Bankruptcy Court Issues New Standing Order Regarding Scope of Debtor Representation

On September 24, 2013, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts issued new Standing Order 2013-02 addressing two existing local rules on the scope of an attorney’s representation of a debtor in bankruptcy proceedings.  The Standing Order is important to the representation of both fee-paying clients and pro bono clients.

First, with respect to Local Rule 9010-3(d), the Standing Order states that absent an appearance pursuant to Local Rule 9010-1(e) (i.e., without compensation on behalf of an otherwise pro se debtor), and unless permitted to withdraw pursuant to Local Rule 2091-1, “an attorney representing a debtor in a bankruptcy case must represent the debtor in all aspects of the main case, including motions and contested matters, and in any adversary proceeding relating to the debtor’s discharge and/or the dischargeability of any debt.”  The Standing Order provides that the attorney is not required to represent a debtor in any other adversary proceedings if the debtor agrees to that limitation in writing at the commencement of the representation and the agreement is noted on the attorney’s initial disclosure under Fed. R. Bankr. P. 2016(b).  As a result of the Standing Order, an attorney is not permitted to decline representing a debtor in any contested matter or any adversary proceeding relating to the debtor’s discharge and/or the dischargeability of any debt merely by agreeing with the debtor on that limitation at the outset of the representation.

Second, with respect to Local Rule 9010-1(e), the Standing Order states that “[a]n attorney who chooses to file a general appearance for an otherwise pro se debtor, without compensation, shall not thereby be required to represent the debtor in any adversary proceeding other than with respect to discharge or the dischargeability of debt.”  Similar to the Standing Order’s effect on the scope of representation of fee-paying clients in bankruptcy proceedings, the Standing Order requires an attorney representing a debtor on a pro bono basis in a bankruptcy case to represent the debtor in the main case, as well as any adversary proceeding with respect to discharge or the dischargeability of debt, without the ability to further limit the scope of the representation in the engagement letter.

Standing Order 2013-02 is linked here for reference.

Submitted by:

Meg McKenzie Feist
Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP
Two International Place
Boston, MA 02110
t 617.248.4771
f 617.502.4771
[email protected]
www.choate.com

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