Presidents Column

Presidents Column

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ABI's 20th Anniversary year started off with a bang, and continues apace. As usual, expect a lot from ABI this year, and take the opportunity to avail yourself of more of what ABI has to offer.

Our Annual Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C., in April was attended by more than 800 members, nearly 10 percent of our membership. The educational sessions were full and bustling with lively discussion, the halls were buzzing with the usual networking, and the Opening and Closing Receptions were larger and more entertaining than ever. Joined by laser lights at the Reagan Trade Center and the Temptations, members were in quite a mood to celebrate ABI (not to mention the current bankruptcy boom).

Regional Conferences

Our regional educational conferences have also seen record attendance this year. I have always trumpeted these programs to those unable to attend ABI's national meetings. The vast majority of ABI members can drive, if they choose, to the ABI conference in their region, and once there will find the panels (and social hours) filled with judges and practitioners from the region, as well as a smattering of ABI leaders and others from around the country, all eager to mix with their colleagues. The very high rate of return attendance at these programs speaks volumes for the quality of the educational and networking experience.

Web Developments

For all of our members, ABI's 20th Anniversary year will mark even more superior member resources. The award-winning ABIWorld web site will be reconfigured to make it easier to peruse its many functions. Foremost, the research capability offered by ABI's web site is not to be overlooked—ABIWorld allows a text search of all of the written materials from ABI's national and regional educational programs for the last five years, as well as all issues of the monthly ABI Journal for several years. ABIWorld also offers the recurring Cracking the Code online newsletter about recent case decisions, bankruptcy and financial news, links to other related web sites, discussion boards, ABI's online membership directory and much more.


In addition, this year, ABI has issued several new publications, including the well-received treatise, Bankruptcy in Practice (by Prof. John Ayer and Michael Bernstein), the ABI Preference Handbook, the Bankruptcy Overview and the Reclamation Manual; new handbooks are expected shortly, including those covering health care issues and first-day orders. The ABI Annual Membership Directory will have a new look for 2002-2003, with many new ways to access and cross-reference the information you want.

Get Involved

For those who wish to become more involved with ABI, our Board has recently adopted a formal procedure to encourage and channel volunteers to meaningful opportunities to participate in ABI activities, and to promote themselves in the community. On my watch, ABI will steadfastly remain a grassroots organization that is open to and welcomes the involvement of all members. Even though we will grow to top 9,000 members this fall, I am confident that ABI can embrace all members who desire to participate.

Making the most out of each member's committee experience goes hand in hand with encouraging member involvement. ABI's committees provide the greatest opportunity for members to contribute to ABI and to increase their profile in the organization. ABI's committees are charged to generate writing opportunities for the ABI Journal, Cracking the Code, manuscripts and ABI Law Review articles, and to present meaningful educational programs at the two annual meetings. Committees meet at ABI's two annual meetings.

We have also reinvigorated and expanded the mission of our Young Members Committee in an effort to reach out to the up-and-coming members of our community. Programs will be held at the annual meetings to address the interests and concerns of this group, and e-mail outreach will begin in the fall for those who cannot make the annual meetings.

Should you wish to get involved in committee activities, please call, write to or e-mail any committee co-chairs to offer your assistance. A list of the committee co-chairs can be found on ABIWorld and in the ABI Membership Directory, or you can call ABI's membership department. Feel free to call ABI's Executive Director, Sam Gerdano, and others at ABI headquarters. We are lucky to have a great team of nearly 20 staff members who are dedicated and well-qualified to serve ABI's members.

In this, our 20th Anniversary year, I have asked ABI's current leaders to ensure that all members have the chance to participate if they wish, and should they choose to make the effort, to find the paths toward leadership. I encourage all of you to take advantage of the available opportunities. In my own experience, I have found ABI involvement to be very meaningful, personally and professionally, as I have made many good friends, learned much from the programs, participated on panels with many judges and practitioners from all of the professions in our community, and profited from the relationships that develop. I look forward to seeing or speaking with each of you.

