Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.
My mother used to tell me that when she was growing up in Brooklyn, a cheap date would be to go to night court and watch the litigants.
If you’re curious about bankruptcy or thinking of filing bankruptcy, you can see for yourself what actually happens in bankruptcy court, by visiting our Central Islip Bankruptcy Courthouse.
Although many bankruptcy matters are mundane and routine, someone who has never been in a bankruptcy court before should find the hearings interesting, and if you’re lucky, you will see some human drama and real life theater.
Interesting Things Happen in Bankruptcy Court
I often find myself in the Long Island Bankruptcy Court in Central Islip with time to kill. I may have arrived early for some hearings or I may find that I have a block of time with nothing to do in between hearings.
So how do I pass the time? Well, sometimes I’ll catch up on work or go to the law library. But frequently, I’ll find a bankruptcy courtroom with some action and sit in to see what’s going on. It’s a great way to find out how the bankruptcy judges are resolving other pending issues.
Typical hearings include matters in Chapter 7, Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. Creditors may be arguing that the bankruptcy stay should be lifted. Trustees may be suing various parties to turn over assets. Creditors may be litigating about whether they are entitled to priority or secured status. Trustees may be seeking approval of their attorney’s fees and trustee commissions. Creditors may be suing debtors over the dischargeability of their debts. Debtors may be seeking to have their Chapter 13 plans confirmed. The list goes on and on.
You, Too, Can Get Some Bankruptcy Court Action
That’s because judges only get involved with resolving disputes in bankruptcy cases, and most consumer cases do not have disputes that require the consumer debtor to appear before the judge.
Here’s what you can do. If you are filing for bankruptcy, you will have at least one hearing in court called the meeting of creditors. This is when you meet with the trustee on the fifth floor. Afterwards, you can often go upstairs to one of the bankruptcy courtrooms and see attorneys arguing cases before one of the three bankruptcy judges — Judge Dorothy Eisenberg on the seventh floor; Judge Robert Grossman on the eighth floor; and Judge Alan Trust on the ninth floor.
The Bankruptcy Court on Long Island is Open and Welcomes Your Visit to Its Courtrooms
Bankruptcy courtrooms are public places and always open to the public.
Watching real-life courtroom drama has proved so popular, that we have the People’s Court, Divorce Court, Judge Judy, Judge Alex, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Wapner and a host of other realty TV courtroom programs.
However, you can see for yourself live what actually goes on in a real bankruptcy courtroom, right here in Suffolk County.
The Bankruptcy Courtroom Cast of Characters
The cast of characters is shifting, yet somehow constant. There’s the bankruptcy judge who presides over all hearings. Then, an attorney from the Office of the United States Trustee often sits in or is a party to various matters.
Of course, there is the debtor and his attorney, creditors’ attorneys, Chapter 7 and 13 trustees, various professionals, and more.
You will see lawyers and parties constantly filing in and out, although most litigants arrive timely for their hearings.
The Bankruptcy Courtroom
The courtrooms in the Central Islip Federal Courthouse are extremely modern and impressive. There are ceilings that must be close to 20 feet high. There are two tables in the front of the courtroom — just like on Perry Mason — for two opposing parties to sit at.
The judge sits at a high desk in the front called “the bench.” There are also desks in the front for the courtroom deputy and the court reporter. A low rail divides the room — with the judge and litigants on one side and the public on the other. Parties get to the front of the courtroom through a low, swinging gate.
Unlike some older courts in Manhattan, you will not find decades-old petrified chewing gum on the floor, creaking wooden furniture, Venetian blinds in a state of disarray, or tobacco stains on the tables of a vintage when smoking was permitted there.
When and Where to Go
Just feel free to wander into one of the courtrooms. Most judges have hearing dates several days a week, and most hearings are in the morning. You can also see a calendar of courtroom matters which is kept on the counter in the Bankruptcy Court Clerk’s office, which is on the second floor. Here are the Courtrooms:
Judge Eisenberg — Room 760
Judge Grossman — Room 860
Judge Trust — Room 960