ABOUT THE FIRM
In 1982, the Bankruptcy Law Center opened its doors to both debtor and creditor clients who insisted upon specialized expertise in this particular field of Federal law. The Bankruptcy Law Center focuses exclusively on Bankruptcy Law, Real Estate Law, Consumer Protection Law, Business Law, Litigation, and IRS Tax Debt Problems.
As the original Bankruptcy Law Center in California with over 30 years of experience, our office is centrally located in Berkeley, California and we represent clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Albany, Richmond, San Rafael, Novato, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Concord, Pinole, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Dublin, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek, Brentwood, Fremont, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, Solano County and Sonoma County.
While our primary location for bankruptcy filings is in the office of the United States Bankruptcy Court in Oakland, which oversees Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, we can also process filings for venues virtually anywhere in California since bankruptcies are covered under Federal Law. The Bankruptcy Law Center has successfully argued cases in Vallejo, Modesto, Fresno, Sacramento, Monterey, and even in San Diego and Los Angeles.
We worked tirelessly in helping a debtor save his home with mortgage arrears of over $100,000.00, and saved countless others from losing their homes. We have a winning strategy that got rid of one million dollars of taxes for a client, and we continue to protect many people from the IRS and other tax debts. We have litigated numerous times with the government to wipe out student loans and have won. We work against credit card companies who try to defraud debtors with confusing language and we win. We aggressively litigate collection and credit card lawsuits, winning the overwhelming number of these lawsuits. With a proven track record for success, let the Bankruptcy Law Center solve your problems.
2119 Addison Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
10203 Barnett Valley Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Mon–Fri: 9 AM to 5 PM
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
Unfair Creditor Practices
We sue creditors that defraud, harass, and overcharge Americans. You are protected by laws against harassment, real estate predatory practices, bad faith conduct by banks. Too often creditors ignore, and in some cases, openly violate the consumer protection laws. For example, it is extremely rare for car lenders to follow the disclosure rules for co-signers and instead they identify the co-signer as one of the "owners" of the vehicle. This is a predatory practice.
Our law firm believes the Credit Report is your key to future financial success. We will help correct mistakes and sue the credit reporting agencies for breaking the law. Truth in Lending and Predatory Loan violations will also be investigated.
Real Estate Law
Our law firm assists both individuals and businesses with a variety of real estate issues, including landlord and tenant issues, real estate fraud, drafting of real estate contracts, lawsuits involving real estate matters, residential and commercial leases, purchase and sale of property, foreclosures, and other real estate litigation.
We recognize that small businesses have unique needs and we will provide the best representation for you. We have extensive experience working with restaurants regarding business contracts, agreement preparation, sales and purchases, leases, vendor fraud, and other small business issues. We also handle collection issues on behalf of small businesses.
Consumer Protection Law
If you are experiencing trouble due to identity theft or if you have been scammed by a local business or individual we can help sort out these kinds of problems.
IRS Tax Debt
Talk to us regarding questions about Bankruptcy, Real Estate, Business Law, Consumer Protection, Tax Debt, or IRS issues.
ABOUT THE ATTORNEY
Gerard Daniel Launay graduated from one of the top law schools in California, the Boalt Hall Law School at the University of California, Berkeley, and he founded the original Bankruptcy Law Center in California. He wrote his law school dissertation on "Bad Faith in Bankruptcy Cases" and then worked as a research clerk/judicial ex-tern for all bankruptcy judges in Oakland and San Francisco doing cutting edge legal research for the courts. He later served as the attorney for the Bankruptcy Trustees, handling 25% of all the Chapter 7 bankruptcies filed by Alameda and Contra Costa residents and businesses.
Mr. Launay also prepares petitions in Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies, appeals, fraud actions, objections, malpractice suits, and other litigation papers for his clients. In addition to counseling Bankruptcy Trustees, he has also given legal counsel to Bankruptcy Judges and Creditor Committees. Mr. Launay has helped individuals and businesses for over 30 years. His goals are to provide aggressive advocacy without losing a sense of personal warmth and to hold costs down for clients is his number one priority. His State Bar record is 100% clear and he has never been a defendant in a malpractice suit.
Areas Of Practice:
Bankruptcy Law, Real Property Disputes, IRS Tax Collection Disputes, Home Protection, Consumer Law, Landlord & Tenant, Fraud, Business Tort Litigation, Real Estate Partition, Partnership, Forensic Accounting, and Real Estate Financing.