Final Report of ABI's Spring 2002 Robert M. Zinman Scholar in Residence

My tenure as Scholar in Residence ran from Jan. 1-May 24, 2002. My duties included preparing materials for conferences, presenting at conferences, responding to media requests, doing interviews for newspaper stories and for radio programs both taped and live, responding to ABI members' various questions, as well as bankruptcy questions raised by non-member attorneys and members of the public, assisting the Endowment Committee on the review of research grant proposals, and rewriting ABI publications.

During my tenure at ABI, I completed the following tasks:

1. Participated as a faculty member at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Conference in Philadelphia. This program required leading a discussion of a hypothetical with several different groups of conference attendees.

2. Presented a program on recent developments regarding dischargeability, with an emphasis on credit card obligations and willful and malicious injuries. This program, sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center, was for bankruptcy judges and was given twice—in San Diego and Cleveland.

3. Prepared substantial materials for, and participated on a panel at, ABI's Rocky Mountain Bankruptcy Conference in Denver. The panel's overall topic was dischargeability, and my assignment was a discussion on education loans.

4. Attended the Spring Meeting of the ABA Business Law Section in Boston, and moderated a panel on preference issues for the Avoiding Powers Subcommittee of the Business Bankruptcy Committee. I am the vice-chair of that subcommittee.

5. Participated on a panel at ABI's Annual Spring Meeting dealing with dischargeability. I assisted in the preparation of substantial materials for the panel, and discussed the issue of willful and malicious injuries.

6. Presented a keynote address to the Northwest Bankruptcy Institute in Portland, Ore., sponsored by the Oregon and Washington Bar Associations. My topic was the contract and property theories underlying the Supreme Court's analysis of the rights of secured creditors in bankruptcy.

7. Prepared materials and presented a program on the intersection between revised Article 9 and bankruptcy for the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference in Cleveland.

8. Participated in ABI's Northeast Bankruptcy Conference this summer on Cape Cod, speaking on the ethical implications of pre-bankruptcy planning.

9. Appeared twice on a live radio talk show in New Orleans—the "Ed Clancy Show." Both times, we discussed consumer bankruptcy and the pending amendments.

10. Taped an interview for a syndicated radio program, "The Wizards of Money," out of Atlanta.

11. Accompanied Judge Erwin I. Katz to the Federal Judicial Center and met with staff members there in an effort to collect materials for the ABI web site on mediation and alternative dispute resolution techniques useful in bankruptcy cases.

12. Attended a hearing of the House-Senate Conference Committee that is attempting to resolve the last of the issues regarding the pending bankruptcy amendments.

13. Reviewed and edited ABI's publication on preference law.

14. Reorganized and completely rewrote ABI's Bankruptcy Overview.

15. Began, with the assistance of Prof. G. Ray Warner, the incoming scholar in residence, to organize a scholarly program to mark the 25th anniversary of the Bankruptcy Code. This program, which will be held in October 2003, will be targeted at law professors specializing in bankruptcy. We now have commitments for major papers from four of the top people in the field—Barry Adler, Elizabeth Warren, Douglas Baird and James J. White. I will continue to work on this project despite leaving the position as scholar in residence.

Continued flexibility is the key to the success of this program. Sam Gerdano, ABI's Executive Director, was understanding of the fact that I came in with several commitments that required me to take time for preparation of materials and presentations. I also continued to teach one course at the law school, which occasionally required my attention while I was physically at ABI. Nonetheless, the opportunity to deal with the media and with developments in Congress, and to work on an ABI publication, is very attractive and should continue to draw professors to this position.

This semester has gone by incredibly quickly, probably because it has been such a wonderful opportunity. I echo the sentiments of my predecessor, Prof. Jack F. Williams, regarding the terrific staff at ABI and its executive director, Sam Gerdano. The organization is top-notch, largely because of its leadership. I have learned an enormous amount—so much that I fear I may have gotten more than I've given.

I never seem to accomplish as much as I would like, and this semester has been no exception. However, my major contributions, the Bankruptcy Overview and the forthcoming symposium, were done and are being done right. I also have a great deal of confidence in Prof. Warner, who will succeed me as scholar in residence. He will certainly raise the bar for the future.

—Prof. Margaret Howard
Washington & Lee University; Lexington, Va.

Journal Date: 
Monday, July 1, 2002