The Bankruptcy System In Rochester

Article I, Section 8, of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to enact "uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies." The Bankruptcy Code is a federal law, so bankruptcy courts are federal courts. They operate in 90 districts throughout the United States. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York includes all bankruptcies filed in and west of Wayne, Seneca, Schuyler and Chemung counties.

The court clerk: The court clerk operates two offices, one in Rochester (100 State Street in the first floor of the Federal Building) and one in Buffalo (300 Pearl Street, Suite 250). Court clerk Paul R. Warren splits his time between the two offices.

The bankruptcy judges: There are three bankruptcy judges — two in Buffalo (the Honorable Michael J. Kaplan and the Honorable Carl I. Bucki) and one in Rochester. The court has two divisions: cases filed in Monroe, Wayne, Livingston, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Yates, Schuyler and Chemung counties are assigned to the Rochester division and cases west of there are assigned to Buffalo.

Hearings for Rochester division cases are held in the U.S. Courthouse, 100 State Street, Rochester, except for cases filed in Schuyler, Steuben and Chemung counties. In those three counties, hearings are held once a month (usually the last Friday of the month) at the Schuyler County Courthouse, Watkins Glen, New York.

Chapter 7 trustees: In Chapter 7 cases, a panel trustee is assigned to each case shortly after it is filed. The Chapter 7 trustees are all private attorneys who do trustee work part time. There are seven bankruptcy trustees in Rochester: Michael H. Arnold, C. Bruce Lawrence, Douglas J. Lustig, Lucien A. Morin II, Kenneth W. Gordon, Warren H. Heilbronner and Raja Sekharan. Mr. Heilbronner is the senior member of the panel, having served as a trustee since 1961; Mr. Sekharan is the newest trustee, appointed in 2010. Trustee Bruce Lawrence is phasing out his trusteeship responsibilities.

Chapter 13 trustees: There are two Chapter 13 trustees in the Western District: Albert J. Mogavero in Buffalo and George M. Reiber (pronounced "RYE-burr") in Rochester. The Chapter 13 trustee position is full time; in fact, each of these trustees has a staff of people to assist in the administration of their cases. There is usually no trustee appointed in Chapter 11 business reorganization cases. The business itself acts as its own trustee.

Office of the U.S. Trustee: Both the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 trustees are appointed by and supervised by the Office of the United States Trustee. This office, usually just called the UST, is a branch of the United States Department of Justice. The regional office for this area is in New York City. There are local offices in both Rochester and Buffalo. The assistant United States trustee for Buffalo is Joseph Allen and in Rochester it is Kathleen Dunivin Schmitt. Besides overseeing trustees, the UST closely monitors Chapter 11 cases and monitors bankruptcy cases for abuse and fraud. Debtors who are unhappy with the conduct of their attorney and debtors or creditors who are unhappy with the conduct of their trustee may forward their complaints to the UST (Rochester address: 100 State Street; Rochester NY 14614.)

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