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Column No. 15, May 1996
Copyright 1996 Robert J. Ambrogi
Bankruptcy Resources Abound On The Internet
By Robert J. Ambrogi
The Internet is far from bankrupt when it comes to resources relating to the laws regulating insolvency and corporate reorganizations.
Federal laws and regulations, bankruptcy court decisions, current news, educational materials, and even current case documents and notices are available online.
Here is a guide to finding bankruptcy laws and information on the Internet.
On the Internet, you can find both the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, http://www.law.cornell.edu:80/uscode/11, and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, gopher://hamilton1.house.gov/11d:/uscode/title11a.
U.S. bankruptcy courts do not generally have their decisions available on the Internet, with two exceptions. One is Massachusetts, where the Boston law firm Craig & Macauley has created "The Massachusetts Bankruptcy Page" (http://prospex.com/craig-macauley/bankruptcy.html). This site contains a searchable database of the full text of all published decisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Massachusetts from Jan. 1, 1995, to the present.
The other is the American Bankruptcy Institute's library of bankruptcy court decisions (see below). Unfortunately, the library is not easy to search and offers little guidance as to its scope and content.
Dockets, records and sometimes decisions of most bankruptcy courts can be accessed online through the federal courts' electronic bulletin-board system, PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). To use PACER, you must preregister by calling (800) 676-6856 and then dial in using your computer's modem. You will be charged an access fee of 75 cents a minute.
A complete list of PACER phone numbers can be found on the Web at: http://www.uscourts.gov/PubAccess.html.
Summaries of significant Missouri and 8th Circuit bankruptcy decisions can be found on the Web through "Bankruptcy Notes," a monthly, electronic publication from the University of Missouri School of Law. It is at: http://www.law.umkc.edu/banknot.htm.
Bankruptcy Law Primers
A general introduction to bankruptcy law and related Internet resources is available from the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School. It is at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/bankruptcy.html.
A more in-depth bankruptcy course is offered over the Web from the University of Arizona College of Law. It includes discussions of chapters 7 and 13 and will later include a course on Chapter 11. It is at: http://lion.ccit.arizona.edu/law1/bankruptcy.html.
An FAQ (answers to frequently asked questions) about personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7, written for consumers, can be found at: http://www.bhs.com:80/art/bkfaq.html. It was prepared by Arthur Y. Baker, a lawyer in Santa Ana, Calif.
The Bankruptcy Lawfinder, http://www.tiac.net/users/agin/blawfind.html, is the most comprehensive collection on the Internet of links to bankruptcy related resources. It is maintained by Warren E. Agin, a lawyer with the Boston law firm Barron & Stadfeld.
The American Bankruptcy Institute is an organization of 5,200 insolvency professionals, including bankruptcy judges, attorneys, trustees, accountants, and others. Its Web site, ABI World, http://www.abiworld.org, is a comprehensive resource of bankruptcy information. It includes an extensive library of bankruptcy court decisions, although they are indexed only by name and date and there is no search engine. It also has daily and weekly summaries of important bankruptcy news, a library of bankruptcy-related press releases, a calendar of events, legislative updates, and articles from its newsletter, Cracking the Code. From this Web site, ABI members can also access ABI Online, a restricted-access service, and Cordant Inc., where data for Chapter 7, 11, 12 and 13 filings is available.
The Internet Bankruptcy Library, http://bankrupt.com, is a one-stop shopping site for the bankruptcy professional. It offers a variety of original resources and links to other online materials. Among the resources offered here: news from the bankruptcy world; information on discussion groups and mailing lists focusing on particular troubled companies; archives of T&W Newswire, a bankruptcy related news and announcement mailing list; data on distressed securities;
bankruptcy and insolvency resource materials; an international directory of bankruptcy and insolvency professionals; directories of bankruptcy conferences, organizations and publications; and other information.
The Law Journal EXTRA! bankruptcy page, http://www.ljx.com/practice/bankruptcy/index.html, includes current news stories related to bankruptcy law from the National Law Journal and New York Law Journal. It also offers archives of columns and law-firm memoranda on bankruptcy-related topics, and links to other bankruptcy resources on the Internet.
The Executive Office for U.S. Trustees was created by the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 to ensure compliance with the administration of bankruptcy cases. Its Web site, http://gopher.usdoj.gov/offices/ust.html, offers general information about the trustee program.
The Trustees Office also has a gopher site, gopher://justice2.usdoj.gov:70/11/ust, that includes, among other things, the trustee's "Guidelines for Reviewing Applications for Compensation."
LegalLink, http://www.hunt.com/legal.html, is an interactive Internet-based legal noticing and advertising service provided by Huntington Legal Advertising and Poorman-Douglas. This service supports traditional notice mailing and newspaper and broadcast notification programs. Once a notice is posted on LegalLink, attorneys, creditors and others are made aware that it is being archived there through traditional newspaper legal advertisements.
For bankruptcy matters, LegalLink contains an archive of Chapter 11 notices and case documents, a database of Chapter 11 companies, a proof-of-claim form that can be filled out online, bankruptcy news, and links to other bankruptcy resources.
A related company is Poorman-Douglas Legal Services, http://www.hunt.com/poorman/home.htm, a bankruptcy-case data processing firm. Its services include database management, notice mailings, advertising, 800 number creditor/claimant hotlines, and disbursement.
Credit Management Information & Support manages a site with general information about business bankruptcies, http://www.teleport.com/~richh/bankruptcy.html.
Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of legal.online, a monthly newsletter about the Internet published by Legal Communications Ltd., Philadelphia. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (978) 546-7898.