MoForever Alumni News - Summer 2019

17 | MoForever Summer 2019 ALUMNI UPDATE PRO BONO UPSOLVE UPLIFTS THOUSANDS WITH GREATER ACCESS TO BANKRUPTCY JONATHAN PETTS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UPSOLVE Jonathan Petts was a first-year law student and an intern under Eastern District of New York Bankruptcy Court Judge Elizabeth Stong when he first witnessed the despair experienced by low-income Americans who were desperate to file for bankruptcy but could not. “They’re thousands of dollars in debt, and they just don’t see a way out. They fear they’re going to die with this debt,” he says. Jonathan saw victims of predatory loans, people struggling with sky-high medical bills, and those who lost their jobs to downsizing suffer a crippling injustice when unable to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. What stood in their way? That is best described by Linda, one of Jonathan’s first pro bono Chapter 7 bankruptcy clients at MoFo. She told Jonathan that if she hadn’t found him, she’d still be mired in debt because it costs $2,000 to hire a bankruptcy lawyer. And if she had $2,000, she wouldn’t be filing for bankruptcy. This situation runs counter to the intentions of those who crafted our bankruptcy laws. “Congress made the judgment that everyone in our country can fall down, and that our bankruptcy system is there to help people when they are just buried and really need it,” Jonathan says. “Bankruptcy is actually an incredibly inspiring event in someone’s life. Because it’s not about what brought you here. It’s about a fresh start,” he says. “Three months later, people have a clean slate. Their credit score is higher. Often, they have a better job