Remembering the Contributions of Former Chief Judge John Schwartz

John Schwartz, the former chief judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois credited for the work he did to develop judges in his court as well as lasting contributions to bankruptcy judges across the country, died of natural causes on November 28, 2011.

"He came in at a time when the Bankruptcy Court was not held in very high repute," bankruptcy scholar Douglas Baird, a professor and former dean of the University of Chicago Law School, told the Chicago Tribune for a story published on December 4, 2011. "He came in and worked with a group of talented judges to change all that."

Judge Schwartz was appointed to the Bankruptcy Court in 1984 and was chief judge from 1987 to 1998. He retired as chief judge in 1998, but was called back to the court as a judge until he finally stepped down in 2008. The Tribune noted that Judge Schwartz put together a professional development program called the Schwartz Roundtable for judges attending annual meetings of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges. The program allows judges to share experiences and discuss legal ideas.

"What he did was create an atmosphere of friendship, cooperation and good humor," Eugene Wedoff, who became a judge of the court in 1987, told the Tribune. While Schwartz fostered a more informal atmosphere among colleagues, Wedoff also said he always took the work of his court seriously, having "a real compassion for the people appearing before him" and taking the time to "make sure people understood procedures well enough to make the right decisions."

His wife, Elizabeth, told the Tribune, "The fulfilling part, he felt, was you could help people who were in deep trouble." While those entering the Bankruptcy Court for Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 filings will no longer stand before Judge Schwartz, the changes he ushered in will still be felt for years to come.

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