Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Bankruptcy Judges of the Western District of Texas

The Western District of Texas crosses two time zones, has a population of 7.6 million and contains 93,000 square miles.  It is larger than the State of Oklahoma but smaller than the State of New Mexico. It contains the 7th, 11th and 24th largest cities in the United States (San Antonio, Austin and El Paso respectively). Since the Bankruptcy Code was adopted, the Western District has been served by 12 judges.  The judges of the Western District have come from San Antonio, Houston, Waco and El Paso. I have appeared in front of ten of them.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Grammar Dooms Innocent Spouse in Non-Dischargeability Case

While we often recite that bankruptcy is for the honest but unfortunate debtor, a new case from the Supreme Court shows that getting into bed or business with the wrong person can lead to a non-dischargeable debt for an innocent spouse. The case is No. 21-908, Bartenwerfer v. Buckley, which you can find here.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Notes on a Diversity Workshop

 At the ABI Winter Leadership Conference, I attended a diversity and inclusion workshop put on by Elton Ndoma-Ogar of Alix Partners and Peter S. Salib of Perkins Coie, LLP. I wasn't sure that writing about an interactive workshop would be useful, but a friend encouraged me to try. At the end of the article, I have included a link to their materials, which you can access if you are an ABI member. If you are not an ABI member, contact me and I can send them to you.

Friday, December 16, 2022

NCBJ 2022: Gradually, Then Suddenly. The Bankruptcy of Detroit

This program looked at the bankruptcy of the City of Detroit through the lens of a documentary filmmaker. I thought it was a clever way to look at one of the most consequential bankruptcies of our time through the eyes of someone who was not a bankruptcy lawyer or judge. While filmmaker Sam Katz is not part of the bankruptcy profession, he did have substantial experience in municipal finance, having served as Chair of the Fiscal Oversight Board in Philadelphia in the 1990s. It took him six years to make the film compared to the fourteen months that Detroit was in bankruptcy. I have included a link to a website about the film at the end.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

NCBJ 2022: The Role of the Bankruptcy Judge

 This panel asked the question, what is the role of the bankruptcy judge? To answer that question, they featured two retired judges, Judge Robert Drain from the Southern District of New York and Judge Harlan "Cooter" Hale from the Northern District of Texas along with sitting judges Erithe Smith from the Central District of California and Grace Robson from the Middle District of Florida. Rather than trying to recreate their panel, I will try to distill their presentation into a series of rules.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Counsel's Retention of "Wet Signatures" Overcomes Debtor's "Faulty" Memory

Sometimes debtors get buyer's regret after filing a bankruptcy petition.  However, once a bankruptcy petition is filed, it remains on the debtor's credit for ten years. One debtor sought to throw his attorney under the bus by claiming that the bankruptcy filing had never been authorized. Fortunately the debtor's attorney had retained his client's wet signatures and text messages which protected him from the Court's Order to Show Cause. In re Wilson, 2022 Bankr. LEXIS 3378 (Bankr. D. N.J. 11/30/22).  

Monday, November 28, 2022

Judge Gargotta Nixes Non-Dischargeability Claim Against Corporate SubV Debtor

 Distinguishing a precedent from his own district and disagreeing with the Fourth Circuit, Judge Craig Gargotta has ruled that non-dischargeability only applies to human Subchapter V debtors. Adv. No. 22-5052, Avion Funding, LLC v. GFS Industries, LLC (Bankr. W.D. Tex. 11/10/2022).  The decision can be found here. The decision was especially sweet for me personally because the case it distinguished, New Venture Partnership v. JRB Consolidated, Inc. (In re JRB Consolidated, Inc.), 188 B.R. 373, 374 (Bankr. W.D. Tex. 1995), was one that I lost and always thought was wrongly decided.