• 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.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer

  • 1 In 3 Americans Poor Or ‘Near Poor’

    Phyllis Pendleton is a social worker with Catholic Charities in Washington, and her husband is a janitor. Combined, the couple makes about $51,000 a year, or more than 200 percent of the official poverty line. Taxes, medical care and transportation to work cost them about a fifth of their combined salaries, leaving them with a disposable income of about $40,000 a year. As noted in the New York Times article published on November 19, 2011, when the poverty threshold is adjusted to $31,000 for the region’s high cost of living, and the couple’s income is 29 percent above the poverty line. Under the new measures of poverty released by the Census Bureau that was blogged about here last month, the couple is “near poor.”

    Pendleton told the Times that the couple is living paycheck to paycheck. “One bad bill will wipe you out,” Pendleton told the Times.

    According to the Times, 100 million people, or one in three Americans, are either living in poverty or in “the fretful zone just above it.” Half live in households headed by a married couple and 49 percent live in the suburbs. Nearly half are non-Hispanic white, 18 percent are black and 26 percent are Latino, according to the Times, which also noted, “Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 28 percent work full-time, year round.”

    “These estimates defy the stereotypes of low-income families,” Census Bureau chief poverty statistician Trudi J. Renwick told the Times.

    Some critics oppose the term “near poverty” for conjuring levels of dire need experienced by only a minority among the truly poor. What do you think of the Census Bureau’s new measure of poverty? Is the “near poor” label misleading? Our Chicago bankruptcy attorney wants to hear how you feel.

    Benjamin Brand Services – Chicago bankruptcy lawyer