Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Page 1


Local Bankruptcies Up 96 Percent as Filings Soar Nationwide


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Bankruptcy filings in the Central District of California nearly doubled, as the work of the federal courts grew in all key caseload areas in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, according to statistics released yesterday by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Appeals, civil, criminal and bankruptcy filings all increased when compared to the previous fiscal year, in addition to the number of persons under post-conviction supervision and the number of defendants in the pretrial services system.

The most dramatic increase was felt in the Central District bankruptcy court, where filings rose 96.3 percent compared to the same period last year. The local data stands in marked contrast with national bankruptcy figures, where filings increased by only 30.2 percent, and the Ninth Circuit as a whole, where filings rose 68.7 percent.

Bankruptcies rose by over 240,000 nationwide to more than one million, including over 57,000 filings in the Central District. Figures from 2007 were just over 800,000 nationally, with only about 29,000 in the Central District.

Filings exceeded 2007 totals in all but six of the 94 districts.

The rise in filings in the Central District represented the highest increase among U.S. bankruptcy courts, and two of California’s other districts also placed in the top four. The District of Arizona came in second with a 78.9 percent rise in filings, while the Eastern and Southern districts of California respectively increased 78.1 percent and 76.6 percent.

Filings dropped precipitously in 2006 after implementation of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which—among other changes—made it more difficult for some consumers to liquidate their debts under chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.

Last year’s figures are still lower than the high-water mark set in 2005 in anticipation of the BAPCPA’s implementation in August of that year, when almost 1.8 million bankruptcies were filed nationwide. including almost 68,000 in the Central District.

Those numbers dropped by almost 55 percent nationwide and in the Central District in the following two years, until the recent uptick.

Just over one million of the bankruptcies filed nationwide in 2008 constituted nonbusiness filings, while another 38,000 were filed by businesses. In the Central District, approximately 54,000 nonbusiness bankruptcies were filed, compared to just over 3,000 business cases.

Approximately 65 percent of nonbusiness cases filed last year nationwide, or 653,000, were chapter 7 liquidations. In the Central District that ratio increased to almost 75 percent, with over 40,000 chapter 7 liquidations filed.

In the U.S. Courts of Appeals, filings rose 5 percent to just over 61,000, with the overall growth stemming from increases in civil appeals of prisoner petitions, appeals of administrative agency decisions, involving the Board of Immigration Appeals, and criminal appeals of drug cases.

Total civil and criminal cases in the U.S. district courts rose 4 percent to over 338,000, with the number of civil filings per authorized judgeship climbing from 380 to 394, and the number of criminal filings rising from 101 per authorized judgeship to 105.

In a related development, the Judicial Conference of the United States released its list of recommendations for creation of new federal judgeships.

The conference proposed that the courts of appeals, which currently have a total of 167 authorized judgeships, be expanded by adding nine permanent and three temporary judgeships to the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth circuits.

The Ninth Circuit, which currently has 29 authorized judgeships—two of which are vacant—would be allocated four new permanent and one temporary judgeship. Congress normally defines temporary judgeships by providing for the abolition of the first judgeship on that court to become vacant a specified length of time—usually seven to 10 years—after the temporary judgeship is filled.

As for the district courts, which currently have a total of 667 permanent and 11 temporary judgeships authorized, the conference proposed adding 38 permanent and 13 temporary positions, converting five temporary positions to permanent ones, and extending a temporary judgeship in the Northern District of Ohio.

Twenty-eight districts—including the Northern, Eastern, and Central districts of California—would be affected. The three California districts would each receive four permanent judgeships and one temporary one. 

The San Diego-based Southern District, which received several new judgeships earlier in this decade, is the only California district not included in the latest recommendations.

California’s Northern District currently has 14 authorized judgeships, the Eastern District six, and the Central District 27 plus a temporary post due to expire in 2013.


Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company