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Lawyer says trustee “berated” debtor because she asked for an interpreter

Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyer Bryan W. Stone of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What is a bankruptcy discharge ?”


After going through the hardship and stresses that brought a person into the bankruptcy system, the last thing a debtor in bankruptcy wants to be made to feel like is a criminal. That is exactly how a debtor was made to feel by a bankruptcy trustee during a meeting in a bankruptcy case last month, according to a debtor’s attorney.

Under the blankets Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyer North Carolina Debt AttorneyConsumer bankruptcy attorney William Ward Saxton filed a complaint against bankruptcy trustee John S. Pereira alleging that Pereira aggressively questioned and berated a debtor during a creditors’ meeting. The blowup occurred after the debtor requested an interpreter. Pereira then asked the debtor—who is an American citizen—how she could have passed the American citizenship exam if she was unable to understand English.

Pereira then “demanded to know how the debtor was able to communicate with her attorney and understand and sign a bankruptcy petition in English.” Saxton alleged that after a friend of the debtor told Pereira that she had explained the bankruptcy petition to the debtor in Spanish, Pereira moved to adjourn the case. Saxton objected, arguing that adjourning the case would violate the debtor’s Constitutional rights.

Saxton wrote that Pereira was rude, and the debtor appeared frightened and confused. Pereira denied acting aggressively and said he merely asked some “follow-up questions” at the meeting. Saxton, on the other hand, described the situation as “traumatic” for the debtor and for the attorneys involved. He likened the meeting to a criminal proceeding.

All debtors in bankruptcy have a meeting of creditors, usually within a month of filing a bankruptcy petition. At this meeting, the bankruptcy trustee can ask the debtor questions to ensure that the bankruptcy petition is complete, that none of the information has changed, and to see whether additional documentation is needed from the debtor.

In a consumer bankruptcy case, the trustee is for all intents and purposes a neutral party whose interests are not adverse to that of the debtor. The job of the trustee is to take control of property of the debtor that is subject to creditors’ claims and to convert the property to cash to pay to creditors. Once the trustee has gathered all of the assets of a debtor that can be sold and fairly paid claims to creditors, the trustee can discharge remaining debts and recommend that a bankruptcy court discharge the debtor from bankruptcy.

Saxton filed his complaint with the United States Trustee Program, which monitors consumer bankruptcy proceedings for fraud and abuse. The program said it offers interpreter services at no cost to debtors, and in 2013 interpreters were used in some 26,000 cases. The program suggested that it would follow up on Saxton’s complaint against Pereira.

If you find yourself needing the services of a Charlotte, North Carolina bankruptcy attorney, please call the skilled lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC find additional resources here. As professionals who are experienced at handling all kinds of bankruptcy matters, our attorneys will provide you with the best advice for your particular situation.



About the Author

Bryan 1Bryan Stone is a Partner with Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses his practice on all aspects of bankruptcy, including: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 13, home loan modifications and landlord-tenant issues.

A native of Macon, Georgia, Mr. Stone attended the University of Georgia, where he earned a BBA in Banking and Finance, and Wake Forest University School of Law, where he obtained his law degree.

Following law school, Mr. Stone relocated to Charlotte, where he currently serves as Chair of “Bravo!” – a young professionals organization associated with Opera Carolina – and founded the University of Georgia Alumni Association of Charlotte.

In his spare time, Mr. Stone enjoys perfecting his barbeque skills for the annual “Q-City BBQ Championship” and playing softball in the Mecklenburg County Bar softball league.









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