Borders Chapter 11

Borders, the 40-year-old chain that helped define the age of the book superstore, filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday.  For more from the NY Times, click here.

Volunteer Opportunity – Reminder (Help Needed on 1/18)

REAFFIRMATION CLINIC

As part of the Bankruptcy Section’s continuing commitment to providing assistance to the Court with pro se filers, BBA Bankruptcy Section volunteers staff a “clinic” and provide advice to pro se debtors who have asked the Court’s permission to enter into a reaffirmation agreement with a creditor. The Pro Bono Committee coordinates the process; and, as there is no appearance by counsel, conflicts are not seen as an issue.

We invite you to Volunteer! The clinic is held each month for one hour just prior to the Court’s scheduled hearings. The up-coming dates are:

January 18, 2011
February 15, 2011
March 8, 2011
April 5, 2011

Contact: Elaine M. Benkoski, Co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee.

BBA Members in the News

McDermott Will & Emery LLP is pleased to announce that Peter M. Acton, Jr.  has been elected to partner effective January 1, 2011.  Peter, a member of the BBA Bankruptcy Section and its steering committee, focuses his practice on commercial disputes. In addition to representing clients (ranging from Fortune 50 companies to smaller Massachusetts-based businesses) in federal and state courts as part of his general commercial litigation practice, Peter has substantial experience with government investigations and white-collar matters as well as insolvency-related disputes. He graduated from Fordham University School of Law in 2002.

CLE Materials Now Available

Pamela Smith Holleman’s presentation outline and notes with respect to her December 14, 2010 presentation on Special Purpose Entities and Opinion Practice may be viewed by clicking here.

Boston Bankruptcy Surge

The year’s not quite over, but one financial trend is obvious: Bankruptcies in Boston were way up in 2010.  For more from the Boston Business Journal, click here.

Consumer Bankruptcy Filings Increase by 9% in 2010

The number of Americans filing for personal bankruptcy topped 1.5 million last year, as high long-term jobless rates and depressed home prices drove more households to seek court protection.  For more from the Wall Street Journal, click here.

Chapter 9 News: Failed Pensions

The declining, little-known city of Prichard is now attracting the attention of bankruptcy lawyers, labor leaders, municipal credit analysts and local officials from across the country. They want to see if the situation in Prichard, like the continuing bankruptcy of Vallejo, Calif., ultimately creates a legal precedent on whether distressed cities can legally cut or reduce their pensions, and if so, how.  For more from the NY Times, click here.

Volunteer Opportunity

REAFFIRMATION CLINIC

As part of the Bankruptcy Section’s continuing commitment to providing assistance to the Court with pro se filers, BBA Bankruptcy Section volunteers staff a “clinic” and provide advice to pro se debtors who have asked the Court’s permission to enter into a reaffirmation agreement with a creditor. The Pro Bono Committee coordinates the process; and, as there is no appearance by counsel, conflicts are not seen as an issue.

We invite you to Volunteer! The clinic is held each month for one hour just prior to the Court’s scheduled hearings. The up-coming dates are:

January 18, 2011
February 15, 2011
March 8, 2011
April 5, 2011

Contact: Elaine M. Benkoski, Co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Boston Bar Association Rejoices in Passage of Homestead Reform Legislation

Following a 10-year advocacy effort seeking greater protection for homeowners, the Boston Bar Association today celebrated the signing of An Act Relative to the Estate of Homestead by Governor Patrick.

“This is great news to the attorneys whose clients have come to them in dire straits, overwhelmed with debt and seeking help to obtain a fresh start,” said BBA President Donald R. Frederico. “These homestead reforms are substantial and will provide important consumer protections to homeowners in Massachusetts.  In addition to the consumer protection provisions, the bill will address many issues that have caused great difficulty to the courts in interpreting the current homestead statute.”

When the new Homestead Legislation goes into effect in 90 days, March 16th, 2011, here are some of the things that it will do:

– Provide automatic protection to any primary residence up to $125,000 in equity in the home
– Clear up ambiguities and make rules for filing a homestead declaration more logical
– Protect beneficiaries of trusts
– Clarify that a refinancing mortgage will not be able to terminate previously filed homesteads
– Protect proceeds from the sale of a home or insurance
– Protect spouses and co-owners who transfer property amongst themselves
– Extends homestead protection to manufactured homes

Background:

In 2000, a detailed study of the Massachusetts homestead statute appeared in the Boston Bar Journal.  Author Mark W. McCarthy noted that homestead was so badly in need of change that only a complete rewrite would suffice. McCarthy even described the current homestead statute as, “ugly, clumsy, even embarrassing — and it just doesn’t work.”

That very same year the BBA filed a homestead bill that was sponsored by then-Senator Robert S. Creedon, Jr. who was also chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.  While the BBA pushed for its own version of homestead reform, other groups, most notably the Real Estate Bar Association (REBA), also proposed their version of homestead reform.  Senator Creedon asked the BBA and the REBA to work together on a single bill that would incorporate the reforms that both organizations sought.  The BBA’s dialogue with REBA on homestead yielded good input on ways to improve the bill and led to a revised and balanced bill that the two bar associations filed jointly in the legislature. 

The new law will provide concrete and meaningful assistance to citizens in Massachusetts, especially low income consumers and the elderly.  Now with homestead poised to pass some ten years after our efforts began, we hope to see progress on updating the personal property exemption laws.

Chapter 11 News: Speculators Are Eager to Bet on Madoff Claims

The lawsuits filed by liquidating trustee, Irving H. Picard, seeking money for Bernard L. Madoff’s fraud victims may be a blow for the defendants — but they are catnip for an obscure breed of Wall Street traders speculating on the outcome of the enormous Madoff bankruptcy case.  For more from New York Times, click here