A Rule 2004 Examination (often just called a “2004 Exam”) is the procedure used by parties in a Bankruptcy case to get documents or information from another party. The name comes from Rule 2004 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, which governs the process. The rule is very broad and essentially allows any party in the Bankruptcy case, including the debtor, creditors, Trustee or U.S. Trustee, to examine any other person or entity about the debtor’s financial condition, property of the Bankruptcy estate, the administration of the case or the debtor’s right to a discharge. Although Rule 2004 reads like it only covers “examination,” or depositions, most Courts allow its use to just request documents. Although a motion is required, the Court normally grants the motions without a response from another party or a hearing.
The scope of the rule is very broad and, unlike other lawsuits, a “fishing expedition” is often allowed. Most individuals filing for Bankruptcy will never have to be concerned with a 2004 Exam. When they are used, it is often the Chapter 7 Trustee requesting information and documents from other parties that could lead to a recovery of assets for the estate. Individuals who file a Bankruptcy case already have a duty to cooperate with the Trustee and provide any information requested, but occasionally the Trustee or U.S. Trustee wants to depose the debtor under oath if there is not enough time in the 341 Meeting. In other cases, it is the debtor who uses Rule 2004 to obtain documents or information from another party. Note that in adversary proceedings and a handful of other disputes in a Bankruptcy case, Rule 2004 does not apply and more formal procedures are used for depositions and document requests. This is because the proceeding is much more like a lawsuit involving a few parties rather than a matter for case as a whole.
While a Rule 2004 Examination usually does not mean the subject of a request is facing problems, it is something that should be discussed with their lawyer. In virtually all cases, the lawyers in the case have a good idea of why the examination is being requested.