Bankruptcy for Commercial Litigators?


Do you want trial experience? Are you looking for an opportunity to volunteer in your community? Have we got a deal for you - the Pro Bono Program for Bankruptcy Litigation. "This program will not only help pro se debtors, but it provides an excellent opportunity for young lawyers to “first chair” cases in federal court," according to Dan Blegen of Rouse, Hendricks, German, May PC.

Individual debtors file bankruptcy to protect themselves from creditors and to obtain a discharge of their debts.  In many personal bankruptcies, however, a creditor will file a lawsuit against the debtor – called an “Adversary Proceeding” – to have a debt declared non-dischargeable.  Adversary Proceedings involve general litigation concepts, such as fraud, and are short trials before the Bankruptcy Court separate from the debtor’s bankruptcy proceeding.

Debtors often have no choice but to represent themselves in Adversary Proceedings, increasing the burden on the debtor and the court.  To address this need, the Pro Bono Program for Bankruptcy Litigation was established to train and coordinate volunteer attorneys to represent needy debtors in Adversary Proceedings. 

As described by Bankruptcy Judge Arthur B. Federman, "the program provides a unique opportunity for all attorneys to sharpen their trial skills by examining and cross-examining witnesses in non-jury cases.  It also provides an opportunity to fulfill the obligation of all attorneys to provide valuable services to those who are unable to pay for such services."

You don't need any bankruptcy training to participate because the scope of representation will not include the bankruptcy proceeding itself.  If you are interested in providing this valuable service, you are invited to attend an orientation and training session on Tuesday, July 14, 2009.

The agenda for the training session (and free CLE) is listed below, and readers of the Courthouse Connection enjoy an extended registration deadline through Monday, July 13th.  You may register by going to the Court’s Web site ( and clicking on the announcement for the event.


“Representing Debtors in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Charles E. Whittaker Courthouse, 400 E. 9th Street, KCMO 64106, 2nd Floor

8:00 - 8:45 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:45 - 9:00 a.m. Program Introduction and Overview
Latricia Scott Adams, Director, Volunteer Attorney Project
Daniel E. Blegen, Rouse Hendricks German May, PC
John J. Cruciani, Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP

9:00 - 9:50 a.m. Ethical Considerations in Pro Bono Engagements
Dean Ellen Suni, Marvin Lewis Rich Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law, UMKC School of Law

9:50 - 10:00 a.m. Break
10:00 - 10:35 a.m. Defending the Debtor in Common Discharge and Dischargeability Actions
Jeffery L. Wagoner, Wagoner Maxcy Westbrook, P.C.
Mark J. Schultz, Gallas & Schultz
10:35 - 11:10 a.m. Representing the Debtor in Student Loan Dischargeability Actions
Tracy L. Robinson, Tracy L. Robinson & Associates, LC
N. Larry Bork, Goodell, Stratton, Edmonds & Palmer, L.L.P.
11:10 - 11:15 a.m. Break
11:15 - 11:45 a.m. Perspectives and Comments from the Bench and the USTO
Hon. Dennis R. Dow, Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge
Hon. Arthur B. Federman, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge
Hon. Jerry Venters, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge
Daniel J. Casamatta, Assistant U.S. Trustee
11:45 - 11:50 a.m. Closing Remarks and Adjournment
The organizers of this program and seminar wish to express their sincere gratitude to the American College of Bankruptcy and the American College of Bankruptcy Foundation whose generous grants made this program and seminar possible.  

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