When something bad happens in your bankruptcy case, who gets the blame?
The responsibility for your bankruptcy case is first and foremost squarely on your own shoulders. Your attorney works on your case. It is not your lawyer’s case – it is your case. Sure, when something goes wrong you can complain about your attorney. You may even sue your attorney or cry “foul” to the office of chief disciplinary counsel. Unfortunately, none of that will get you out of trouble.
Just ask Teresa Giudice who is suing her former bankruptcy lawyer for $5 million. The Real Housewives of New Jersey star claims it is the malpractice of her attorney that is responsible for her sentence of 15 months in federal prison for fraud. Giudice’s husband, Joe, was also convicted of federal fraud. But claims of malpractice or a lawsuit against her lawyer will not stop Ms. Giudice or her husband from serving their sentences.
Pointing the finger at your attorney is not usually a defense to a criminal act; in fact, it is often evidence of your own culpability and guilt. Your bankruptcy petition and schedules are signed under threat of perjury. Testimony at a 341 Meeting of Creditors or in court is given under oath and recorded. Signing your name and giving testimony are your own free acts, so be sure that you are stating the full and complete truth.
Consider the case of James Roti. After a creditor obtained a $400,000 judgment against him, Mr. Roti hid his assets and lied to his creditors, to the federal bankruptcy court, and to the bankruptcy trustee. Roti was charged with bankruptcy fraud. At trial Roti testified that his lawyer put him up to it. He argued that he should be acquitted of bankruptcy fraud charges because he was following the advice of counsel, and that his attorney managed the scheme’s details.
The jury rejected Roti’s defense of “not me, him” because it is not a defense at all. In fact, Roti freely admitted committing bankruptcy fraud. Roti was convicted of bankruptcy fraud and of concealing assets from the bankruptcy trustee. He was sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment.
If you are considering lying, hiding assets, or some other dishonest act during bankruptcy – don’t do it! Once you are discovered you will pay the price and no amount of blaming your attorney will help you.