Upon consideration of (a) the state of emergency declared by the President of the United States regarding COVID-19, (b) the directives from federal, state, and local officials regarding safety of the public and the personnel of this court, (c) the suspension of meetings of creditors (11 U.S.C. § 341(a)) by the United States Trustee, Region 16, (d) available guidance from other units of the Judicial Branch, and (e) all other facts and circumstances, and after deliberation at an emergency meeting of the Bankruptcy Court Board Of Judges of this District held on March 18, 2020, and on the court’s own motion (11 U.S.C. § 105(a)), good cause appearing,
General Order 20-02 was issued on March 19, 2020; this order amends that original order to provide for additional procedures in light of the expanded pandemic.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED as follows, unless and until otherwise ordered by this
court or the presiding judge in any specific case:
1. Telephonic appearances are mandatory in all matters through April 30, 2020. All parties are required to appear by telephone at all hearings that require an appearance. There will be no physical access to the courthouse for any hearings. Instructions for telephonic appearances are posted on the Bankruptcy Court’s website (www.cacb.uscourts.gov) and there will be no cost for parties not represented by an attorney. For any evidentiary hearings, including trials, special procedures will be implemented by each presiding judge on a case-by case basis. If the evidentiary hearing is continued, notice will be provided to the parties. Parties may make requests
for continuances consistent with each presiding judge’s usual requirements.
2. Appearances. Any person who has shown up at the courthouse for a hearing but not been able to get in or has attempted to appear by telephone, but has been unable due to lack of physical or telephonic access, may seek
reconsideration by the presiding judge under Rule 7052, 9023, or 9024 (Fed. R. Bankr. P.) or any other applicable rule. Parties must contact the chambers of the presiding judge within 24 hours after the hearing to notify the judge of the difficulty attending the hearing and state that reconsideration will be sought. All prohibitions on the use of cell phones for telephonic appearances are suspended. There is no change to currently calendared motions or applications except for the above. Other than the above, and unless ordered by the presiding judge, there is no change to other procedures, including but not limited to applications for emergency injunctive relief, orders shortening time, and hearings on Chapter 11 “First Day” motions.
3. Chapter 13. All Chapter 13 matters, including the Chapter 13 Trustees and their attorneys will also be telephonic. The court recommends consulting each individual Chapter 13 Trustee website for any special instructions
related to pending Chapter 13 cases. The Chapter 13 calendars will continue to be held under the above but additional procedures have been implemented by each Trustee to obtain records and payments without personal contact.
4. Judge’s or courtesy copies. Except for documents over 25 pages, including
exhibits, the requirement to deliver judges’ copies of documents to chambers (LBR 5005-2(d)) is temporarily suspended – including delivery via U.S. mail, personal delivery, or any other means. Documents over 25 pages should still be provided through the mail unless the judge’s specific updated instructions have waived that requirement. Parties are reminded, however, that the judge and chambers’ staff do not receive electronic notices of filings, and therefore,
(a) for documents that are filed late, and (b) for matters that are either (i) not set for hearing, or (ii) not the subject of an electronically uploaded order (LOU), parties must contact the chambers of the presiding judge and advise chambers of the filing. Messages will be regularly retrieved from the judge’s chambers phone.
5. Mediations. All mediations conducted by a judge of this court are suspended through April 30, 2020, absent a specific order and agreement by all to proceed telephonically. Mediations with private mediators may be continued upon consultation with the assigned mediator but will be in the discretion of the mediator as to how to proceed.
6. Cash. The Clerk of Court is specifically authorized to decide at any time that no cash will be accepted. Such a decision will be placed on the court’s website with any further payment instructions. Parties may pay any filing fee with a certified cashier’s check or postal money order if they cannot comply with the CM/ECF fee requirements.
7. Signatures. Local Bankruptcy Rule 9011-1 does not require in person contact as it permits an attorney to receive a signature page by electronic means. Nothing in the rule precludes the filing of a signature page that has been received by facsimile, pdf, text or photo. This signature can be filed separately in whatever format is reasonably possible so that there is a clear indication that the signor has read and is signing the actual document filed.
a. In light of the difficulty of obtaining any paper files during this emergency, the requirement of LBR 9011-1(d) to maintain a wet signature for 5 years is temporarily suspended and the attorney should maintain the electronic transmission of the client to file the document in whatever format is reasonable at this time.
b. If there is a situation where a client cannot transmit a signature electronically either due to lack of required technology or internet access, etc., the attorney should so explain the circumstances with the filing, verify that permission was obtained from the client to sign the document on their behalf, and obtain the signature as soon as
possible after the filing through another means.
8. Filing of petitions by people without attorneys. The court’s existing electronic filing for self-represented debtors (eSR) is now authorized to accept both Chapter 7 and 13 petitions. All Chapter 7 and 13 petitions shall be filed through eSR or mail. Any other chapter must be filed through CM/ECF with an attorney or mailed to the court. No petitions will be accepted at any courthouse absent a separate appointment made with the staff by prior arrangement through the help line.
9. Signatures and Filing Fees. If a bankruptcy case is filed through eSR or mail, the debtor must mail the required signatures, the required Statement of Social Security Number, and the required filing fee within 10 days, or the case will be dismissed. The signatures and fees required are explained in more detail on the court’s website under the “Don’t Have an Attorney” tab. (https://www.cacb.uscourts.gov/filing-without-an-attorney) All petitions from self represented parties through the mail or eSR are automatically granted a fee installment so that the full required filing
fee is due no later than 10 days after the filing of the petition. Any request for a fee waiver must be mailed within 5 days of the electronic petition filing on the form available on the website. https://www.cacb.uscourts.gov/forms/application-individuals-pay-filing-feeinstallmentsapplication-have-chapter-7-filing-fee
Any request for installment payments other than paying the full filing fee no later than 10 days after filing should also be mailed within 5 days on the required form available on the website. If a fee waiver or installment order is entered in a specific case, it will supersede this general order requiring the full fee within 10 days. If the requisite fee or signatures are not mailed within 10 days, the court will dismiss the case without a hearing.
10. Filing of pleadings by non-attorneys after case has commenced. Parties who do not have attorneys or who are otherwise not eligible for CM/ECF filing privileges are authorized to use the electronic dropbox (“EDB”) described on the court’s website. Parties wishing to use EDB may apply for authorization through the procedures on the website. Only pleadings not requiring an additional fee may be submitted to the court using EDB. If the filing requires a fee, the fee and the pleading should be mailed to the court. Any pleadings filed by mail will be docketed as received by the court on the date of the postmark stamp on the document.
11. Travel. Many U.S. Bankruptcy Court staff and judges have essential duties requiring them to travel to the locked courthouse on a limited basis solely to maintain essential court operations. They may access the building if necessary to maintain basic court operations. These essential functions will be decided as court needs require. They are instructed to carry their court-issued identification cards and are authorized to show this identification and explain their essential function as requested by any federal, state or local officer. All other non-essential travel is cancelled.
12. Temporary Emergency Rules. These provisions are temporary and may bevacated, amended or extended as necessary. Further explanations and details may be obtained at the court’s website on all of the above.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: April 1, 2020
Maureen A. Tighe
Chief Judge, United States Bankruptcy Court