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Some things im learning along the way

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    Pros and cons of going Pro Se

    Having having represented myself in civil case, here are a few pros and cons of going Pro Se.

    Cons - Why NOT to go Pro Se
    • 100% responsible for outcome and consequences of your own case. Every form, schedule, procedure, deadline, motion, etc is 100% on me with next to no leniency for being a non-lawyer. Any mistake or ignorance of the law, rules, procedures are Pro Se are expected to perform as an attorney would without the benefits and protections.
    • Treated with contempt by court employees, lawyers, etc. "In Pro Per" derives from Latin phrase “in propria persona" meaning “in their own person,”. But its also a word play of 'Improper'. You will feel discrimination by others and become a target for abuse.
    • Incredibly time consuming and expensive. Researching, filing, writing motions, serving papers, etc is a full time effort and pays $0. An attorney can hope to be rewarded via winning a sanction or an award fee. Pro Se's only reward is the rights and justice they preserve for themselves. In some cases you may get 'costs' reimbursed like parking, mailing, filing fees, copying, etc.
    • Legal information behind paywalls. Legal research databases and books are expensive. But the internet has open up access significantly and there are many excellent law libraries.
    • Emotionally draining. One minute you feel incredibly empowered by rights found in the law, the next you feel devastated because the judge, court employees, other side do not respect those arguments and rights. (Judges have a lot of latitude when the law says 'the court may' vs 'the court shall')
    • Requires critical thinking and strong communication skills. Defending yourself is a special kind of mental chess and judo. It's not for the intellectually lazy and feeble minded.
    • Justice is most definitely not blind at the courthouse, and poor Pro Se is kicked around by the bureaucracy. Its gauntlet run with only knowledge of law and your words to protect you. Expect abuse because 'its one big club and you aint part of it'
    Pros - reasons and advantages in going Pro Se
    • "A chance at justice" - Paul Newman playing the lawyer Frank Galvin in The Verdict said "The court doesn't exist to give people justice. The court exist to give them a *chance* at justice. clip of scene
    • War and survival. When your back is against the wall and you are fighting for your liberty and property, the only one that is going to fight like hell is me. That is what makes me get up at 4 in the morning to read my legal books and seek answers. That is a strong motivator that can overcome any ignorance of law and procedure. The only way to motivate a lawyer is with more money.
    • Civic duty and confidence. I think a country becomes stronger when each individual learns about their rights and can stand their ground. "Thomas Jefferson's Monticello · "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people" (Thomas Jefferson). Know your rights and respect others rights.
    • Practice law without 'a license'. Law students, legal aids, paralegals are not allowed to write and submit motions, etc. Pro Se is a law school boot camp. You learn the law AND you practice it in your case. This is marketable experience.
    • Its a crazy ride but its rewarding.
    If I had money for a good lawyer, id get a good lawyer. I dont have that kind of money. And i definitely do not have money for a bad lawyer. So necessity dictates the Pro Se Way for me. And in my faith, God is the best defense money cant buy.
    Last edited by bornfree2; 03-06-2022, 07:47 AM.


      Finding case law and rulings

      ...due to our Common Law heritage, case law has particular importance in the United States. Case law in this sense means the written opinions of appellate courts deciding a point of law. When judges have to make decisions on matters of law they must follow the decisions of their predecessors and superiors. This principle of stare decisis is crucial to maintain the element of predictability in juridical relations. (1) source (2) further reading
      It has been useful in my journey to gather more specific guidelines on exactly how to list property and how exemptions apply. In my opinion, the most instructive and authoritative method has been studying bankruptcy cases and opinions and reading how judges have interpreted the bankruptcy code, Official Forms, and motions from debtor, trustee, creditors, etc. Not only do their interpretations set precedent, but their style of writing is succinct and understandable.

      Fortunately, bankruptcy cases are free and easy to find online. Google scholar is very good but you can find various others by searching for specific cases. I use combined keywords like 'bankruptcy' 'household goods' 'exemption'. Ive also had good results searching for specific statutes or rules in the BK code. For example, 'bankruptcy' '§ 341(a)' 'meeting of creditors'. You can also see how many other cases have cited it.

      Another way to find cases is to use Collier Bankruptcy Case Updates. It provides simple summarizes of recent bk cases which is keyword searchable. Example for 'household goods'. The cases themselves are behind paywall, but one need just search the case name in google scholar to get the information. The results are not as 'deep and raw' as google scholar, but sometimes less noise helps.

      Within the case, the judge will reference other cases and discuss the law. This is when things REALLY get interesting. Its like having the judge himself explain to me the BK code and how other case rulings provide guidelines for filling out the forms and the BK process. Having this knowledge I can bullet proof my filings and have arguments tailor fit to my specific situation.

