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Remembering Alan Resnick

posted by Katie Porter

One of the hardest things about teaching, whether in an informal setting or in a classroom, is telling someone that they are . . . ahem, WRONG. Or at least not right. Or could use improvement. Or there is an opportunity to improve. Something like that. . . . Professor Alan Resnick, a beloved bankruptcy scholar and practitioner, had a gift of helping others improve their work. He would generously and gently offer suggestions, always making those around him feel hope that the could improve. Whenever one worked with Alan, they felt profound gratitude that the bankruptcy world had his intellect and commitment.

Alan-Resnick-rsAlan had a remarkable talent for drafting legislation, rules, and statutes. When I tried my hand at writing a simple amendment to a statute a few years ago, Alan reviewed my work. Rather than sending me a tangled redline that would have at least temporarily crushed my spirit, he picked up the phone, and kindly offered to "support" my effort. He spent hours that day teaching me considerations in drafting. Put another way, Alan rescued me from sure disaster. Over his 40 years of service to the bankruptcy world, his keen eye and amazing knowledge of bankruptcy law prevented hundreds of instances of poor drafting. This was not mere technical work. Alan's insight, which he passed along to those he taught and knew, was that any good idea could fail if the written law did not accurately and fully capture the idea. He truly was the guardian of the written Bankruptcy Code and Bankruptcy Rules.

Alan Resnick passed away on July 28 of complications from multiple myeloma. I lost a close family member to this cancer, and I find comfort in knowing that Alan undoubtedly brought his incredible spirit and optimism to battling this disease. Alan's family continues to work to find a cure for multiple myeloma.

We at Credit Slips welcome comments remembering Alan, as a person and a professional. I especially remember his laugh, which lightened many intense debates about bankruptcy policy.  Anyone who was lucky enough to hear Alan talk about the drafting mess of BAPCPA, the bankruptcy reform in 2005, observed both his passion for bankruptcy's purpose of a fresh start and his ability to find humor in a dark time. His memory reminds us to keep perspective and keep fighting the good fight. May he rest in peace, and may we honor Alan's memory by continuing to urge Congress to remedy every misplaced comma, incorrect cross reference, and hanging paragraph in the Bankruptcy Code that limits help for struggling families and failing businesses.


In working with Alan Resnick, I learned so much, about so many things, that he rightly could have charged tuition many times over. Alan’s balance of idealism and pragmatism was inspiring, his knowledge of all aspects of the bankruptcy system prodigious, making him the ideal choice to become editor-in-chief (along with the amazing Henry Sommer) for Collier on Bankruptcy. Alan’s gift for drafting truly was something to behold and study. He saw how even a single word choice could ripple through the entire bankruptcy system, with real world effects. The bankruptcy system will benefit from those and many other contributions for a long time to come.

Gratitude to the Resnick family, as well as to Hofstra Law School, for so generously sharing Alan with the rest of us all of these years. It was a privilege to know him, and we mourn with you.

This is a wonderful tribute, Katie. To my regret, I did not know Alan as well as some of the other Credit Slips bloggers. When we did interact, he was unfailingly welcoming and kind. As Katie and Melissa already have commented, Alan had an outstanding grasp of all elements of the bankruptcy system. When Alan spoke (or wrote), it was always something to which to pay attention. I will miss Alan and his many contributions to our scholarly community.

It's hard for me to think of my favorite Alan moment from all the conferences, symposia, and meetings we attended over the years. I think perhaps it might be when the Supreme Court's jurisdictional cases on bankruptcy came down over the past few years and he would burst into impassioned discussion with me whenever he had the chance. Like all truly great academics, it was never screed or polemic; it was always a series of questions, designed to digest, learn, and provide grist for further consideration. (And, of course, being Alan, it was always detailed and accurate!) He was a selfless senior colleague with a true love of his field - and he'll be deeply missed.

Alan was someone who made you smile the moment you saw him; when you went to him with a knotty problem, he was someone who would make you feel you had done him a favor when he solved it; his passing leaves a gap where there was warmth and welcoming always. He was a fine scholar and equally as fine a man.


I've taken some time to post in response to Katie's wonderful tribute and the other posts of similar tenor because I had trouble developing my thoughts. Then I realized why. Alan was a wonderful man, but he was so quiet about it, the qualities that stood out were not obvious to me. Of course, that was the point. He never paraded his outstanding qualities of warmth, engagement, friendship, intellectual curiosity, intelligence and encyclopedic knowledge of the bankruptcy law. They were just there for those of us in his presence to soak up if we were sufficiently attentive. My contacts with Alan were more professional than social or personal, although one could not know him professionally without knowing him personally as well, because his personal qualities enveloped every encounter. That included his genuineness, his lack of guile and of ego, always searching for the best answer, the right thing to do. Through just doing what came naturally and easily to him, he made an enormous contribution to our profession and our community. I had no idea how much I would miss him or how profoundly his passing would affect me until he was gone (a lesson we all must keep in mind for all those special people around us). His passing will leave a great absence in the halls of the bankruptcy world. I’m sure the same things that made him a treasure to the bankruptcy world also made him a treasure to his family. We thank you for sharing him with us. Our hearts go out to you.

Professor Resnick was a scholar and not an arrogant one but profound. While attending a bankruptcy conference at NYU law school, I found that he was the only panelist, who talked about Crowell v. Benson relation with bankruptcy court jurisdiction and difference between de novo review of 28 usc 157 and de novo trial as premised in Crowell case.

As someone (or maybe more than one person) said at his funeral, Alan was a mensch in the truest sense of the word. When I was asked whom I would like as Co-Editor in Chief of Collier on Bankruptcy, I did not hesitate for a second before naming Alan. Having worked closely with him in various capacities for almost 30 years, I can say he is simply irreplaceable. No bankruptcy scholar could write more clearly, none could better analyze the law, no professor could better teach and explain bankruptcy, and no one had a bigger heart. He was a great friend and I will miss him every day. He has left a tremendous legacy in his body of work and also in his wonderful family, in whom he took so much pride.

We have lost a wonderful human being as well as a remarkable contributor to the bankruptcy community. Alan's contributions to the Bankruptcy Rules and the rules process deserves special note. He was the clear leader and led in the way that Katie so aptly noted. What a loss for his family in all of whom he took such joy and pride and for all of us. David

Everyone who has posted has described Alan so well. I agree with all of the adjectives that have been used. But if I were to pick one word to describe him, it would be "kind." No matter how passionate Alan might be in a discussion, he was always respectful of others and willing to listen to different points of view. He was generous with his time and knowledge. Like many others, I learned so much from him and greatly admired his mastery of all things bankruptcy. On the (probably few) occasions when Alan said, "I agree with Elizabeth," I was filled with pride. But even when he disagreed, he left my ego intact. I still can't believe Alan is gone. I will miss him very much.

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