After an unplanned, exactly one month hiatus, we’re back! This long overdue post comes to you from Point Clear, Alabama, the site of the 2016 11th Circuit Judicial Conference, an event that brings together all of the federal judges in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida (i.e., the U.S. Marshals’ least favorite project every 2 years). Lest the conference appear more exclusive than it really is, 28 U.S.C. § 333 mandates that common folks like me get to attend. That is, the “court of appeals for each circuit shall provide by its rules for representation and active participation at such conference by members of the bar of such circuit.” Thus, my former colleague (who is now a judge) and his wife were nice enough to make Jessica and me their “plus two.”
To be sure, this isn’t your typical riveting bankruptcy seminar. Instead of keeping you on the edge of your seat with case updates on dischargeability actions, DIP financing, and lien avoidance–you know, the good stuff–they entertain you with “boring stuff” (i.e., topics that your spouse might actually find interesting if she wasn’t off shopping–more on that in a minute). Seriously, it really is bizarre how bankruptcy seminars warp our perceptions of what’s interesting.
For example, Beverly Hills attorney Don Burris gave a fantastic (and, believe it or not, knee-slapping) presentation called “Tragedy to Triumph – Reflections on Litigating Looted Art Collections.” He and his partner, Randy Schoenberg, are famous for their “successful pursuit of art works and other assets stolen by the Nazi authorities before and during World War II.” Specifically, they litigated successfully Altmann v. Republic of Austria, 541 U.S. 677 (2004), wherein a 6-3 Supreme Court decision resulted in the Austrian Government being ordered to return (and actually returning) to their client priceless paintings by Gustav Klimt.
You might know this story by its movie title, “Woman in Gold”:
(Don still hasn’t gotten over the fact that actor Ryan Reynolds played the part of his law partner, Randy Schoenberg.)
Anyway, funding for this blog depends on it having something to do with bankruptcy. Thus, I’ll conclude by reporting that the Conference Committee was gracious enough to offer a “Bankruptcy Breakout” session in the “Lagoon Room.” It was a neat opportunity for bankruptcy judges and lawyers to chat about bankruptcy issues while waiting for Justice Clarence Thomas (who was preceded by a K-9 unit and a U.S. Marshal or two) to make his way over to our breakout session. I must say that His Honor was perfectly affable, a great sport, and without any pomp or circumstance, as some brave (audacious?) judges (including our very own Judge Bonapfel) took Justice Thomas to task on various wrinkles in recent Supreme Court bankruptcy opinions. He readily admitted what we’ve always suspected: There’s a certain level of bias at the Court against bankruptcy cases. However, he was happy to learn that the Court occasionally gets one right by “blind luck.”
That’s all for now–I’m being summoned by Mrs. Bury for breakfast. We’ll get back on track in May with regular posts.
P.S. Speaking of Jessica, I have some words of wisdom for those who drag their spouses to destination conferences: Let them shop! Point in fact: Jessica and my colleague’s wife were in town shopping and ran into and chatted-up a nice lady who was also attending the conference. Later that evening, they invited her and her unassuming husband to join us for dinner at our Macon, Georgia table. We had a delightful conversation with them about the adventures of raising two daughters and the like. The crazy part is that I only learned this morning from Google that, earlier this year, her very humble husband (who I won’t name) was widely-reported by the New York Times, CNN, SCOTUSBlog, etc. as being one of President Obama’s top choices to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. Who knew?!
(Replica Civil War Cannon at the Grand Marriott at 6:30 a.m CST)