Berliner v. Pappalardo, No. 11-1831 (1st Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Debtor had unsecured liabilities of almost $15,000 and anticipated disposable income of about $100 per month. He visited an attorney, who indicated that he would not file a Chapter 7 proceeding until the debtor paid the anticipated legal fee ($2,300). If debtor chose the Chapter 13 alternative, he could pay over time as part of the Chapter 13 plan. The attorney estimated that fees associated with a Chapter 13 proceeding would total $4,100. Not having fees for a Chapter 7 filing, the debtor opted for Chapter 13 and paid $500 on account. The attorney submitted a “fee only” Chapter 13 plan that called for payment of $100 per month for 36 months to the bankruptcy estate. Of the total $3,600, only about $300 would be available to general creditors. The bankruptcy court rejected the plan as not submitted in good faith. The debtor opted to convert to Chapter 7; the attorney moved for an award of $2,872. The bankruptcy court awarded $299, which required him to disgorge more than $200. The district court affirmed. Noting a division in the circuits, the First Circuit reversed, holding that fee-only plans are not per se in bad faith.