Nearly 1 million people filed for bankruptcy in the United States last year. In the Lowcountry, personal bankruptcy cases are heard in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Charleston.
Monthly waited in line with people trying to get out from under their debts, and found that sometimes the real story starts with Chapter 7.
On a dreary, drizzling January morning, they file into the nondescript office building in the middle of Charleston’s historic district. They come from cities and towns like Conway, Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Edisto Island and Ridgeland.
There are young and old people, couples leaning on each other, single women and single men, black, white, Hispanic.
There are few smiles, and a feel of jangled nerves and tension permeates the atmosphere. That’s because these people are all heading into the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of South Carolina. They are not alone. Almost a million people in the United States filed for personal bankruptcy in the first three quarters of 2012, according to federal records.
On this day as petitioners file into the courtroom, a clearly angry man storms out cursing and yells to the others that he “hopes you have a better day in there than me!”
Most of the cases take about 5-10 minutes. There are no red flags and the lawyers and their clients file out. But there are several cases where Trustee Kevin Campbell picks apart the filing and questions the petitioner in-depth, particularly about what may be hidden assets.