 2005, when most of its provisions became effective.
The first task undertaken by court staff was to quickly become familiar with the details of the new law—specifically, what were the changes and how did they impact the court's operations? ABI played a key role from the outset by publishing, in one convenient location on its Web site, information, commentaries and references on the new law's provisions.
Most courts immediately put together internal working groups to review the law's changes and then identify what would be needed at the local level to implement these changes. At the same time, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) formed a special Bankruptcy Reform Legislation Working Group whose mission was "to provide assistance to the Administrative Office by reviewing the 500-page bill and identifying the new work that needs to be performed by clerk's office staff, identifying the best methods and strategies for performing the new tasks, and estimating how much time the new tasks will take to perform." This group was composed of bankruptcy judges and clerks who sought important and effective feedback from the field in order to put together a "Table of Guidance" that highlighted the major changes and set forth new procedures for the courts to address these changes. This document served as the basis for which the courts instituted their local procedures. For changes in a particular court's procedures, please refer to its Web site by going to http://www.uscourts.gov and clicking on "court links."
In addition, the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules condensed a process that would normally take years into six months and promulgated interim rules and form changes to implement the new law. Information on the interim rules and form changes can be found at: http://www.uscourts.gov/rules/interim.html.
[T]he bankruptcy courts were slammed by a record 625,000 bankruptcy case filings (40 percent of the case volume for all of 2004) during the first 16 days of October.
At the same time, the Bankruptcy Judges Division of the AOUSC updated its Bankruptcy Basics publication to include the changes brought about by the new law. An updated version of this publication can be viewed at http://www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/bankruptcybasics/html. Lastly, an updated version of CM/ECF was developed to provide the electronic software and tools to allow the bar and the public to access and utilize the new and/or revised documents resulting from the legislative changes.
The culmination of all of these extraordinary efforts was that on Oct. 17, 2005, the bankruptcy courts and their clerk's offices were exceptionally prepared to serve the public and the bar in meeting the new requirements of BAPCPA. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that in addition to having to go through the process just described, the bankruptcy courts were slammed by a record 625,000 bankruptcy case filings (40 percent of the case volume for all of 2004) during the first 16 days of October (see chart). A later article in this series will provide statistics and details on post-Oct. 17 developments. As of the date of this article, a significant drop in case filings occurred during the 30-45 days after Oct. 17. Since that time, the general trend has been a gradual increase to an average level of approximately 50 percent of pre-BAPCPA filings with a continued upward trend.