Jacksonville bankruptcy lawyers said Wednesday that while filings continue to decline, consumers and businesses remain at risk in an uncertain economy.
For the first five months this year, the 3,722 bankruptcy filings in the Jacksonville Division of the Middle District of Florida were down 9 percent from last year and down 23 percent from 2010, a record year.
“I think we’ll continue to see them go down, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Mark Mitchell, the 2011-12 president of the Jacksonville Bankruptcy Bar Association.
Mitchell said while the economy is growing modestly, consumer confidence remains low and customers aren’t spending a lot.
“Small businesses continue to suffer,” said Mitchell.
He said foreclosures continue, although at a slower pace.
The division is part of the Middle District of Florida, which comprises 35 of the state’s 67 counties.
The Middle District includes the major commercial and population centers of Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers.
The Jacksonville Division consists of 16 North Florida counties.
Through May, overall filings in the district fell almost 14 percent from 23,487 last year to 20,232 this year.
The January-May filings this year were almost 28 percent below the record rate of 2010.
The national recession began in December 2007 and officially ended three years ago in June 2009. Consumers and businesses have continued to struggle.
Some economic indicators show improvement, but many have not regained the strength they had before the recession.
Bankruptcies in the district peaked in 2010 with 66,618 filings.
Chapter 7 liquidations continue to dominate, accounting for 72 percent of the filings, followed by Chapter 13 wage-earner repayment plans, which make up almost 27 percent.
Chapter 11 reorganizations of businesses and high-wealth individuals constitute just 1 percent of filings, while there usually are just a handful of Chapter 12 farmer-fishermen reorganizations each year.
Mitchell turned leadership of the group over to Ellsworth Summers, who becomes president for 2012-13. Both lawyers are shareholders at the Rogers Towers firm.
Mitchell will serve as chairman. In outlining some of the upcoming events, he said the annual golf tournament is scheduled Oct. 11 and the annual seminar will be Oct. 12, both at the World Golf Village.
Jason Burgess of The Law Offices of Jason A. Burgess is the new vice president. Rob Heekin of Stutsman Thames & Markey is treasurer, and Kevin Paysinger with the Bankruptcy Law Firm of Lansing J. Roy is secretary.
Directors at large are Douglas Neway, Nina LaFleur, Edward Jackson, Jerrett McConnell, James Eidson and Katie Fackler.
The group met for its annual meeting at The River Club. Almost 50 of the 170 members attended.
Jackson said before the meeting that the debt situation for businesses is worsening and that housing foreclosures have been floating. Banks and lenders have been working through the “robo-signing” controversy, leading to a slowdown in mortgage foreclosures.
That rate appears to be increasing.
This week, the CoreLogic research firm reported that foreclosure rates in Jacksonville increased in April over April 2011. CoreLogic found that the rate of Jacksonville area foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans was 8.97 percent, up 0.45 percentage points compared to April 2011 when the rate was 8.52 percent.
CoreLogic also found that foreclosure activity in Jacksonville was higher than the national foreclosure rate, which was 3.41 percent in April.