Bankruptcy judges are appointed to apply the law evenhandedly. Their job is to remain objective and make sure the law is followed.
Could it be, however, that judges are more likely to approve a repayment plan in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy if the debtor includes an apology with his or her petition? The answer has implications for people in the San Antonio area and across the country who are considering filing for bankruptcy.
A recent study of federal bankruptcy judges indicated that they are indeed influenced by apologies. The survey was done by a pair of law professors at the University of Illinois. The study involved 137 federal bankruptcy judges, seeking to determine whether the judges were more likely to approve a repayment plan if the debtors included an apology to their creditors.
Each participating judge was asked to respond to a fictional case in which a couple with two children sought court approval for a Chapter 13 debt repayment plan. The family’s debts included a home mortgage, more than $25,000 in credit card debt, and a substantial motor vehicle loan.
Half of the judges were asked to respond to the repayment plan without an apology. The other half were given a plan to review that did include an apology. In the apology, the fictional couple said they were sorry for the mess they’d gotten themselves into.
The results of the study clearly showed that judges were more willing to approve a plan when the debtor apologized. More than 40 percent of the judges who reviewed the repayment with an apology included approved the plan. Fewer than 35 percent of the judges who reviewed the plan without an apology approved it.
In short, subjective factors as well as objective ones may be involved when judges review bankruptcy petitions.
Source: “Do Apologies Matter in Bankruptcy?” The Wall Street Journal, Katy Stech, 2-15-13
Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post in the San Antonio area. To learn more about our practice, please visit our page on consumer bankruptcy.