      Lastly, I began my research by immersing myself in BK legal books and guides. These explain the theory, practice, and are replete with footnotes to cases. But since I am using physical books I can not search through them as easily as with google search. Nevertheless, the first stop to case law is to 'hit the books'.

      Time permitting, I may start a seperate thread for interesting cases.

      Some links:
      Last edited by bornfree2; 03-08-2022, 08:50 AM.


        Ill be taking a break to better focus. I am finding it takes a lot of time to put together these posts. I wish everyone the best of luck!
        Last edited by bornfree2; 03-09-2022, 10:21 AM.


          Disclaimer: This is not legal or financial advice and this information/thread is for educational and entertainment purposes only. I am researching and these are my thoughts and opinions only. Always consult qualified experts for legal or financial advice before taking any action. I am not a laywer.


          I (think) I finally understand (a bit more about) Exemptions

          After a long night down the rabbit hole, I came across a Trustee court filing. It was a notice of an auction - NOTICE OF SALE OF ESTATE PROPERTY . He was going to auction the debtor's car. The notice had this sentence:

          Initial bid must be at least $10,325 (the amount being paid by Debtor ($6,000) plus Debtor's available exemption $3,325) plus $1,000). Subsequent bids must be at least $500 higher than the initial bid.
          This debtor only claimed $3325. But then put they appear to be putting up $6000. Then Trustee is adding $1000 to the bid price. So to save the car, the debtor has to buy it back at $6k + $1k (?). edit: Or perhaps $6000 put up by debtor as the opening bid?

          What if the debtor had claimed a higher exemption? In this specific case, it seems they used California 704 not 703. I could be wrong but a wildcard is not available. Thus, the debtor maxed the car exemption of $3325 and had to cough up the difference of the car at the auction value.

          Then it hit me. Schedule C asks for 'amount of exemption claimed'. Previously I believed I would just enter the amount of the car exemption by law. I got a beater car anyways. But instead, if my goal is to preserve my car, I must claim as high a value as i want in the event it would be sold at auction. In other words 'fair market value'.

          By claiming much higher exemption I can set the initial bid which can be beyond fair market price - thus dissuading sellers. But Trustee is in control of initial price so they can still demand more (this is starting to feel like an extortion scheme ... the Trustee could always set the price thus forcing debtor to meet it despite claiming beyond fair market price exemptions value)

          Otherwise I would have to cough up the difference. The exemption is the ONLY chance I get to claim these 'free credits' to use at an auction.

          So as an example, lets say my car is worth ($2k kelly blue book). State exemptions is $5k+. I would have formally just said 'okay 5k to claim'. But instead, i should research what the car would fetch at auction ... which should be less than if someone went to a dealer right... otherwise who would buy a car without inspection for more than they can on a lot? (I am using round numbers)

          Thus, my exemption value claimed should be the state amount ($5k+) PLUS additional padding room with the wildcard of ($5k). This gives my $2k beater car an auction proof value of $10k. Would someone bid $10k+ for a $2k car they cant inspect? Would the trustee bother with costs to list it? I dunno, but thats how I would protect the car.

          Of course, exemptions are not unlimited so what I use for one property takes from another like two people sharing a blanket on a cold night. And there is no guarantee the irrational, free market wont overbid for a beater car. But as I understand it that $10k would be paid to me....still, i like my old faithful clankity clank and dont want $10k (which is probably taxable and probably goes through red tape to get money in my hands) and have no car.

          It is much more clear to me when I was confronted with how the auction process works. It is a liquidation after all. Lets hope I keep my beater.

          edit: On further thinking, it seems the debtor is going to have to pay something to win that auction. Further research is needed to see what happens when auctions do not attract buyers. It proceeds to abandonment? Dunno...need more coffee...more exemption...

          Disclaimer: This is not legal or financial advice and this information/thread is for educational and entertainment purposes only. I am researching and these are my thoughts and opinions only. Always consult qualified experts for legal or financial advice before taking any action. I am not a laywer.

          Last edited by bornfree2; 03-12-2022, 12:34 PM.


            Alice files for bankruptcy

            I didnt know my eyes could go so cross eyed until I attempted to read the local court rules. A labyrinth of confusion. Like Alice in the Queen's court

            They reference other guides which reference other orders which reference other forms. Those forms have notes and warnings that seem to create new rules. One appears to contradict another...yet they speak so generally that the contradiction can be explained away.

            A bit like satire piece of this lady on COVID rules...


