Tough economic times, high unemployment rates, and record-high foreclosures have resulted in rising bankruptcy filings. Maryland has seen a 36 percent rise in filings from fiscal year 2007 (FY07) to fiscal year 2008 (FY08) (the federal fiscal year runs October 1st through September 30th). As filings continue to rise, so do the number of pro se filers. Overall, Maryland has seen a 24 percent rise in pro se filings from FY07 to FY08. Over that 12 month period, Chapter 13 pro se filings rose 30 percent. Of approximately 17, 400 cases filed in the district in FY08, 11 percent were filed pro se. When considering the chapter specific breakdown for this period, 20 percent of all Chapter 13 cases were filed pro se while 7 percent of all Chapter 7 cases were filed pro se.
Bankruptcy is a complex area of the law. If a case is improperly handled by a pro se party, it can have serious and long-lasting effects on the debtor’s financial and legal situation. Pro se parties are clearly disadvantaged by not having an experienced bankruptcy attorney working on their case. Statistics show that attorney filers’ success rate (defined by those cases resulting in a discharge of debts) is approximately 30 percent higher than that of pro se filers, and case dismissals are twice as likely without an attorney.
In an effort to expand services to low income debtors, who would otherwise attempt to file pro se, the following initiatives have been developed through collaboration between the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the Bankruptcy Bar Association, the Maryland State Bar Association, the U.S. Trustees Office, the Chapter 13 Trustees, and the Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service.
Note: Additional pro se bankruptcy statistics are available on the Court’s statistics page and are available upon request from the Court’s Pro Bono Coordinator at 410-962-3813 or Ronda_Washington@mdb.uscourts.gov.