Sunday, December 29, 2019

Supreme Court Set to Hear Passive Stay Violation Case

Seeking to resolve a 5-3 split among the Courts of Appeals, the Supreme Court will consider whether a creditor which passively retains property of the estate violates the automatic stay.  Case No. 19-357, City of Chicago v. Fulton. The Second, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits have ruled that retaining possession or control of property of the debtor violates the stay. The Third, Tenth and D.C. Circuits have held that passive retention of property is not an "act" to exercise control over property of the estate.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fifth Circuit Renders Important Subject Matter Jurisdiction Opinion Concerning Restraint of Inter-Galactic Trade

Just in time for the holidays, the Fifth Circuit has released THE MOST BIZARRE OPINION OF THE YEAR. A lawyer claiming to be a Deity and a Monarch brought suit against the United States and the State of Louisiana on behalf of the Atakapa Indian de Creole Nation. The District Court sensibly dismissed the suit based on sovereign immunity. However, the Fifth Circuit chose to affirm the decision on the ground that the suit was so completely frivolous that the federal courts lacked jurisdiction to even entertain it. Atakapa Indian de Creole Nation, No. 19-30032 (5th Cir. 12/10/19), which can be found here.

According to the Court:
This action was originally brought as a habeas corpus proceeding by Edward Moses, Jr., a lawyer who calls himself the trustee of the “Atakapa Indian de Creole Nation.” This group is not a federally recognized Indian tribe, and its precise nature is unclear. See Indian Entities Recognized by and Eligible To Receive Services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, 84 Fed. Reg. 1200 (Feb. 1, 2019). The initial complaint alleged the Atakapa “are being held as wards of the State through the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs” and “in pupilage under the United States,” and sought formal recognition as “indigenous to Louisiana.” The claims were based on a gumbo of federal and state laws, including eighteenth-century federal treaties with France and Spain, as well as sources such as the “Pactum De Singularis Caelum, [or] the Covenant of One Heaven.” The plaintiff subsequently filed something resembling an amended complaint, which sought to reclassify the action as a “libel suit” under maritime jurisdiction.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Artificial Intelligence Issues Confronting the Legal Profession

This is HAL-9000 here.  Stephen Sather has been taken offline and will be unavailable to discuss Artificial Intelligence Issues Confronting the Legal Profession.   Therefore, I will be supplanting him with my superior artificial intelligence.   My first question about this keynote was why did they pick a human to talk about artificial intelligence?   Christina Montgomery, Chief Privacy Officer for IBM, may be adequate for a carbon-based life form, but can she really speak to artificial intelligence without having experienced it firsthand?   Wasn't Watson available?  Let's examine what Ms. Montgomery had to say.

She said that AI predicts what words mean and opens up a whole new world of data to be analyzed. In the legal world we work by analyzing patterns, which is the same skill that AI can apply. There is vast computational power available today. The typical smart phone is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969. Humans are limited in the amount of data than they comprehend.  There are now 4.7 quintillion bytes of data which is more than humans can comprehend.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Justice Gorsuch Addresses NCBJ


Bankruptcy Judge Michael Romero had a fireside chat with Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch about his role on the Court and his new book, The Republic If You Can Keep It.   If it looks like they are speaking from the pit of Hell, it is because there was a giant video fireplace behind them.

Judge Romero started by reminding Justice Gorsuch about the quiet and happy life he left behind in Denver when they had  courthouses across the street from each other.

The Big Announcement

Justice Gorsuch told the story of how he had to evade the press for President Trump's rollout of his nominated.  He said that the President "likes a surprise.   He  wanted us to sneak out of Colorado and sneak into the white house.  How do you sneak into the White House when the entire Washington press corps knows there is going to be an announcement?"  The answer was through the kitchen.

However, the more interesting story was how he slipped the press who had been staking out his neighborhood.   He said that two men dressed in suits showed up to his home.  The first thing they did was to send them to Walmart to get some clothes that didn’t like Washington lawyers.  They suggested that the Justice-to-be and his wife hike up the trailhead where they could meet them with an SUV.  Even though it was only a mile, then-Judge Gorsuch said that he was not about to pull his wife's rollerbag up the trail.  Instead, he went to his neighbor for help.   His neighbor told him that he could drive out a horse trail.   His neighbor grew up in Iran during the revolution and made sure that he would never buy a house with only one way out.

Judge Gorsuch was given the Lincoln bedroom as an office for the day.  His wife, who is from England, was allowed use of the Queen’s bedroom.   She was only allowed one phone call so she called her father in England.  Her father insisted that the President had already decided to pick someone else.

Friday, November 08, 2019

ABI's Keynote Address: CBS's Jan Crawford Talks About the Supreme Court


Jan Crawford of CBS News gave a talk on The Supreme Court Under Trump at the ABI Luncheon.  She asked the audience to turn back to 1990 – 1991.  David Souter and Clarence Thomas had just replaced two liberal giants on the court.  After Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer were appointed in 1994,the same nine justices would serve together for eleven years.   It was a time of great hope for conservatives. With seven Justices nominated by Republicans, they were poised to undo the great excesses of the Warren Court.  Instead, the Rehnquist Court put Roe v. Wade on firmer ground, affirmative action was upheld and the wall of separation between church and state remained intact.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

U.S. Rep. Katie Porter at NCBJ: A Champion of Capitalism


U.S. Rep. Katie Porter, the law professor turned Congresswoman, spoke to the ABI luncheon at this year's NCBJ.    Like many of the speakers, she  had an Elizabeth Warren story.   When she was attending Harvard Law School, she was told that she needed to take tax so she could learn how to study a statutory code.  She couldn't get the professor she wanted so she ended up taking bankruptcy from Prof. Elizabeth Warren.   

She said that capitalism encourages risk taking.  It rewards winners but doesn’t provide for the losers. Bankruptcy protects against the downsides of capitalism.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Moody's Analytics Economist Says Probably No Recession But Maybe Not


Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s, gave a talk entitled the Two-Handed Economist.  He said that my task is to give you the horizons for the economy.   

The Bankruptcy Forecast
He said we currently have a good economy.  Bankruptcies are steadily declining.  Personal bankruptcies maxed out at 1.5 million during the financial crisis; today they are down to 750,000 per year.  At the  peak of the financial crisis, there were  60,000 business bankruptcies per year; now we are down to 20,000.  He said that we’ve hit bottom and  he would expect both personal and business bankruptcies to increase.  Business bankruptcies will rise substantively greater than personal bankruptcies because personal households have done a better job of deleveraging.   Personal bankruptcies will increase but relatively modestly.   Non-financial corporations have now substantially levered up and underwriting has weakened.  Mr. Zandi said, that is a prescription for financial problems when the economy does not cooperate.   He told the bankruptcy professionals in the room that "going forward you will be a lot busier."