Some Recommendations for the “Strategic Planning Program” of the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York
I write this while attending the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys Annual Workshop in Puerto Rico. I flew down here with my associate, Jason Leibowitz, and my good friend, Kerie Stone, who is the Chairperson of the Bankruptcy Committee of the Suffolk County Bar Association.
In between attending workshop sessions, Kerie and I chatted about her participation in a Strategic Planning Program which is designed to improve the efficiency of our bankruptcy courts in Central Islip and Brooklyn.
She said that upon her return to New York, she will be attending meetings with a committee of our bankruptcy judges, an efficiency expert being flown in from Washington, some of the court clerks, and some of the trustees — all in an effort to make our court run better.
Since I am an active and proactive Long Island bankruptcy attorney, Kerie asked me to come up with my own suggestions that she can relay to the Committee. I quickly came up with two. Here they are:
The Judges Should Unify Courtroom Practices and Procedures
We currently have seven different bankruptcy judges. Unfortunately, that means we have seven different sets of chambers rules, seven different sets of calendar procedures, and seven different sets of protocols.
For example, for the same type of court application, some judges permit counsel to submit notices of presentment whereas other judges require motions accompanied by court appearances. Also, different judges have different requirements (or permit their trustees to have different requirements) for the provisions they want contained in a Chapter 13 plan. It simply does not make sense that we do not have a uniform Chapter 13 plan for our district.
It would therefore be great if the judges could work together to unify their chamber rules and procedures.
Judges Should Improve Communications with the Bankruptcy Bar as to Expectations from Counsel
Attorneys would be able to practice much more efficiently if they knew what the judges expect from them. In addition, court practice would be much smoother if a larger percentage of attorneys handled matters in the manner the court would prefer.
As such, perhaps the judges can hold annual presentations to the bankruptcy bar during which time they can review how they would like counsel to handle or address various matters.
Many of our judges periodically provide presentations at continuing legal education seminars where attorneys can attend for a fee. However, my experience has been that most judges concentrate their discussions on substantive law issues, as opposed to procedural aspects that would make court practice more efficient.
What we need are periodic presentations at no cost where the sole purpose would be for the judges to discuss the court’s policies and procedures with the bankruptcy bar in an effort to make bankruptcy court practice more efficient. The judges could also consider other methods to educate the bar as to their expectations for bankruptcy practice.