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What are California Bankruptcy Records?

California bankruptcy court records are officially recognized filings of information about legal processes involved with persons, agencies, and corporate organizations seeking debt relief. Title 11 of the United States Code on Bankruptcy governs bankruptcy matters and has been adopted by every state, including California. Federal Bankruptcy Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over these cases. There are four Federal Bankruptcy Court districts in California:

  • Central District: there are seven divisions to this district, including Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Ana, San Fernando Valley
  • Eastern District: serves 34 counties at three office divisions, including Sacramento, Modesto, and Fresno
  • Northern District: handles cases from 15 counties under four divisions, including San Jose, San Francisco, San Rosa, and Oakland
  • Southern District: serves Imperial and San Diego counties at a single office located in San Diego

The above listed courts handle the different bankruptcy cases according to the chapter numbers in the US Bankruptcy Code. Records generated from these cases are stored in the courthouses where the case was filed and a federal electronic system accessible on any device with an internet connection. Links to these records can be also obtained through third-party websites such as California.CourtRecords.org.

What do California Bankruptcy Records Contain?

A bankruptcy record in California contains all information about a bankruptcy case filing, including:

  • File number of the case
  • Name(s) of debtor(s), or principal party(or parties);
  • Date of case filing
  • Type of petition ( whether it was voluntary or not)
  • Category of the petition ( chapter under which the petition was filed)
  • Contact information about the debtor's attorney such as name and phone number
  • Name of trustee
  • Name of the presiding Judge
  • Discharge and closing dates;
  • List of assets in the case, if any
  • Status of the case
  • Court disposition on the case
  • The docket number of the case
  • Additional documents depending on the type of bankruptcy case, and other adjoining matters.

Are Bankruptcy Records Public Information?

In California, bankruptcy cases are available to any interested member of the public in line with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which gives all citizens the right to access information present in government records. Access to these documents have no restrictions under the law, provided an individual has the necessary information needed to access them. These documents contain the case number, full names of the parties involved, and the Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Bankruptcy records are available at the courthouse where the case was filed and online in the state.

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 California Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy records are available by default at the Bankruptcy Courthouse in the district where the case was filed. A requester can use the public access terminals to view an electronic version of a bankruptcy record at the courthouse. To obtain paper copies, walk into the bankruptcy division of the court office to make a request. Requesters must have the bankruptcy case number of the record of interest. Case numbers can be obtained using the Court Automated Voice Information System available in each bankruptcy courthouse. Charges for searches and photocopies may apply. Certified copies also require the docket number of the record in question. These can be obtained from a public access terminal or through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). PACER is a web-based system that provides users with an internet connection and a user account to view case documents and print on preference, at a fee.

Requesters can also obtain copies of records through a phone call or mail request. Mailed requests for certified records must include the following information:

  • The case number of the record
  • Name of debtor
  • The docket number of record
  • Daytime telephone number of the requester
  • Self-addressed, stamped return envelope of accurate size and postage for documents requested

Each court district has a fee schedule for requests that are processed. Only bank cashier checks and US postal service money orders are accepted as forms of payment. If the bankruptcy case has been closed for a year or more, it may have been archived with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Request archive information about the record from the Courthouse Clerk's office before requesting an archived document. These are Transfer, Location Number, and Box Numbers. After that, place a request directly to NARA using the request form.

How do I Find Out if My Bankruptcy Case is Closed in California?

Generally, bankruptcy cases have the shortest resolution time-frame. Other case types may take up to five or six years. A bankruptcy case is said to be closed when all legal activities involved in the case have been completed. Completion means that all motions and petitions have been ruled upon by the court. A statement is filed in cases where a trustee is appointed, stating that all trustee duties have been completed, then a notice is sent via mail to the debtor or the debtor's attorney.

Can a Bankruptcy be Expunged in California?

It is possible to expunge a bankruptcy record in California. Although there are no direct provisions for the expunction of a bankruptcy record in the federal bankruptcy code, there are provisions to protect the privacy rights of persons or organizations that have filed for bankruptcy. Upon request, a document can be deleted by court order. In many cases, the reason for the request forms the underlying basis for the court injunction. Some of them are:

  • The need to keep a trade secret
  • A filing that was made without the consent of the involved party
  • A record containing information with defamatory potential
  • Cases of identity theft

If the expunction is not feasible, the court can move a motion to remove sensitive information from the record system to protect the involved party's privacy. A motion to expunge a bankruptcy record can be filed in California bankruptcy courts. To file a motion, visit the courthouse office to obtain information about the process. The Central District of California Bankruptcy Courts Website provides a series of steps to expunge a bankruptcy record.

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