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Reading Recommendation from a Judge's Web Site

posted by David Yen

Recommended reading, and watching

Recently I was in court before Judge Jack Schmetterer.   In one of the cases that came before mine there was an issue about whether proper notice had been given.   The Judge used this occasion to recommend to the attorney for the movant, and no doubt to the other attorneys in attendance, that he should read The Trial, by Kafka.   The judge said that this recommendation was already included in his section of the bankruptcy court's web site.  I had never seen a recommended reading list on the court's web site, but when I went back to my office to check, it was there, in the part that describes the procedures for cases assigned to Judge Schmetterer.

"All motions to be called.

Because many debtors come to court without counsel on motions and some have defenses, all motions are heard in open court. (All counsel are advised to read “The Trial” by Franz Kaffa [sic] to understand how important the judge considers transparency in the Justice system.)...."


Are there any other "official" reading suggestions from Judges?   

Earlier this year Jack Ayer's posts gave us a wealth of bankrutpcy related literature to read.   I wouldn't dare to offer a list of my own.   I do think that Bleak House should be added to his list of Dickens novels.   If you are an unsecured creditor in a heavily lawyered liquidation, or ever worse a shareholder, you would have sympathy for the wards in the famous case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce

Professor Ayer also discussed bankruptcy and credit issues found in The Sopranos, which I take as license to start a discussion about  some movies that touch on these themes. 

Last week I finally saw the movie "Maxed Out" at a screening sponsored by various groups, including the Heartland Institute and my employer, the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.   Interesting movie, which may be a sign of public concern about debt practices.  I'll try to post something on this later this week.  But I'm going to exclude documentaries from this post.   

Surprisingly for a consumer advocate, two of my favorites in this category portray the other side sympathetically.  In Repo Man Harry Dean Stanton lives by the repo man's code.  Definitely fiction.  In Breaking Away the son learns that everyone cheats - his favorite cycling team, and the privileged college students who patronize his father's car dealership.   The used car dealer as the working class hero! 

Then there is the mini-series, The Pallisers, based on the novels of Anthony Trollope.  The take away lesson -- never co-sign a loan.  Well, there was a lot more than that, but that's still good advice, most of the time.


At UNLV, Keith Rowley organized a year-long film series for students and faculty, and he asked me to be the facilitator for a "Secured Credit" film. We showed The House of Sand and Fog, which is great book and a very good movie. It fits perfectly into the teaching of a broad-based Secured Credit class. The major plotline is the eviction of a woman by a sheriff (who she later has a romantic relationship with) for failure to pay a tax lien. A family buys the house to make a profit, but the struggle between the evicted woman and the family ends badly for all parties. The film is a powerful reminder of the human consequences behind the cold legal concept of "if you don't pay, we take it away."

If you enjoyed The Pallisers, I strongly recommend Orley Farm (about a perjury trial, based on a will forgery trial many years previous - not bankruptcy related, but a good legal novel), and Mr. Scarborough's Family (which is bankruptcy related). I love Trollope's legal novels.

I loved "Repo Man". Unfortunately, the best lines from the movie probably can't be re-posted here without evoking the ire of the local PTA.

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