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Can The Clerk's Office Give Legal Advice?

A bankruptcy case is a legal proceeding affecting the rights of debtors, creditors and other parties in interest. According to Canon 4(D) of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees, Clerk's Office staff should not engage in the practice of law. Additionally, 28 U.S.C. § 955 prohibits Clerk's Office staff from giving information which may be characterized as legal advice.

While there is no precise definition of legal advice, at a minimum it includes (1) acting on a person's behalf in presenting a claim or defense to a court, and (2) advising a person on the merits of a claim or defense and the state of the law applicable to it. Clerk's Office staff, therefore, will not provide information relating to:

  * The application of laws and rules to individual claims or defenses;

  * Whether jurisdiction is proper in a particular court;

  * Whether a complaint properly presents a claim;

  * What the "best" procedures are to accomplish a particular objective; or

  * The interpretation of case law.

Clerk's Office staff will not offer any opinion as to the probable disposition of any matter by the court. The information provided by Clerk's Office staff is limited to explaining the filing requirements of the court and reading, without comment, the actual text of a bankruptcy rule, local rule, or statute.

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