U.S. District Court Central District of California, 1978
U.S. District Court Eastern District of California, 1978
U.S. District Court Northern District of California, 1978
U.S. District Court Southern District of California, 1978
U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit, 1981
University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, June 1978 – J.D., Emphasis in Bankruptcy, Debtor/Creditor Law
Columbia University, New York, New York, June 1975 – B.A., Geological Sciences, Honors: Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa
HELP FOR DEBTORS
When you have a mortgage creditor foreclosing on your home, a bank suing on a debt co-signed for your daughter, a lender repossessing your car, you need HELP right away. The Bankruptcy Law Center puts a lawyer on your side to reverse these life-changing events.
Not all lawyers are skilled in dealing with these problems because filing bankruptcy must not be a knee-jerk reaction. The new law discourages bankruptcy filings. We often tell our clients that the decision "when to file" is often more important than the decision to actually file a Petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. In some cases we have stalled creditor action for years before filing a Petition when this course of conduct was in the client's best interests.
Technically there is no requirement to hire a lawyer so some clients think they are saving money by using a self-help book or hiring a Bankruptcy Petition preparer. If a client chooses these aids, neither the book nor the preparer is allowed to assist the Debtor in Court when problems arise. If you own your own home or boat, it is suicide to file a bankruptcy without the assistance of a knowledgeable counselor. Today, all bankruptcy filings are closely watched by the Department of Justice to determine if the Debtor has available money to pay debt or fund a payment plan. Incorrectly filling out the court forms invites trouble from the government or creditors. The Bankruptcy Law Center is hugely successful in developing a budget that is realistic, accurate, and immune from creditor attacks. New rules introduce stringent budget guidelines that cannot be ignored.
When problems erupt in your bankruptcy case, the nightmare continues. In one case, an attorney who did not regularly practice in bankruptcy law tried to file his own case without help of a specialist. Due to ignorance of a technicality, he lost a quarter of a million dollars of equity in his home. That horrible result was easily avoidable.
In 30 years of practice, we have rarely seen a case where a client actually saved money by filing his or her own Chapter 13. These cases can be tricky and the money you don't pay the lawyer will have to be turned over to the creditors anyway.
The usual rule is that student loans survive a bankruptcy. Hardship allows a person to escape having to pay these loans. This means real hardship, not just an unlucky break in the job market. The Bankruptcy Law Center has tried hardship cases for student loan clients with a very high percentage of wins.
HELP FOR CREDITORS
The Bankruptcy Law Center assists both creditors and debtors in bankruptcy cases and state collection suits. Often we can "see through" the tricks that a bankrupt uses to hide equity in a house, money in the budget, or value in other property.
Federal law requires all those who file bankruptcy to be completely honest. If a Debtor lies, he or she opens an avenue for the creditor to collect. The Bankruptcy Law Center can file an "Objection to Discharge" on the ground of perjury in the proceedings or failure to explain a financial situation.
If the falsehood is important, a Court can take away all the benefits of the bankruptcy for the Debtor. That puts money in your pocket. One common strategy used by our firm is to appear at the Creditors Meeting at the outset of the case and grill the bankrupt as to his property and budget. Many debtors are unprepared for serious interrogation and lies can be uncovered.
There are many avenues to challenge a bankruptcy, and, in fact, the new law makes it much easier to dismiss a bankruptcy filing. If the Debtor never had any intent to pay you, he has committed fraud. He can be sued for misrepresentation in Federal Court. The catch is that the suit must be brought before the Federal Judge and filed within 3 months after the bankruptcy filing.
Debtor's claim of exemptions may be excessive. They must be challenged by a client or bankruptcy lawyer within 30 days of the Creditors Meeting. Sometimes a creditor obtains a judgment and records a lien on the Debtor's home. The bankrupt often tries to set aside the judgment lien. We can help the creditor analyze the case and, if successful, force the Debtor to pay 100% of your claim with legal fees.
Bankrupts who don't pay their mortgage or their rent often seek protection from the Court. If nonpayment continues after the bankruptcy filing, the Creditor needs assistance to file a motion for relief to continue an eviction or a foreclosure. The Bankruptcy Law Center offers this service.
