The 341 meeting of creditors in a bankruptcy case is an official court proceeding conducted under oath by a bankruptcy trustee appointed by the court to administer your case. Attending it will likely be the closest that most debtors (the people who file bankruptcy) will come to a court hearing.
It doesn’t take place before the bankruptcy judge. Yours will probably occur at a conference table in an office that might not even be in the courthouse. But make no mistake. Although the setting is more casual than the judge’s courtroom, it still deserves deference and respect.
The law doesn’t tell us whether it’s appropriate to wear jeans to your 341 meeting of creditors. Proper attire is an issue left to the local bankruptcy court. If a “no jeans” rule exists, you’ll find it in the court’s local rules—a set of procedural rules created by the bankruptcy judges in a particular district.
For instance, here’s the dress code that appears in the local rules of the Eastern District of Texas:
The rule for the Western District of Kentucky is similar. Debtors appearing in bankruptcy court are required to wear “business type clothing that is modest and professional.” In both cases, the dress code applies to the courtroom. Neither refers to jeans or the meeting of creditors, which isn’t held in the courthouse in the Eastern District of Texas, but in an office building.
However, some courts don’t allow jeans. In the Southern District of Georgia, both men and women are warned not to wear jeans or denim clothing of any type. That applies to anyone in the courthouse, not just those appearing in bankruptcy court.
Trustees don’t respond well when faced with either arrogance or an attitude that suggests that you aren’t taking the hearing seriously. If you were to appear at your meeting of creditors in a ripped t-shirt and cut-off jeans, you’re liable to leave the trustee with the impression that you don’t have the proper respect for these solemn proceedings. The trustee could easily develop a suspicion that you had the same lack of respect when you were gathering the information for the schedules you filed with the court. That might lead to more scrutiny and more questions.
However, you can go too far the other way, too. It is not necessary to wear your Sunday best either to a hearing before the judge or a meeting with the trustee—and it probably isn’t a good idea. In fact, some attorneys advise their clients to dress in a conservative manner and to avoid flashy clothing that could cause you to stand out needlessly.
If you choose to wear designer clothes, carry an expensive handbag, and go heavy on the jewelry, you had better make sure that you’ve accounted for the property in your bankruptcy schedules. A trustee might not care if you wear jeans to the meeting, but the trustee will notice if you’re wearing a Rolex on your wrist.
When in doubt, your attorney is the best source for information on local practices. And, in some jurisdictions, your attorney might show up at the meeting of creditors in jeans, too. If you’re not represented, try calling the local office of the U.S. Trustee.