Cross Examination of Bankruptcy Debtor.

With respect to your inquiry as to whether or not you may on behalf of your employer bank cross-examine a debtor in Bankruptcy Court, it is the opinion of the Committee that this would constitute the unauthorized practice of law.

The supremacy clause of the Unite States Constitution stands for the proposition that a state may not regulate the practice of law before a federal tribunal if the federal law prescribes the rules. However, in this case the Rules for the Eastern Federal Court, specifically the Eastern District of Virginia, do no specifically address the issue. Therefore, the Virginia law, specifically Unauthorized Practice of Law Opinion Number 58 controls. Although that opinion was written in 1984, nothing has happened in the interim to change the conclusions.

The bottom line is that you may be present on behalf of the employer and make presentations as to factual conclusions but you cannot examine the debtor or witnesses. See UPR 1-101B.

If you individually were a creditor, you could examine the debtor or if you were acting in an official capacity such as a trustee or examiner you could also do so. However, you cannot examine the debtor or witnesses when appearing on behalf of your corporation/employer.

Committee Opinion
August 16, 1988
Updated: Aug 28, 2006