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The Secrets of Bankruptcy Judge Selection

posted by Bob Lawless

Judge & LawyerEverything you wanted to know about bankruptcy judge selection can be found in a report from the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) at the University of Denver. As many Credit Slips readers will know, bankruptcy court judges are appointed to 14-year terms by the courts of appeals in the various federal circuits. The exact appointment process varies from circuit to circuit. The report provides a detailed look from everything of who gets appointed to the circuit's merit selection panels that do most of the heavy lifting in making recommendations to how these panels conduct the interviews that are part of the selection process. Although the report is pitched more toward a policy-minded audience, it also should be required reading for anyone who might want to be a bankruptcy judge.

As the report documents, most observers think the bankruptcy judicial appointment process works pretty well, producing a high-quality bench through merit selection. As we debate the formalistic legal distinctions in the two pending Supreme Court cases (here and here) that could cut back the amount of bankruptcy judges' discretion, we should not forget the pragmatic reality that this discretion is being exercised by what is perhaps the most overall expert bench in the federal judiciary.

Judge and lawyer image courtesy of Shutterstock.


My respect for the bankruptcy bench only increases when I remember that it might NOT be the most expert branch in the federal judiciary. That honor may belong to the Federal Circuit: patent lawyers good and true. However, the Federal Circuit has gone off the deep end, seemingly believing that the only bad patent is one not issued. In contrast, bankruptcy judges are well-attuned to the real needs of the public, at least insofar as these needs are consistent with the language of the Code.

Wow, Lawless hangs the curve ball. There she is: big, fat, round as the moon, and just hanging there. Should I hit away?


I will take the liberty to "hit away".

Conflicts of Interests issues are still a crime in America (especially in a "legitimate" system of justice).

However, one can readily argue that we are no longer in a "legitimate" realm of justice; but in that of money/power & might make right.

It is totally absurd and incongruous to proffer the good faith/ethics of a system built upon a bogus foundation.

You can NOT have Circuit judges handpicking other Judges to practice before the Circuit.

It is inane and inherently disingenuous to have such a process! (Which is how we wound up in the 3rd Circuit with the U.S.T on the record {case 07-2360} stipulating that it hadn't and wouldn't address MNAT issues (with Senior Justice Walter K Stapleton hailing from MNAT) - as if the DOJ was upon bended knee to an ax wielding king say;

"See, we have kept them hands off".

It is also how (in a case involving MNAT - 07-2360) - that the Circuit Court opined "the Fed.R.App.Proc don't apply to bankruptcy cases involving MNAT

That being a case where MNAT has confessed to lying under oath and keeping Goldman Sachs/ Bain Capital (MNAT's secret clients) from being investigated and/or prosecuted for Racketeering.

While an MNAT partner (Colm Connolly) was also made the Delaware U.S. Attorney over the 3rd Circuit controlled cases of In re eToys and In re Kay Bee.

[IN]Justice in America - Ain't it Grand!

Maybe not the appropriate thread for this Q, PRof. Lawless, so please feel free to strike or move accordingly. That said, what should a debtor/consumer/mortgagor do if/when their bankruptcy court refuses to hear adversary proceedings? I've heard this on more than one occasion from more than one source so I have to at least begin to wonder...

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless (rlawless@illinois.edu) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.