Christopher J. Panos is Selected for the United States Bankruptcy Court in Worcester

On June 8, 2015, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a press release announcing that Christopher Panos has been selected to fill the upcoming vacancy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts created by Judge William C. Hillman’s retirement and Chief Judge Hoffman’s relocation to Boston.  Attorney Panos will sit in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The full press release is available here:

BBA Blog — Panos Bankruptcy Press Release (S0581379x7A7A4)

Bankruptcy Court Announces New Pro Bono Program — Adversary Proceedings

Earlier this month, the Bankruptcy Court announced the implementation of a court‐sponsored pro bono attorney program for unrepresented indigent litigants in adversary proceedings.  The full announcement is available here.

The program will begin accepting applications from litigants on July 1, 2015.  You can obtain the program guidelines, FAQs for attorneys, FAQs for Parties, and attorneys interested in participating on the pro bono panel can find the registration form here.

Upcoming Bankruptcy Events

A couple of exciting events are on the calendar for next week:

Brown Bag Lunch:  On Tuesday, May 12 at 12:00 p.m. at the Boston Bar Association, the Consumer Bankruptcy Committee will be hosting Proofs of Claims in Chapter 13’s: Standing Order 2015-03, New Practices, and Best Practices.  If you would like to attend this event, you can register here.

Bench Meets Bar Conference:  On Thursday, May 14 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., the Bankruptcy Section celebrates the 25th Annual Bankruptcy Bench Meets Bar Conference.  The Bankruptcy Section is bringing the program back to the historic Omni Parker House, the site of the first Bankruptcy Bench Meets Bar Conference.  If you would like to attend this event, you can register here.

New Standing Order Issued Regarding Amendment to Local Bankruptcy Rule 13-13

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts recently issued Standing Order 2015-03. The Standing Order sets forth changes to Massachusetts Local Bankruptcy Rule 13-13, which details the procedure for filing and objecting to claims. The amended rule includes several new subsections and applies to all cases commenced on or after May 1, 2015. To view the Standing Order and amended rule, please click here.

New SJC Rule of Professional Responsibility: Treatment of Flat Fees

On March 15, the SJC promulgated new rules of Professional Responsibility, effective July 1, 2015 (available here).  Of interest to bankruptcy lawyers is comment 2A to Rule 1.15.  That comment provides that a lawyer is not required to deposit a “flat fee” (an all-in agreed amount for specific work) in a client trust account, and can immediately place the funds in the law firm’s operating account. The comment  originated with the SJC’s own Standing Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct.  During the public-comment period, the BBA Bankruptcy Section championed the Advisory Committee’s proposed comment, while another Committee expressed concerns.  The BBA reported the views of the two constituencies to the SJC, which accepted the position of the Bankruptcy Section.

The new language protects lawyers who represent a chapter 7 debtor and, although more rare, counsel who represents a chapter 11 debtor—as compared with a debtor-in-possession.  The Bankruptcy Section’s concerns were that 1) any funds that were still subject to conditions at the time of a bankruptcy filing would become property of the estate, and 2) under Lamie v. U.S. Trustee, 540 U.S. 526 (2004), a debtor’s counsel is not entitled to compensation for post-petition work.  The combination of those two factors would make it impossible for a debtor’s attorney to access the funds to be paid for the services rendered once a petition for relief was filed, except to the extent that the lawyer could establish what percentage of the work had been completed pre-petition.

The comment makes clear that a lawyer must return money paid for services where the lawyer has failed to complete the anticipated work, as provided in Rule 1.16(d). Obviously this new rule does not affect the powers of the Bankruptcy Court to review fees and, where appropriate, order a lawyer to repay them or otherwise make provisions relating to fees.  Rather, the new rule removes any ethical taint from a lawyer’s election not to deposit a flat fee in a trust account.

A lawyer is still free to deposit flat fees into a trust account, in which event the lawyer must comply with all the rules applicable to such accounts.

8th Annual Young Bar Meets Bankruptcy Bench Event a Success

On April 6, 2015, new members of the Boston bankruptcy bar, together with numerous law students, gathered at the Boston Bar Association to participate in the 8th Annual Young Bar Meets the Bankruptcy Bench event. As in past years, the program was well attended and received the robust support of the Massachusetts bankruptcy bench. All of the bankruptcy judges from the District of Massachusetts were in attendance – Judge Bailey, Judge Boroff, Judge Feeney, Judge Hillman, and Chief Judge Hoffman. The Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court, James Lynch, also participated. The program kicked off with an informative question and answer session covering topics such as written presentations, oral argument, and careers in bankruptcy practice. Thereafter, the participants had the opportunity to engage with the judges in an intimate round table format. The program was co-chaired by Ben Chapman of Brown Rudnick and David Koha of Casner & Edwards, who also co-chair the Boston Bar Association Bankruptcy Section’s New Bankruptcy Lawyers Committee.

Upcoming Bankruptcy Events

Several exciting bankruptcy-related events are taking place in and around Boston in the coming weeks, including:

The American College of Bankruptcy’s The World of Insolvency, a panel discussion on the importance of effective domestic and cross-border insolvency and creditor-debtor regimes to commerce and economic growth. The program will be held at Boston College Law School in Newton, MA from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on March 20, 2015. Please click here for more information and to register.

A Lunch Bunch session with Judge Joan N. Feeney will be held at the US Bankruptcy Court in Boston on April 2, 2015, at 11:45 a.m. For more information and to register, please click here.

The Young Bar Meets Bankruptcy Bench event has been rescheduled for April 6, 2015, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The program will focus on practical skills and issues particularly important for those in their first ten years of practice. For more information and to register, please click here.

Student Loan Debt and Bankruptcy: Addressing the Problem and Finding Solutions, a CLE program, will be held on April 10, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the offices of the Boston Bar Association. Click here for more information and to register.

New Standing Orders Change Local Rules for Professional Fees and Prepetition Retainers in Chapter 13 Cases

The Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts has adopted two new standing orders, which became effective on March 1, 2015. The first, Standing Order 2015-1, alters Massachusetts Local Bankruptcy Rule 13-7 on professional fees and prepetition retainers. Among other changes, counsel may use a new form, Official Local Form 17, to file an application for compensation in amounts less than $10,000 but above $3,500 prior to entry of a confirmation order or above $500 after the entry of a confirmation order. The second, Standing Order 2015-2, adds the new Form 17 to the Massachusetts Local Bankruptcy Rules.

The new Standing Orders may be viewed here: http://www.mab.uscourts.gov/mab/news/standing-orders-2015-01-2015-02

March 10 Brown Bag Event: The Ever-Changing Landscape of Chapter 13 — Updates from the Chapter 13 Trustee

Join the Consumer Bankruptcy Committee for its most anticipated brown bag of the year — Updates from the Chapter 13 Trustee!  Carolyn Bankowski, Chapter 13 Trustee, will highlight recent developments in the case law, point out some common pitfalls for debtors and their attorneys, and suggest best practices.  Carolyn’s presentations are always extraordinarily helpful.  So bring your questions and come learn how to perfect your Chapter 13 practice!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 12:00pm – 1:00pm at the BBA

For additional details and to register for the event please click on the following link:

https://www.bostonbar.org/membership/events/event-details?ID=16219

CLE – Chapter 11 Bankruptcy: Reform is in the Air

In December 2014, after three year of study, the American Bankruptcy Institute’s (ABI) Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reform Commission released 400 pages of recommendations to reform Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Come to the BBA on February 24 (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.) for an update on the efforts, status and results of the report.

Please click here to register for the program.