              Disclaimer: This is not legal or financial advice and this information/thread is for educational and entertainment purposes only. I am researching and these are my thoughts and opinions only. Always consult qualified experts for legal or financial advice before taking any action. I am not a laywer.


              Better Call President Clinton

              I tend to work early morning best while binge watching shows in the background. Lately the theme has been lawyer/legal shows. I can recommend Better Call Saul and Impeachment. Both these have great writers that explain legal concepts couched in entertainment. And the script gives a lot of tips on how lawyers speak to negotiate or answer questions.

              Lastly, I present the 4 hour long deposition of President Clinton. There are a lot of gems in this one. Washington Post has a transcript available here.

              Instructive is when asked a question about a specific past occurrence ("How many times where you alone with Ms Lewinsky?"), Clinton prefaces his answer by saying:

              "I do not know for sure, but if you would like me to give an educated guess I will do that. But I do not know for sure. I will tell you what I think based on what I remember. But I cant be held to a specific time because I do not have records of all of them".
              The investigator then has to modify the question from the specific to a vague by asking 'How many times do you think?"

              This answer is also phrased as 'based on information and belief'. Or 'based on general memory'

              In my non legal opinion only , this answer is not a dodge but a sincere reframing of the question. If one is asked a specific question and one can not answer it specifically, it is safest to say they can not and must guess from their memory and without investigation from any available records. This is then is a truthful, correct, and cooperative answer.

              In the context of BK, one is asked in the forms or at an examination for true and correct answers. Since questions are asked about acts beyond recent memory (1, 2, even 10 years past) to discover intent (what goes on in the mind of debtor) , in my personal opinion, President Clinton presents a model for being truthful and correct when one can not answer with absolute certainty. Of course doing that under pressure is quite another.

              Honesty is the best policy. I will strive present the truth to best of my ability.

              This man is the master in staying cool, calm, and collected while under investigation for the his sordid affairs.

              Edit: More saxy clinton, more saxy blues

              Disclaimer: This is not legal or financial advice and this information/thread is for educational and entertainment purposes only. I am researching and these are my thoughts and opinions only. Always consult qualified experts for legal or financial advice before taking any action. I am not a laywer.

              Last edited by bornfree2; 03-15-2022, 06:54 AM.


                Exhaustion - over thinking - catharsis

                Im writing this cause im so very exhausted. I take a moment tonight to reflect how on earth I got here.

                Like many, the only thing I knew about bankruptcy was the billboard on a bus or mentions in a movie. I heard 'hey you can wipe out credit card debt and your credit will be screwed but its a clean slate'. "Just find a lawyer, do the filing, and hey presto, fresh start'.

                It just sounded too easy. Then I started to look into it. Estate? Trustee? 341? Exemptions? Unsecured creditors can still chase you in bk court? Your case can get dismissed for a myriad of reasons and you are in a much worse spot than when you started.

                Wait, what? The moment I file, i voluntarily hand over the entirety of my life's work to some stranger who is actively working motivated to sell it off on commission and for the benefit of the very banks im supposedly getting protection from? And if i don't disclose absolutely everything in a 'true and complete' manner I can be accused of fraud? hinderance? delay?

                Sounds like running to the mafia to protect you from the other mafia! Sounds like bankruptcy is an exceedingly dangerous place to be if you are broke and alone.

                "But thats why you hire a lawyer bro. Here, call this dude...ring ring.. "yeah, we do bankruptcies. fill out this questionnaire, send everything to the office, then come by and sign the paperwork"

                Ugh. No. That doesnt work for me. I need full time attention. This is MY life after all. "yeah we dont do that. Not for the mandated $1000-$1500 cap. You send info, we file, you bear the consequences. Garbage in - garbage out. You are overthinking this"

                So thats when i started to look for answers on my own for MY specific case. And this forum became a place to lob some questions and hope to get answers, clues, anything!

                And I did. Many of you have been very patient with me. And thats why im sharing all the stuff Im learning. Both as a form of catharsis (having some way to dump my thoughts) and hoping my experience can help someone else in the present or future who will have similar questions... probably to convince others to look into for education but try to find good legal representation if you can afford it

                But im so exhausted. After discovering the library held every answer to every question, and that there is nothing new under the sun, its been non stop searching, studying, reading.

                Trying to learn bankruptcy Pro Se , is like playing chess blindfolded for the first and only time. What are the pieces, what moves do i make, what moves do they make, and how can I win in a fair and honest way. 'Winning' means I learnt the law, the rules, the ''game", and asserted my rights, kept my property, and had fair dealings with those that have claims against me.

                My sleep cycle is bankrupt. Bed time at 9pm, then up again at 3 am. ZZzzz
                Last edited by bornfree2; 03-16-2022, 08:07 PM.


