October 30, 2009
by Massachusetts Bankruptcy Attorney Kara O’Donnell, www.Quincylegal.com
Costumed Jurors No Reason for Reversal
It was a decision that could have haunted the trial judge for years, had the appeal turned out differently. As the complicated civil trial in Massachusetts Superior Court dragged on into late October, the jurors asked the judge if he would allow them to wear costumes on Halloween. After consulting with counsel for all parties and hearing no objection, the judge allowed their request. On appeal, the defendants argued that the presence of jurors in costumes turned the trial into a circus and denied them due process. In an opinion issued this week (Zabin v. Picciotto), the Massachusetts Appeals Court delivered the defendants a trick rather than the treat they’d hoped to receive.
With or without the consent of counsel to the parties, it is regrettable that the trial judge agreed to the jurors’ request. The introduction of Halloween costumes cannot but have detracted from the seriousness and gravity of formal court proceedings. However, as to the defendants’ claim of a due process violation, the judge did not merely accommodate the jurors’ request; he consulted with counsel for all parties before doing so, and all counsel agreed. The issue is waived.
That wasn’t the whole of it. At one point, plaintiffs’ counsel handed out candy to the costumed jurors. Later, a proposed “cast list” was circulated for a Hollywood movie version of the trial. Neither of these provided grounds for reversal, the Appeals Court said. “The record reveals no objection to counsel to any party handing out candy to the jurors or any indication that the ‘cast list’ was circulated to the jury.” Here, indeed, victory was sweet.
When discussing bankruptcy issues in general with people, they are often surprised that it IS possible to dischargeable some tax debts.
Key word? “SOME . . . ”
Income taxes are not dischargeable unless a three-part test is met.
1. The tax return must have been due at least three years before the bankruptcy was filed
2. The return must have been filed at least two years before filing for bankruptcy, and
3. The taxes must have been assessed for at least 240 days.
NOTE: Trust fund taxes (taxes withheld by an employer from employee wages and sales taxes) are not dischargeable.
If you are a Massachusetts resident with questions about your IRS or other debt, please contact me at (857) 526-1355 or Help@QuincyLegal.com for a free, initial consultation. Together, we will determine whether or not a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best way to eliminate your debt.
Kara O’Donnell, Esq.
O’DONNELL LAW OFFICES
October 16, 2009
October 11, 2009
by Attorney Kara O’Donnell of Quincy, MA
Effective November 1, 2009, the median income numbers for
Massachusetts are being revised. (Please see below for the data.)
This means that:
- for a household of ONE it is somewhat harder to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
- for a household of TWO it is somewhat easier
- for households of THREE and FOUR it is somewhat harder.
By “somewhat harder” I mean that the median income figure has been reduced from the number previously used. This means that fewer people will be able to qualify for a Chapter 7 (full discharge) bankruptcy. For the household of two, it will be somewhat easier in that the median income figure has been increased by over $4,000 in annual income. As such, MORE people in this category will be eligible to file for Chapter 7.
If you find that your income excludes you from being able to file for Chapter 7, you may still be eligible for Chapter 13 (repayment plan). Only by contacting a bankruptcy attorney will you be able to make a FULLY INFORMED decision as to what is best for you and your specific circumstances. Call Attorney Kara O’Donnell at (857) 526-1355 today to discuss your Massachusetts bankruptcy filing options.
MEANS TEST DATA:
The United States Department of Justice has released the Census Bureau
State Median Family Income By Family Size figures for means test
calculations on Bankruptcy Cases filed on or after November 1, 2009.
The new figures are available on the U.S. Trustee’s website.
These figures apply only to cases filed on or after November 1, 2009.
For Massachusetts, the new State Median Family Income figures are as follows:
Family of 1: $53,505
Family of 2: $69,451
Family of 3: $82,591
Family of 4*: $99,648
*Add $6,900 for each individual member in excess of 4.
The previous Median Income figures used for cases filed October 31,
2009 or BEFORE are:
Updated Massachusetts median family income numbers effective March 15, 2009:
Household Size – Annual Income
1 – $54,842
2 – $66,437
3 – $83,104
4 – $100,280
5 – $107,180
6 – $114,080
7 – $120,980
8 – $127,880
October 6, 2009
by Attorney Kara O’Donnell of Quincy, MA. www.QuincyLegal.com
Massachusetts is like many states in the country in that it is suffering from an unusually high unemployment rate and a real estate market which, while no longer crashing, shows little immediate promise. Combine those two ingredients, allow to simmer and what do you get? An unsavory dish of record bankruptcy filings in our state.
The most recent available statistics released by the United States Bankruptcy Court indicate that the number of new people filing for bankruptcy in MA has risen 35% in the second financial quarter of the year versus the same time last year. Looking back over the past two years shows that the number of filings has actually doubled.
While multiple factors may exist as to why this has occurred, a reasonable guess would be that the recession has caused more consumers to accumulate more credit card debt and spend through savings as they deal with growing unemployment.
The same statistical reports indicate that people who are filing bankruptcy are far less likely to choose Chapter 13, the repayment plan option, than its “full discharge” cousin Chapter 7. In the second quarter, according to the report, Chapter 7 bankruptcies rose 58 percent while Chapter 13 bankruptcies actually dropped. Why? With fewer jobs and less income, consumers are simply less able to fund an acceptable payment plan and have no other choice but to file Chapter 7.
Q: Why would someone even choose Chapter 13 if they could just file Chapter 7?
While an individual’s reasoning varies in each situation, in general, most people file Chapter 13 to be able to retain a major asset (e.g. house) and force the mortgagor into allowing a repayment of the arrears over an extended period of time. Assuming the debtor has enough funds to pay the existing monthly mortgage payment, he would be able to get back into good standing with the mortgage company by paying both the regular payment and the small arrearage payment set up through the Chapter 13 plan. People may also file Chapter 13 if their household income is higher than the Means Test or if they have filed Chapter 7 in the recent past and are prohibited from doing so again.
Q: Will Bankruptcies Continue to Rise?
All signs point to continuing increases in the bankruptcy filings in Massachusetts throughout the next two quarters, at a minimum. As the recession drags on, people will begin to experience the inevitable: unemployment benefits running out. Absent another Federal extension, the sudden loss of benefits could force many into bankruptcy as a direct result. Economists are in agreement that many, if not most, bankruptcies occur later in a poor economic cycle. Which brings us to one final question:
Q: Are We There Yet?
Kara O’Donnell, Esq.
Law Office of Kara O’Donnell