Are the bankruptcy courts and 341 meetings closed or cancelled because of the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Some are, and more will be.

As of today (March 13, 2020), bankruptcy court hearings will be done by telephone, but 341 Meetings are still done in person (this will change). (5 hours after writing this, I received an email from a chapter 7 trustee cancelling the 341 Meetings for next week).

Here in Utah, the U.S Bankruptcy Court for the District of Utah just sent out an email telling the attorneys that “all hearings scheduled in the Court through April 13, 2020 shall be conducted by telephone.” General Order No.: 20-002. You can click on the link to read the order. The order was accompanied with an email to all bankruptcy attorneys stating:

Urgent: All Hearings to be Conducted by Telephone Due to Concerns of the COVID-19 Virus
Mar 12, 2020, 5:28 PM (15 hours ago)
March 12, 2020, 4:30 PM (MDT) – Due to concerns associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Court is initiating operational changes to protect the health and safety of the public, bar and the Court. By order of the Court, effective immediately, all matters scheduled through April 13 will be conducted telephonically. Instructions on how parties will make their telephonic appearance will be posted on the Court’s website at http://www.utb.uscourts.gov. In addition, if you are scheduled for an upcoming court appearance, all attorneys and unrepresented parties will be contacted by email, mail, or phone. Parties are encouraged to attempt to resolve matters without the need for court appearances to the greatest extent practicable.

This order helps protect the judiciary and attorneys for court appearances, but unfortunately, most of bankruptcy appearance revolve around the 341 Meeting of Creditors, where 8-20 debtors and creditors meet in a meeting room with their attorneys and the bankruptcy trustee to conduct their 341 Meeting. As of today, the 341 Meeting are still in person. That being said, this morning (March 13, 2020), the Chapter 13 Trustee for Utah Lon Jenkins, just sent out an email sharing the court order above and also advising that:

In addition, the Chapter 13 Office will be working in the coming days to establish a protocol for conducting section 341 meetings remotely to avoid the necessity of large group gatherings.

Thank you for your cooperation during this challenging time.

Best,

Lon Jenkins

In other words, those in-person 341 Meetings are probably going to be rescheduled and/or conducted telephonically.

Until then, if you’re worried about exposure to a group of strangers at the 341 Meeting, you should let your attorney know. He should be able to reschedule the meeting until everything gets sorted out. I have a strong hunch that the courts will be signing all of those motions to continue/reschedule almost immediately.

Good luck, and wash your hands.

Update: 5 hours after posting this, I received an email from a chapter 7 trustee stating:

I have just been notified by the US Trustee’s Office that the 341 Meetings scheduled for March 16, 2020 will not be held. The Meetings will be continued and the Court will send notice to all parties in interest. Please notify your clients.