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Bankruptcy Procedure ManualBankruptcy Exemption Manual

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In my mind I had always wanted to be a writer. Reality came crashing in, however, when I failed to make the cut for the freshman creative writing class. Since then, I have taken a vicarious pleasure in watching the literary successes of my friends, as if their proximity to me somehow meant that someday I, too, could publish something that others would want to read.

That feeling first arose when I read, with a great deal of pride, the glowing review in The New York Times Book Review of the first novel of a college classmate. That feeling of pride turned to envy when I learned that a law school acquaintance had sold the movie rights to his first novel to Clint Eastwood for $2 million. And as I sat in the theater watching that political thriller unfold on the screen, a little voice inside me said, "I could have done that."

So I began to examine with more than a little trepidation these three manuals, which were written by two friends of mine. The Bankruptcy Exemption Manual is also co-authored by the Hon. William Houston Brown, who happens to be a bankruptcy judge in my state.

After I began reading (and almost immediately began using) these two manuals, I did not have the same "I could have done that" feeling. To start off, the manuals—in soft cover, no less—weigh more collectively than I did at birth. (I have come to understand from the authors that the gestation period for these manuals was somewhat longer.) The Bankruptcy Procedure Manual, 1998 Edition, is an updated and expanded replacement of the Bankruptcy Rules Manual (1997 Edition), which also was written by my friends Ahern and MacLean.

The Procedure Manual is a rule-by-rule guide to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, with significant and easy-to-use annotations and explanations. The manual goes beyond just committee, comments and brief case cites to include other relevant information. For example, in the discussion of Rule 2016, Compensation for Services Rendered and Reimbursement of Expenses, the manual includes in full the guidelines for reviewing applications adopted by the Executive Office for the United States Trustees. The section on Rule 3020, regarding confirmation of a plan, includes an elegant and comprehensive checklist of chapter 11 confirmation requirements; I now direct the young associates in our firm to that page for drafting objections to confirmation. The section on Rule 8009 includes an annotated timeline for the filing of briefs on a bankruptcy appeal. Case comments in the Procedure Manual are more than mere snippets, and include conflicts between courts, as rare as that may be in bankruptcy.

The Procedure Manual is supplemented by comprehensive tables of statutes, court rules and cases, along with an index of topics.

The Bankruptcy Exemption Manual (1997-1998 Edition) begins with a primer on the history of exemptions in bankruptcy law, and then continues with discussions of exemptions in the bankruptcy estate, the impact of state "opt out" from the federal exemptions, the interplay between a debtor’s exemptions and the avoidance powers available to a debtor and to a trustee. There is a significant discussion devoted to the procedure for claiming exemptions and challenging exemptions. In the appendices, the Exemption Manual contains a comprehensive list of sample pleadings and a state-by-state analysis of exemptions, by category of property and amount of exemption. Thus, one can quickly determine that Tennessee allows only a $5,000 homestead exemption, while Texas allows up to 200 acres for a homestead, with no dollar value limitation. The comment to the Texas exemptions notes that this exemption dates back to 1839, which may explain, in part, why so many insolvent Tennesseeans were present at the founding of the Republic of Texas.

The Bankruptcy Exemption Manual is a must for those practicing consumer bankruptcy law, either as a trustee, debtor’s attorney or creditor’s attorney.

The Bankruptcy Procedure Manual qualifies as a "credenza book." That is, in the hierarchy of books beginning at the bottom with those found in the library, those found on my bookshelf, and finally with those found on the credenza behind my desk, the Bankruptcy Procedure Manual sits on my credenza. It already bears the scars of highlights, post-its and dog-ears.

Journal Date: 
Wednesday, July 1, 1998

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