What about cost? The big question for most creditor clients is whether to invest good money after bad. A solution to this cost problem may be a contingency fee arrangement. In all cases, creditors should get a fair cost estimate from a law firm of the expense in pursuing a debtor in a bankruptcy case.
"Thank you for your patience and dedication to justice." – Angelic E.
"I have confidence in you. You are as tough as President Harry Truman" – Philip L.
"I knew that you would pick the best option for us! Your expertise and creativity has brought us victory!!" – Patricia R.
"We are very grateful for what you have done for us. You have changed our lives tremendously. You delivered more than we thought that we would get in filing Bankruptcy. Thank You." – Janet S.
"Great result. You are the Columbo of the courtroom..." – Les H.
"...Your legal brief made a big impression in the office." – Charles M.
"Throughout the litigation, I thought of you as Clark Kent...I forgot that he turns into Superman." – Dina T.
"Glad I have you on our side, you are awesome! I know this is a "small" case, yet you have always treated it like it was huge, which I appreciate very much." – London W.
"After you finished your presentation, the other side had nothing to say..." – John S.
"I appreciate your humor, your knowledge, and your hand-holding skills. You made a very highly charged action (filing for bankruptcy) simple. Amazing. Blessings upon you..." – Sherrin L.
"Watching you in court today was a Perry Mason moment." – Janice H.
"There are really no words to express how thankful I am to you and for you and your help. You have truly been a blessing in my life and have helped me learn to trust again." – Trina B.
"You do great work in a way that allows your clients to feel as though they are going through a difficult process with an old friend." – Moniqua C.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a bankruptcy?
A bankruptcy is a federal procedure where a Debtor requests the court to provide relief from debt. The idea of affording citizens this right arises from the U.S. Constitution. However, Bankruptcy law, as we know it, was first enacted in 1898. There have been many changes since then. A good bankruptcy attorney must be aware of all the current modifications of the law, and in particular, the sweeping 2005 changes.
What is Chapter 7?
Chapter 7 is the most common type of bankruptcy. The Debtor files a Federal Petition with the expectation of obtaining a Chapter 7 discharge within 3-4 months after filing. People choose Chapter 7 to eliminate credit card debt, medical bills, and lawsuits. New rules are forcing debtors with more than $42,000 yearly income to file Chapter 13.
What is a Chapter 13?
The Chapter 13 is a Court-ordered repayment plan. It is very common when a homeowner falls behind in a mortgage and needs more time to pay back the defaults. Typically, a Debtor gets up to 5 years to cure a default. In one case handled by the Bankruptcy Law Center, we helped a debtor obtain more than 13 years to cure the mortgage arrears. Other reasons to file a Chapter 13 are to stop the Court from selling a home if there is too much equity, or to block student loan IRS collections. The decision whether to file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a complex question and should not be attempted without counsel. The lawyer's job is to help you get the best results in light of your budget and debts. Our firm has a 99% rate of Chapter 13 plans approved by the Bankruptcy Court - one of the best in the State.
Must you pay your IRS taxes in bankruptcy?
Not always. If a tax debt is 3 - 4 years old and the Debtor filed his tax return, the debt may be discharged in the bankruptcy. However, this is a complex question where timing is very important. A Debtor who files a bankruptcy just one day too early, in ignorance, can lose the right to get rid of his or her taxes. Many clients of the Bankruptcy Law Center have escaped their tax debt-in one instance over a million dollars of taxes.
Will I lose my home in bankruptcy?
No client of the Bankruptcy Law Center in over 30 years has ever lost his or her home in a Chapter 7. However, in these days of rising real estate values, Debtors often have more equity in their house than they think. Choosing a Chapter 7 versus a Chapter 13 can spell trouble unless a professional carefully examines the equity issue. In some instances clients who do not make their mortgage payments after filing bankruptcy do lose their home but that is a function of lack of income. Saving a home is top priority with us.
Will I be sued if I file bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy stops most lawsuits except those filed by governmental authorities. For example, it does not stop the Justice Department from filing criminal charges. When a Debtor loads his credit cards with debt just before filing, or hides a valuable asset such as an inheritance, or defrauds a friend, or lies in the bankruptcy process, he or she can be sued. When the Bankruptcy Law Center has represented creditors, we do pursue all these kinds of actions to force the Debtor to pay. When we represent the Debtor we defend these kinds of suits. Truthfulness is very important in all kinds of bankruptcy filings.
