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For most individuals and small businesses, there are two principal forms of bankruptcy: Chapter 7 (strait bankruptcy) and Chapter 13 (debt repayment.) Chapter 7 is used by individuals who wish to get a discharge of their debt and start over. Chapter 7 is occasionally used by corporations to wind up their business. Chapter 13 is used by individuals to repay some or all of their debt. Some businesses repay debt through Chapter 11, but that is a rare form of bankruptcy, usually used by large corporations.


The Court:  The Bankruptcy Code is a federal law, and so Bankruptcy Courts are federal courts.  They operate in separate districts throughout the United States.   The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of  New York includes all bankruptcies filed  in and west of Wayne, Seneca, Schuyler and Chemung Counties. 

The Court Clerk operates two offices, one in Rochester (100 State Street in the first floor of the Federal Building) and one in Buffalo (300 Pearl Street, Suite 250.) The Court Clerk is Paul R. Warren, who splits his time between the two offices. Todd M. Stickle is the Assistant Court Clerk in Charge of the Rochester office.

There are three Bankruptcy Judges in the Court; two in Buffalo (Hon. Michael J. Kaplan and Hon. Carl I. Bucki) and one in Rochester (Hon. John C. Ninfo II). The Court has two divisions: cases filed in Monroe, Wayne, Livingston, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Yates, Schuyler and Chemung Counties are assigned to the Rochester Division and cases west of there are assigned to Buffalo. Hearings for Rochester Division cases are held in the U.S. Courthouse, 100 State Street, Rochester, except for cases filed in Schuyler, Steuben and Chemung Counties. In those three counties, hearings are held once a month (usually the last Friday of the month) at the Schuyler County Courthouse, Watkins Glen New York.

In Chapter 7 cases, a "panel trustee" is assigned to each case shortly after it is filed. The Chapter 7 trustees are all private attorneys who do trustee work part-time. There are eleven trustees in the Buffalo Division and eight in Rochester. Besides Mr. Scribner, the other seven trustees in Rochester are Michael H. Arnold; C. Bruce Lawrence; Douglas J. Lustig; Lucien A. Morin II; Kenneth W. Gordon; Warren H. Heilbronner; and Richard P. Vullo. Mr. Heilbronner is the senior member of the panel, having served as a trustee since 1961.

There are two Chapter 13 trustees in the Western District: Albert J. Mogavero in Buffalo and George M. Reiber (pronounced "rye-burr") in Rochester. The Chapter 13 trustee position is full time; in fact, each of these trustees has a staff of people to assist in the administration of their cases. There is usually no trustee appointed in Chapter 11 business reorganization cases. The business itself acts as its own trustee.

Both the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 trustees are appointed by, and supervised by, the Office of the United States Trustee. This office, usually just called the "UST", is a branch of the United States Department of Justice. The Regional office for this area is in New York City. There are local offices in both Rochester and Buffalo. The Assistant United States Trustee for Buffalo is Christopher K. Reed and in Rochester it is Kathleen Dunivin Schmitt. Ms. Schmitt came to Rochester from Maryland in the Summer of 2003. Besides overseeing trustees, the UST closely monitors Chapter 11 cases and also monitors bankruptcy cases for abuse and fraud. Debtors who are unhappy with the conduct of their attorney, and debtors or creditors who are unhappy with the conduct of their trustee, may forward their complaints to the UST (Rochester address: 100 State Street; Rochester NY 14614.)