                  The Godfather files for bankruptcy Pro Se

                  Creditors, mailing matrix, property, exemptions, income, expense, income, documentation for trustee....all set and ready to file right... wait... taxes ? ... alert.... abort... stop the filing ... Just when I thought i was ready to file .... they pull me back in!


                    Checklists for Pro Se are the key to sanity

                    Some years ago I had the luxury of taking private flying lessons. I logged about 20 hours and did the solo flight but ran out of funds to continue. One thing that is drilled is the use of preflight checklists. I had to go around the little cessna and do a physical inspection of the craft and various settings. After the 10th lesson it becomes tedious but the instructor stressed over and over "Once you are in the air, there is no pulling over like in a car to correct a defect"

                    Preparing for BK as Pro Se is much the same. Once I file, the case begins, my estate is immediately transferred to trustee, the deadline clocks start, my 'actions and behaviours' are under scrutiny, and its game on. I cant claim ignorance of law or procedure. I am flying solo in my case. There is no pulling out and no parachute.

                    Being very much an ADD person (aka very creative), I need some kind of structure to return my focus. After being overwhelmed with the amount of law and procedures to learn I asked 'how on earth do lawyers do this for multiple people at once?' Well, the answer is simple. First they use software. Second they have staff. And third they use checklists.

                    I found this book Checklists For lawyers for very helpful in shifting my mindset to the practice. First I start from 'wtf do i do??'. Then i move to 'how do i do it'. Then i build the checklist with the steps. I find all that knowledge by searching, asking, and reading. For example, something as seemingly simple as sending a letter to a trustee or creditor can involve a lot of important steps
                    • Determine the problem and the solution with an objective, method, and audience
                    • What paper am i to create? (legal procedure is all about producing paper. but Debtor is held to a standard of 'true and complete' under Perjury so it must be precise and concise )
                    • Get correct address
                    • make a cover sheet
                    • Follow court rules on proper court header information (if necessary, usually for notices)
                    • write the actual letter
                    • back up letter with any supporting documentation
                    • decide how to deliver US Mail or electronic (Pro Se are very disadvantaged here)
                    • get someone to do the mailing if necessary and create Certificate of Service
                    • decide if necessary to file with court and whatever related procedures.
                    And on and on. Its a start. And that is probably too much or not enough. But without a checklist one can not begin the process of refining the procedure.

                    Of course lawyers have experience to know these steps and have staff to do them. But that experience can be found in books (see also the many legal BK practice guides which contain checklists), which they themselves have used to find out the steps.

                    (however alway filter the procedures found with local court rules - very important!)

                    These checklists are their guarded treasure. Its what they charge $$$ to reuse over and over with each ignorant, fearful client. But its not rocket science though they think of themselves as wizard of Oz high priests. Something that boils down to simple steps anyone could do on their own if they did the diligent work of self-education .

                    No one is born a lawyer. It is a learnable skill. But you also dont learn to fly solo the first time.

                    But I dont need to learn to fly under all conditions. Just one flight mission - total discharge of all debts and preserving my rights to property. Just the take off (petition, 341 meeting), the flight path (dealing with trustee and creditors through process) , and nailing the landing (discharge and closed case)

                    Once I learn the process, once i make my checklist, i just have to follow each step. Even in days im stressed out, the checklist is the glide path back to sanity.

                    Thus, i overthink so my first and only time filing BK solo will be orderly and safe for myself.
                    Last edited by bornfree2; 03-27-2022, 10:04 AM.


                      Tick Toc Tic Toc

                      Twiddle twiddle while rome fiddles. Waiting to see what gophers come out of the hole. Like turning in an exam and waiting for the pass or fail grade. And just wanting the whole thing to be over. And get back to life. and sleep.

                      Starting to smell a new breeze of relief though - welcomed after so much anguish and worry.

                      Tic Toc Tic Toc


                        It's worse in law school. You can wait upwards of 6 weeks before receiving grades from a prior semester.

                        You should sleep, though. The hard part is over.
                        Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
                        Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
                        Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog

                        Any advice provided is not legal advice, but simply the musings of a fellow bankrupt.


                          The Real Great Reset

                          The so called 'Great Reset' - The elite meme is that 'they' plan a future where I will own nothing and be happy.

                          With this bankruptcy i will owe nothing and own/keep everything.

                          And boy does that makes me happy.

                          Fresh Start incoming...
                          Last edited by bornfree2; 05-17-2022, 07:24 PM.


                            RECAP tips part deux

                            Disclaimer: This is not legal or financial advice and this information/thread is for educational and entertainment purposes only. I am researching and these are my thoughts and opinions only. Always consult qualified experts for legal or financial advice before taking any action.