Does a Creditor need to file a Proof of Claim?
If there are assets in a Bankruptcy case, the creditor should file a Proof of Claim. This form is attached to the Notice the Creditor receives from the Court that a bankruptcy has been filed. If the case is described as "no-asset", then the filing of a Proof of Claim may be unnecessary. The Bankruptcy Law Center has helped many creditors collect on Proofs of Claim in appropriate cases. When the Court collects assets, the creditors who are formally listed should receive a notice to file their claims.
What can I keep if I file bankruptcy?
The property that an individual is allowed to keep for himself or herself is scheduled on the Bankruptcy Forms as "list of exemptions." Persons who own houses can exempt $50,000.00 to $125,000.00 in value in their home over and above the loans. Others without houses frequently exempt up to $17,000.00 in miscellaneous assets such as bank accounts, cars, and computers. The Bankruptcy Law Center has both attacked and defended exemption claims for clients.
How long does a bankruptcy stay on my credit report?
10 years. However most of the clients of the Bankruptcy Law Center have begun to rebuild their credit within 2 years or less.
How soon does a bankruptcy take effect?
The protections of Bankruptcy Law stop creditor action immediately upon the filing of a petition. In one case within less than 2 hours after first meeting, an emergency bankruptcy was filed to stop a foreclosure sale scheduled later that afternoon. Special precautions need to be taken in such instances or a client can still lose a home to a bona fide purchaser.
Under what circumstances should a person avoid bankruptcy?
Because bankruptcy is a serious negative item on a person's credit file, it should not be filed unnecessarily. All options should be explored such as negotiating with particular creditors, defending a lawsuit in state court, challenging unfair debt collection. The Bankruptcy Law Center is prepared to file a petition or select one of these other options for a client.
What questions will I be asked in court?
The Trustee in Bankruptcy (the court officer reviewing your case and collecting assets) usually asks standard questions: Did you read the bankruptcy papers and understand them? Have you owned a home or real estate in the last five years? Have you ever owned a business? Have you had a relative die recently leaving you money? And, do you have the right to sue anyone? There are many additional disclosure requirements under the new law.
Will bankruptcy stain my reputation?
The attitude toward bankruptcy has changed dramatically since the days of debtor prisons. In English courts bankrupts had to enter through a back door. Today, millions of Americans have used the help of this Federal Law. Afterwards, they find apartments, receive credit cards, get car loans, buy homes and indeed, live normal lives. Even famous American citizens such as Mark Twain, Henry Ford, and Debbie Reynolds have chosen to file a bankruptcy in their lives.
What are the budget requirements?
The new law imposes tough and complex guidelines - is your income above or below the median for your community? If above, can you pass a "means" test, using IRS budget guidelines? We help debtors analyze and pass these requirements.
COST OF SERVICES
Chapter 7 Cases
The typical lawyer fee is $1,075.00 for low-income clients to $1,575.00 for a consumer case. $4,000.00 for a business case. Special circumstances are considered to lower that fee or raise it, including client hardship. Charging less than the full fee "up front" is a common option we offer to make fees more affordable for clients. The new law encouraged bankruptcy lawyers across the country to increase their fees.
Chapter 13 Cases
Chapter 13 cases are governed by court rules. A typical consumer Chapter 13 case requires $2,000.00 up front plus the filing fee. An additional $2,800.00 is paid over time. Almost all lawyers charge the same so the critical question is getting the best legal help. The Court has approved 99% of our Chapter 13 payment plans in the last 25 years. The vast majority of these have concluded successfully.
Hourly rates can be fixed fee, $350.00 per hour, or contingency fee. Many of the creditor clients are attracted to the contingency fee option because they are wary of throwing away good money after bad. Some cases where collection is unlikely may not warrant contingency. However, every attempt is made to offer reasonable arrangements. In Federal Courts, creditors need bankruptcy lawyers, too.
Chapter 7 filing fee is $335.00
Chapter 13 filing fee is $310.00
2119 Addison Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
10203 Barnett Valley Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Mon–Fri: 9 AM to 5 PM
Parking is available at a lot located between Center and Addison Streets on Milvia (Milvia is one block below Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley).
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