Veteran judge takes over Detroit bankruptcy case

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A veteran judge will take over Detroit’s landmark bankruptcy case Thursday following the retirement of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes.

Thomas Tucker, a federal bankruptcy judge since 2003, was named the successor Wednesday by R. Guy Cole Jr., chief judge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Tucker will resolve lingering disputes over claims in the biggest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history and enforce the city’s plan to shed $7 billion in debt, restructure another $3 billion and plow $1.7 billion into improved services. The city emerged from bankruptcy in early December.

“I make this designation having reviewed the levels of experience and the respective caseloads of the judges of the bankruptcy court, and the availability of Judge Tucker, and having received the input of the judges of the bankruptcy and district courts for the Eastern District of Michigan,” Cole wrote.

Tucker graduated from the University of Toledo and received his juris doctor from Harvard University. A former appeals court clerk, Tucker worked in private practice for 20 years in Toledo, focusing on commercial litigation and bankruptcy.

“He is very smart and thoughtful. I think he is another one that you will get a fair hearing in front of,” said Douglas Bernstein, a Bloomfield Hills bankruptcy attorney who has closely followed the city's case. “Some judges get painted as ‘he/she is a debtor’s judge’ as opposed to ‘creditors’ judge.’ He doesn’t have a label like that.”

One of Tucker’s biggest cases involved the bankruptcy of Automotive plastics manufacturer Venture Industries. The firm, one of Fraser’s largest, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2003 and employed 2,000 people in the Detroit area at its peak.

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