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Adversary Proceedings

Adversary Proceeding vs. Bankruptcy Case

An Adversary Proceeding is Different From the Main Bankruptcy Case - The main bankruptcy case involves a debtor and the creditors of that debtor, and the main bankruptcy case has its own separate electronic docket and case number. An "Adversary Proceeding" in bankruptcy court has the same meaning as a lawsuit in other courts. This means that one or more "plaintiff(s)" file a "complaint" against one or more "defendant(s)." In many situations an adversary proceeding is required if a plaintiff wants to obtain a particular type of relief. Consult Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure Rule 7001 to determine if a particular type of relief requires an adversary proceeding.

When an adversary proceeding is commenced, the clerk's office starts a separate electronic docket to record all activity in the adversary proceeding. Each adversary proceeding has its own "Adversary Proceeding No." which can be found on the first page of the complaint, right below the main bankruptcy case number. In this bankruptcy court, adversary proceeding numbers start with a "9" after the year designation, e.g. YY-900XX. After an adversary complaint is filed, a summons and a copy of the complaint must be served on the defendant(s). The summons will also give notice of a scheduling conference at which the parties come before the judge to schedule a trial date. After service of the complaint and summons, each defendant has a specific deadline to file and serve a written response, after which a series of pretrial hearings/conferences take place until the lawsuit is settled, dismissed, or goes to trial. If a defendant fails to file a timely answer or response to the complaint, the plaintiff may request that the clerk enter default, followed by a motion for a default judgment to be entered in favor of the plaintiff.

It is not unusual for a debtor's attorney to exclude representation in an adversary proceeding. However, it is very much in the debtor's interest to seek assistance from that attorney for an additional fee or from another attorney familiar with bankruptcy rules and procedures. This is true also if the debtor is the plaintiff suing another party. Bankruptcy litigation can be complex and professional assistance is highly recommended.