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Congress adds bankruptcy judges in Eastern District

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Congress late Tuesday sent the president a disaster aid bill with a bipartisan provision authorizing an additional permanent bankruptcy judge for the Eastern District of Michigan, as well as extending a temporary judgeship in the district, among others nationwide.

The $36.5 billion aid package incorporated a version of the Bankruptcy Judgeship Act of 2017 introduced by Detroit Democratic Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.

The legislation extends 14 temporary bankruptcy judgeships and authorizes four new bankruptcy judgeships across the country in an effort to boost the efficiency of bankruptcy courts in districts facing large caseloads.

“This legislation will ensure that citizens of Detroit, especially those facing economic distress, are able to obtain financial relief from a fully staffed bankruptcy court,” Conyers said in a statement.

“While I would have preferred the original version of my legislation, which would have made these judgeships permanent, I am pleased that Congress took action.”

The federal Judicial Conference wrote to congressional leaders in April saying that federal bankruptcy courts in Delaware, the Eastern District of Michigan and seven other districts faced a “debilitating workload crisis” if lawmakers didn’t add judgeships to help with the cases.

While bankruptcy filings declined nationally in recent years, the effected districts have seen a 55 percent increase in case filings since 2005, when weighted for the complexity of cases, the conference said in its letter.

Michigan’s Eastern District, which serves Detroit, currently has four permanent bankruptcy judgeships and a temporary judgeship whose authorization lapsed May 25.

The Judicial Conference recommended adding two judgeships for the Eastern District — converting the temporary judgeship to a permanent position, as well as an additional permanent judgeship — to bring its total to six judges.

The conference warned that, without the two additional judges, the Eastern District’s caseload would exceed the standard of 1,500 cases per judgeship by 40 percent.

As approved, the measure increases a quarterly fee for large Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases to pay for the additional judgeships nationwide.

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