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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jul. 5, 201012:00 PM EST

Bankruptcy Bar plans for busy year


by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

Bankruptcy filings in the Middle District of Florida are the second highest in the country, behind only the Los Angeles district.

No end is in sight.

“It’s a difficult time,” Jacksonville Division Chief Bankruptcy Court Judge Paul Glenn said Wednesday.

Glenn told members of the Jacksonville Bankruptcy Bar Association at its installation meeting that more than 64,000 bankruptcy cases were filed in the Florida Middle District in the 12 months from April 1, 2009, through March 31.

He reported that total business filings, comprising Chapter 7 liquidation and Chapter 11 reorganization petitions, totaled 3,210 in the Middle District, again behind Los Angeles.

Total Chapter 11 petitions were 647, ranking fourth behind New York, Delaware and Los Angeles.

“We’re as busy as we can be in all divisions,” said Glenn.

Glenn, citing state information, said unemployment remains up, housing prices are dropping and 23 percent of mortgages in the state are in foreclosure.

While projections call for a slow economic recovery, Glenn said after the event that there are several factors that could continue to affect filings.

One is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its effect on Florida businesses and another is the European economic situation and how it will impact the state’s international trade and related firms.

Glenn said bankruptcy filings in 2007 reflected the real estate market’s decline, with filings from real estate agents, brokers and construction-related ventures.

After that, “it just spread out and now I don’t know of anything that’s exempt.”

Glenn and Judge Jerry Funk serve as the bankruptcy judges in the Jacksonville Division. Both attended the bar event. The individual Chapter 11 filing by former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell was assigned to Funk’s court.

The Middle District covers 35 of Florida’s 67 counties and the area has 10 million residents.

The district has four divisions: Jacksonville, with two judges; Orlando, with two judges; Tampa with five; and Fort Myers, which is served by one of the Tampa judges.

That’s nine judges and 64,000 cases, meaning each averages more than 7,000 cases.

The Jacksonville Bankruptcy Bar Association consists of 143 members. About 25 attended the lunch at The River Club to install new officers.

The 2010-11 officers, who will serve July 1-June 30, are President Douglas Neway, the Chapter 13 Standing Trustee for the court’s Middle District Jacksonville Division; Vice President Mark Mitchell with Akerman Senterfitt; Secretary Jason Burgess of Crumley, Wolfe & Burgess; and Treasurer J. Ellsworth Summers Jr., Rogers Towers.

Immediate past President Jerrett McConnell, of Friedline & McConnell, became chair of the association. The chair serves on the board and creates a slate of candidates for board members.

The president presides over membership and board meetings and is the association’s official representative.

Directors are Lynn Drysdale, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid; Rehan N. Khawaja with The Law Offices of Rehan N. Khawaja; Eileen Dolaghan with King & Dolaghan; Jacob A. Brown with Akerman Senterfitt; Edward P. Jackson with Edward P. Jackson, P.A.; and Nina M. LaFleur with the LaFleur Law Firm.

Neway thanked McConnell for his year as president and being the driving force behind Bankruptcy Boot Camp. Neway said a goal for his term is to focus on outreach to law schools, including Florida Coastal School of Law, to increase interest in bankruptcy law.

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