Individuals (but not corporations or partnerships) may appear "pro se” (that is, without an attorney) in the bankruptcy court. It is difficult to proceed pro se in bankruptcy cases. You may wish to obtain the services of an attorney (see Find an Attorney, Sometimes Available for Free).
Only an attorney is authorized to give you legal advice regarding a bankruptcy case or proceeding. The clerk’s office and the chambers staff of the court’s judges cannot give you legal advice. For example, they cannot:
- explain the meaning of a particular statutory provision or rule;
- give an interpretation of case law;
- explain the result of taking or not taking action in a case;
- help you complete forms, or advise you regarding what is legally required when a form elicits information from you;
- tell you whether jurisdiction is proper in a case;
- tell you whether a complaint properly presents a claim;
- provide advice on the best procedure to accomplish a particular goal;
- apply a rule or statute; or
- explain who should receive proper notice or service.
The judge cannot give you legal advice. The judge supervises and administers the case and resolve disputes between the parties. The judge must remain impartial (not lean in favor of one side). You cannot engage in ex parte communications with the judge (meaning only you communicating with the judge):
- You cannot contact the judge to have a conversation about the case.
- When you file a paper seeking some form of relief from a judge, you must serve any person who might be adversely affected were the relief granted or who might otherwise be interested in the matter.
- See Fed. R. Bankr. P. 9003. (Copies of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, of Official Forms, of the Interim Bankruptcy Rules, and of the Local Bankruptcy Rules, may be examined at the Clerk’s Office or online under Statutes, Rules, Administrative Orders.)
A "petition preparer" is not authorized to give legal advice. A petition preparer’s role is strictly limited to a typing service. For a minimal fee, a petition preparer will merely fill in the required forms using information a debtor provides without making suggestions about what papers are legally appropriate or what information is legally appropriate to include on the papers.
- Most of the required forms in a bankruptcy case are available for free at the U.S Courts Website, and most are in pdf-fillable form so that you can complete them using a computer keyboard. If you do not have a computer, find out whether your public library has a computer you can use.
- Given the availability on the internet of pdf-fillable forms, there is little or no reason for a debtor to pay a non-attorney “petition preparer” to obtain the forms. Properly completing those forms, however, may require advice of competent legal counsel.
The information on this website is not a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel (again, see Find and Attorney, Sometimes Available for Free), and should not be cited or relied upon as legal authority. It is intended as only a guide to some basic aspects of bankruptcy law, and is necessarily limited and does not include all of the controlling law (principally the Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the court’s Local Bankruptcy Rules, and court decisions interpreting those documents)