What are Louisiana Bankruptcy Records?
Persons who are unable to pay a debt or meet financial obligations may file for bankruptcy. Under federal laws, bankruptcy releases debtors from financial responsibility and creditors from filing lawsuits or compelling the debtor to make payment. Bankruptcy records contain information about the bankruptcy process, from filing to case disposition. It also includes the petitioner’s financial information and the names and addresses of all the petitioner’s creditors.
In the United States, federal law provides for bankruptcy; consequently, only federal courts handle bankruptcy cases. State courts are not authorized to hear bankruptcy cases. Although bankruptcy laws are federal, Louisiana has specific provisions and conditions for filing bankruptcy, such as exempted assets and bankruptcy alternatives. There are three (3) federal bankruptcy courts in Louisiana:
- United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Louisiana
- United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Louisiana
- United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
The Louisiana Western District Bankruptcy Court serves the following counties in its jurisdiction: Acadia, Cameron, Allen, Claiborne, Avoyelles, Concordia, Beauregard, Caldwell, Bienville, Catahoula, Bossier, Caddo, De Sota, Calcasieu, Evangeline, East Carroll, Franklin, Lafayette, Grant, Lincoln, Iberia, Madison, Jackson, Morehouse, Jefferson Davis, Vermilion, Natchitoches, Tensas, La Salle, Red River, Ouachita, Richland, Rapides, Sabine, Union, Saint Landry, Saint Martin, Saint Mary, Webster, Vernon, Winn, West Carroll. The court has locations in Alexandria, Lake Charles, Monroe, Lafayette, Shreveport.
The Louisiana Middle District Bankruptcy court hears cases that originate from counties within the court’s jurisdiction, including Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Saint Helena, East Feliciana, Iberville, West Feliciana, Livingston, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee. The courthouse is in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana Eastern District Bankruptcy Court serves Assumption, Tangipahoa, Jefferson, Washington, Lafourche, Terrebonne, Orleans, Plaquemines, Saint Bernard, Saint James, Saint Charles, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Tammany. The only courthouse is in New Orleans.
Bankruptcy courts have Bankruptcy Clerks who manage court records. Interested parties may contact Bankruptcy Clerks or visit the courthouse to make inquiries about bankruptcy court records. Since bankruptcy records are public records, it is possible to access bankruptcy court records online through public government-websites, case file management systems, and third-party websites.
What do Louisiana Bankruptcy Records Contain?
Louisiana bankruptcy records contain all the documents generated in the bankruptcy process. Typically, a bankruptcy case begins when a person files a petition with the court. Persons who intend to file for bankruptcy must undergo credit counseling at least six (6) months before filing. Upon filing a petition, the bankruptcy court analyzes the petitioner’s financial statements, including income and assets. A means test then determines which type of bankruptcy the petitioner qualifies for. The petitioner must also gather evidence of income, living expenses, significant transactions in the two years before filing, debt, tax returns, property, real estate deals, car titles, and any loan documentation.
Requesting parties can expect to find the above-listed information in a Louisiana bankruptcy record, in addition to:
- Debtor’s name
- Name and address of the debtor’s legal representative
- Case number
- Case type
- Bankruptcy trustee’s name
- Case judge’s name
- Case status
- Case disposition
Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information?
Yes, bankruptcy records are public records. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), records generated and maintained by public agencies are public records. Except bankruptcy records are sealed or exempted from public access by law, federal agencies must provide public records on request. Exemptions to the FOIA include:
- Information designated classified by executive order
- Information related to the practices and staff rules of a government agency
- Information exempted from public access by another federal law
- Records that protect confidential financial information and trade secrets
- Records protected by product privilege
- Medical records for which disclosure would be an invasion of privacy
- Records that protect law enforcement processes
- Records containing information relating to the regulation of financial institutions
- Records that protect geophysical data and geographical information
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Get Louisiana Bankruptcy Records
Interested parties may access bankruptcy records online or in person at the Bankruptcy Clerk’s office. To obtain physical copies of bankruptcy records, requesting parties must contact the Bankruptcy Clerk of the court that heard the bankruptcy case. Clerks are record custodians, and the law requires clerks to provide public records on request. The Bankruptcy Clerk may require requesting parties to submit written requests and present government-issued photo identification at the point of the request. Additionally, the court may charge fees to produce copies of bankruptcy records. Persons interested in accessing bankruptcy records at no charge may do so online using the McVCIS and PACER services.
The Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS) is a national repository of court records that allows users to search court records using a mobile phone. To use the McVCIS, requesting parties may dial 1–866–222–8029, a toll-free number, and follow the voice prompts. Users must have details such as the case number, case party name, case party’s tax identification number, or social security number. Users may search five (5) records on each call.
Interested parties may also access bankruptcy records online through PACER, a service through which the United States Judiciary makes court records available to the public. Each court holds case records on local databases. Consequently, users may access Louisiana bankruptcy court records directly by visiting the following websites: Louisiana Western District Bankruptcy Court, Louisiana Eastern District Bankruptcy Court, and Louisiana Middle District Bankruptcy Court. Users must register for a PACER account to access court records. Registration is free; however, requesting parties must pay a charge of $0.10 for each page and $2.40 for each audio file. Payment for access to PACER access is quarterly, but for users who accrue only $30 or less each quarter, the system waives access fees.
How do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in Louisiana?
Louisiana residents may inquire about personal bankruptcy case statuses from the Bankruptcy Clerk in the court that heard the case or where the petitioner filed the case. Case status is part of the information present in bankruptcy records; therefore, interested parties may request the Bankruptcy Clerk records or check online using PACER or the McVCIS.
Can a Bankruptcy be Expunged in Louisiana?
The court generally reserves expungement for records of criminal offenses. When the court issues an order of expungement, all government agencies with copies of files relating to the case in question must either delete or seal the files, depending on the court order. If the court orders a complete deletion, then all government agencies must remove the files from databases. The court index indicates that the court has expunged the record. If the court orders a sealing, then the records will no longer be publicly accessible.
Because bankruptcy records are not of criminal offenses or proceedings, expungement does not apply. However, to protect citizens against defamation, the court may grant a sealing order for bankruptcy records.