The place where you live usually determines where your bankruptcy case will be filed.
Your bankruptcy case will be filed in the federal district in which you have resided the longer of the last 180 days prior to the filing of your bankruptcy case. It would also be proper to file a case in the place where your principal assets are located. The place where your principal place of business is located is also a proper venue for the filing of your bankruptcy case.
Understanding the Federal Court System Will Enable You to Determine Where Your Case Will Be Filed
To understand exactly where you case will be filed and where you will go to Court, you need to understand how the Federal Court system is divided. The United States Supreme Court is the highest Court in the land. The Federal Court System is then broken into Circuits and further broken down into districts and then divisions. There are eleven judicial circuits. Alabama is located in the Eleventh Circuit. The Federal Courts in Alabama are divided into three federal districts. Those districts are the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama. All bankruptcy courts are units of the district court for the district in which they sit. When a bankruptcy case is filed, it is automatically redirected from the district court to the bankruptcy court. This is called the Rule of Reference.
The Structure of the Northern District of Alabama Federal District Court
The Northern District of Alabama is divided into four divisions. Each division is made up of counties located within the Northern half of the state.
The Southern Division of the Northern District of Alabama
The Southern Division includes Blount, Jefferson and Shelby counties. The Southern Division Bankruptcy Judges hear cases in Birmingham, Alabama. There are three Bankruptcy Judges in the Southern Division. Those judges are the Honorable Thomas B. Bennett, the Honorable Benjamin G. Cohen, and the Honorable Tamara O. Mitchell. If you live in Blount, Jefferson, or Shelby County, your case will randomly be assigned to one of the three Birmingham Bankruptcy Judges. Each of the Bankruptcy Judges have their own staff, expectations, and procedures. Hiring an experienced bankruptcy lawyer is extremely important in any division but the different expectations of the three judges in the Southern Division make experience an even more critical factor.
The Eastern Division of the Northern District of Alabama
The Eastern Division includes the following counties: Marshall, De Kalb, Cherokee, Etowah, St. Clair, Calhoun, Cleburne, Talladega, and Clay. Judge James Robinson is the Bankruptcy Judge in the Eastern Division. Judge Robinson hears cases in Anniston and Gadsden, Alabama.
The Western Division of the Northern District of Alabama
The Western Division includes Marion County, Winston County, Walker County, Lamar County, Fayette County, Tuscaloosa County, Pickens County, Sumter County, Green County, and Bibb County. The Honorable C. Michael Stilson is the Bankruptcy Judge for the Western Division. Judge Stilson hears cases in Jasper and Tuscaloosa.
The Northern Division of the Northern District of Alabama
The Northern Division includes the following counties: Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, Jackson, Colbert, Franklin, Lawrence, Morgan, Winston, and Cullman. The Honorable Jack Caddell is the Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern Division.