341 meeting skype videoconference

341 meeting skype videoconference

Can I Skype or Video Conference My 341 Bankruptcy Meeting?


I recently had a client who filed for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy several days before leaving for a year contract work assignment in a foreign country.  The client wished to file bankruptcy before she left to ensure that her creditors were not harassing her while out of the United States.  However, returning to the United States for the 341 Meeting was cost prohibitive at nearly $4000 round trip cost.  After speaking with the United States Trustee and reviewing the bankruptcy code, I learned that there is no real law that either prohibits the use of video conferencing for this hearing  or supports the use.

In the Northern District of Illinois, it is essentially at the discretion of the U.S. Trustee and Local Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee to allow this meeting if it will meet the requirements of a 341 meeting.  Essentially, the trustee needs to ensure that:  1) The debtor is the one present at the 341 meeting  2)  That the debtor review the petition prior to filing it and that the debtor did sign the declaration and recognizes her name.  3)  Identification can be proven up where the debtor’s bankruptcy attorney has seen all identification in his office prior to the meeting and has personally met the debtor and can identify the debtor to the trustee.  The trustee must be able to verify the debtors Identification and the picture of the video conferencing match and that a positive identification has been made.  Then it is really just a regular meeting except that the debtor is not in the flesh to confront the trustee and creditors if present.

My recommendation if that the court consider establishing bankruptcy rules that allow video conferencing under the following circumstances:

1. It would be an undue hardship for the debtor to attend the meeting in person.
2. The debtor found it important to file the bankruptcy realizing that she could not attend the 341 meeting person.
3. The court should adopt a formalized script for identifying the debtor.
4. The court should set forth minimum standards of quality.

In essence this is an extension of the already commonly used telephone appearance made by out of state attorneys in bankruptcy court where to appear in person would be cost prohibitive and to not appear would against the interests of good justice.

In conclusion, I do not believe that Skype or Video Conferencing should be the norm in our 341 meeting appearances, but do believe in situations where a debtor will have an undue hardship in attending that it be an accepted substitute of in person appearance as a means of furthering good justice.

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