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:

  1. 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.
  2. Reviewed and updated the text of ABI’s Bankruptcy Issues for State Trial Court Judges. The new second edition was published in November.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 December.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Sat in on Supreme Court oral arguments on bankruptcy cases and wrote summaries of the arguments for the ABI Update.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Edited and substantially rewrote a chapter on priorities under revised UCC Article 9 for a proposed ABI publication.
  11. 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 underwrites.

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.
mculhane@creighton.edu