- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

Bankruptcy courts nationwide face record-high volumes of bankruptcy petitions to process this week because consumers rushed to beat Sunday night’s deadline for filing under more lenient standards.

The wave of filings came before the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act went into effect Sunday at 11:59 p.m., requiring debtors to face higher fees and burden of proof before they can have their debts erased in court.

Americans last week filed at least 200,000 petitions, according to initial estimates by Lundquist Consulting Inc., a Burlingame, Calif., financial research firm. A week earlier, consumers filed 102,863 new cases in U.S. bankruptcy courts.

In a normal week, U.S. courts on average receive 30,000 new cases, said spokeswoman Jane Truch.

Lundquist, which compiles bankruptcy statistics weekly, yesterday continued to collect data on petitions filed over the weekend, Ms. Truch said, calling the amount “astounding.”

“At this point we don’t know exactly how many there are,” she said.

Maryland’s bankruptcy courts in Greenbelt and Baltimore received an estimated 9,000 new cases over the past week, including a bankruptcy protection filing from former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe.

Cases pouring into the clerk’s offices last week were 10 times the normal amount, said Mark Sammons, clerk of Maryland’s Baltimore and Greenbelt courts.

“We had staff working over the weekend to deal with the paper and electronic filings that had come in,” Mr. Sammons said.

Despite the rush to meet Sunday’s deadline, about 40 debtors yesterday filed petitions at Maryland’s courts.

“The majority were individuals who were mistaken about the effective date of the bankruptcy reform act,” he said.

The Alexandria bankruptcy court, part of the Eastern Virginia District, reported 873 cases over the weekend, nearly as many as the 975 cases the court had reported for the first 13 days of October.

Consumers submitted only 483 petitions to the court for the entire month of August.

“We are working hard on processing all the cases,” said Chuck Miller, division manager for the Alexandria court, who oversees the clerk’s office.

The clerk’s office received a record 1,524 petitions from Oct. 9 to Oct. 16, Mr. Miller said, and the Richmond bankruptcy court reported filings in the 2,000 range.

Alexandria’s clerk’s office may pick up some of the Richmond court’s cases to help ease the extra workload, Mr. Miller said.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia also continued to enter an undisclosed number of petitions into its system yesterday, said Patti Meador, chief deputy for the clerk’s office.

“I’m sorry, but we’re extremely busy today. I couldn’t even tell you how many petitions we have because we are still entering those we received over the weekend,” Ms. Meador said, declining to comment further.

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