                            In a prior post #12, I discussed how to use the amazing RECAP database to find useful information for my case.

                            Because there are millions of documents its hard to narrow them down to answer specific research questions. For example, id like to know how exactly a trustee / creditor would object to a discharge. Using the keywords 'objection to discharge' brings up thousands of docs. But its a bit scattered. How do can I focus i more

                            "Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (ECF) is a comprehensive system that allows the Court to manage and maintain electronic case files and offer electronic filing over the Internet." By using the manual to this system, I can get more precise keywords that are logged in the database depending on the case action. I can the use them to search against RECAP for more relevant hits

                            (note: I use my local court for the most accurate info related to my case)

                            For example, lets say I want to find out how a creditor / trustee would object to an claim of exemption.

                            The 'Claims and Creditors' section contains an entry for 'Objection to Claim' and 'Objection to Debtor's Claim of Exemptions'. Those pages outline how the attorney / paralegal would use the court ECF.

                            Specifically they would select a 'document event' of Objection to Debtor's Claim of Exemptions. That is the keyword phrase we want to put into RECAP's document description field. I can narrow it down to my jurisdiction or leave it wide open. And i can select 'only show pdfs' to get me the juicy, free court filing document to learn from.

                            RECAP -> "Objection to Debtor's Claim of Exemptions" (1320 cases / pdf)

                            An example result would be :

                            Of course Id want to know how to respond to this kind of objection, so my research would then add keywords like 'response to objection'. Giving a document like this

                            There are very many other ways to slice and dice these queries. one can also add search for 'overruling' and get judges orders in favor of debtor. It would be instructive to review the docket to see how each side argued to get to that point.

                            tldr; using the ECF manual I can find better keywords to search RECAP for documents to answer my bankruptcy research questions or ideas to draft my own papers.

                            (Consider donating to the nonprofit Free Law project because it is a fantastic resource for legal research! You can find that link on their site with the big red Donate Now button.)


                              I won - its over

                              I got my discharge and autoclose.

                              Reviewing this thread I promised to thank the One who made it all possible. And that is God Almighty - the best defense money cant buy. All Glory goes to Him for protecting me through this. I got through it without loosing a single penny.

                              1 Now this is what the LORD says—He who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine!

                              2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched; the flames will not set you ablaze.

                              3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
                              Amen and amen
                              Last edited by bornfree2; 05-25-2022, 10:20 AM.


                                Closing down - housekeeping

                                Disclaimer: This is not legal or financial advice and this information/thread is for educational and entertainment purposes only. I am researching and these are my thoughts and opinions only. Always consult qualified experts for legal or financial advice before taking any action.

                                With the case closed, there are a couple loose ends I need to attend to.

                                First, the case can be reopened at any time within a year for any cause. See Rule 5010. See also The Law of Reopening Revisited. Thus, I want to preserve and organize all paperwork related to the case. This means downloading the entire Pacer docket of my case (the docket and the related pdfs), downloading emails between me and trustee, and printing out a hardcopy, and securing an electronic file off site. Additionally, i want to store a narrative timeline so i can remember my rational for various decisions

                                Second, ill need to figure out what to do with all my financial paperwork prior and after the case. Credit card statements, receipts, bank statements, etc. Most is already located and organized since I had to gather it to put together the petition.

                                Third, I want to prepare for next year's taxes. The debt that was charged off by the creditors will show up as 1099 and be accounted to me as income. See this thread. Fortunately there is a mechanism to that deals with cancelation of debt. See IRS Pub 4681.

                                How to report the bankruptcy exclusion.

                                To show that your debt was canceled in a bankruptcy case and is excluded from income, attach Form 982 ( instructions link) to your federal income tax return and check the box on line 1a. Lines 1b through 1e don't apply to a cancellation that occurs in a title 11 bankruptcy case. Enter the total amount of debt canceled in your title 11 bankruptcy case on line 2. You must also reduce your tax attributes in Part II of Form 982 as explained under Reduction of Tax Attributes, later.
                                Lastly, I need to properly close down my state case. The automatic stay ended when the case closed so I need to research and learn what that means with the collector's case. Ideally i would like to get it dismissed with prejudice and get financial records redacted that those jerks dumped on the public record.

                                And then there is the whole 'fix my credit'. I will wait a few weeks and then order a credit report and see how things stand. I really do not want to get new credit whatsoever. But its a necessary evil to be seen as 'normal' again.

                                Im sure I will think of more things. Like sending the trustee office a thank you card.
                                Last edited by bornfree2; 05-25-2022, 06:50 PM.


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