Professor Marianne Culhane
Resident Scholar Final Report
Fall of 2003
I had the great honor to serve as the fifth ABI Robert M. Zinman
Scholar in Residence from July through December 2003 at ABI’s
offices in lovely Alexandria, Va., on the banks of the Potomac. My
duties included writing for ABI periodicals, updating ABI publications,
writing materials for and making presentations at conferences,
coordinating specialized bankruptcy training for federal employees,
doing interviews for television, radio and newspapers, answering
requests for information from ABI members and the general public, as
well as analyzing proposed legislation for congressional committees.
During my tenure at ABI, I completed the following tasks:
- Wrote monthly articles for the ABI Journal on topics such as the
bankruptcy-related Supreme Court cases to be heard in 2003-04, and
pending legislation, particularly on pension issues.
- Reviewed and updated the text of ABI’s Bankruptcy Issues for
State Trial Court Judges. The new second edition was published in
- Planned, recruited speakers, prepared materials for and spoke at
ABI’s specialized bankruptcy training session for the USDA’s
Perishable Agricultural Commodities (PACA) Unit. I am grateful to ABI
members Jordan Kroop, Rebecca Roof and Nancy Peterman, experienced
practitioners who volunteered to speak on the interaction of the
Bankruptcy Code and the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. This
very successful program was held Nov. 19 at the USDA headquarters in
Washington, D.C. Participants included the PACA Unit’s D.C.-area
legal staff, as well as PACA personnel in Illinois, who joined in via
video conferencing technology. ABI plans to offer similar customized
bankruptcy training for other agencies, beginning with the U.S.
Department of Labor’s Black Lung Unit in early 2004.
- Spoke on discharge and collateral retention issues in the consumer
portion of the “Nuts & Bolts” Program, and served as
moderator for a panel on ethics in consumer bankruptcy practice at
ABI’s Winter Leadership Conference in La Quinta, Calif., in
- At the wonderful ABI Symposium marking the 25th Anniversary of the
Bankruptcy Code, I introduced the three speakers on consumer bankruptcy.
The symposium, the brainchild of former ABI Scholars G. Ray Warner and
Margaret Howard, drew many of the nation’s leading bankruptcy law
professors to hear and comment on major papers presented by Barry Adler,
Douglas Baird, Elizabeth Warren and James J. White, evaluating the
Code’s successes and shortcomings. The Symposium was held at the
Georgetown University Law Center in October, and the proceedings will be
published in an upcoming issue of the ABI Law Review.
- Wrote comments on several pieces of proposed legislation, at the
request of staffers for congressional committees. These concerned
proposed changes to the Federal Deposit Insurance Act’s bank
insolvency provisions, as well as to the venue, preference and
fraudulent conveyance sections of the Bankruptcy Code.
- Sat in on Supreme Court oral arguments on bankruptcy cases and wrote
summaries of the arguments for the ABI Update.
- Taped interviews for television and radio programs, including CBS
News, CBS Marketwatch, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CNN Financial News,
Bloomberg News, NPR’s Marketplace, KXL Radio in Portland, Ore.,
and WAMC in Albany, N.Y.
- On a daily basis, answered questions from the press, public,
judiciary and ABI members on all matters relating to bankruptcy, and
often sent follow-up articles and other written materials as well. The
most unexpected query came from People Magazine: Would ABI like to
nominate several of its members for People’s latest “Sexiest
Men (with Brains)” list? Questioners included a high school
student in Chicago, a scholar in Austria, E-Bay Auto’s sales
manager, and magazine and newspaper reporters from the Wall Street
Journal to the Swedish News to the AMA’s American Medical News.
The range of questions was challenging. On any single day, queries could
cover remedies for season ticket-holders of a bankrupt orchestra, filing
statistics in the 1920s, how to interpret the details of a chapter 11
petition and schedules of a telecommunications firm, and whether an
increasing percentage of physicians are filing bankruptcy. Most
inquiries, however, concerned either the reasons for current consumer
filing rates or progress in particular chapter 11 cases, especially
Enron and WorldCom.
- Edited and substantially rewrote a chapter on priorities under
revised UCC Article 9 for a proposed ABI publication.
- Attended meetings of the National Association of Bankruptcy
Trustees, the ABA’s Administrative Law Section and the ABI’s
Views from the Bench, all in Washington, D.C.
My few months as the ABI Resident Scholar were an exciting new
challenge and a wonderful change of pace. The opportunity to work on ABI
publications, talk with so many reporters and others, and to get to know
ABI’s great staff was very valuable. Seeing firsthand what
wonderful leadership ABI enjoys and the efforts ABI staffers make to
serve the membership makes it clear why this organization has grown so
rapidly in influence as well as in numbers. I am grateful to Sam Gerdano
and the rest of the ABI headquarters crew for their many kindnesses, and
their willingness to let me to commute from Omaha to undertake these
responsibilities. The ABI Endowment is to be commended for adding this
innovative resident scholar position to the portfolio it
The next Robert M. Zinman ABI Resident Scholar is Roger Whelan,
currently in private practice in Washington, D.C. and an adjunct
professor at Catholic University School of Law. While prior scholars
have had extensive experience in teaching and private practice, Roger
will bring a new dimension to the position, for he is the first scholar
with experience on the bankruptcy bench. Roger’s 11 years as a
Washington, D.C., bankruptcy judge should greatly enrich the insight he
will bring to the office of resident scholar.
Prof. Marianne B. Culhane
Creighton University Law School; Omaha, Neb.