There are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of people filing bankruptcy in Massachusetts or New Hampshire never appear before a judge.
They all have a meeting with a trustee, however, which is required by the bankruptcy code. Creditors can attend this meeting as well, but they rarely do, unless there is some specific issue they want answered (such as the current location of collateral for the loan in question).
It is important for debtors to realize that the trustee is not a judge. trustees are usually bankruptcy attorneys themselves, and they are hired by the government to perform most of the administrative duties in processing each case. If a debtor has assets that are eligible to be sold (not typical), the trustee can get a commission on the sale, otherwise they are paid a stipend out of your filing fee. Chapter 13 trustees are paid a commission out of each monthly plan payment you make.
Back to the judge: if for some reason your case involves litigation, you certainly will see him or her, but these are a tiny minority of cases. The average debtor “sees the judge” only once — when he or she receives a discharge with the judge’s signature at the end of the case!
By Doug Beaton