February 2011 Volunteer Feature: Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker LLP Partners with City Bar Justice Center to Assist Debt-Burdened New Yorkers
Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker LLP has assumed a leading role in assisting debt-burdened New York City residents through the City Bar Justice Center's Consumer Bankruptcy Project. Since participating in their first Bankruptcy Clinic in November 2010, a number of attorneys from Paul Hastings have donated their time and talent to the Project, returning on multiple occasions to meet with low-income clients in need of assistance.
The Consumer Bankruptcy Project recruits, trains, and mentors volunteer attorneys to advise low-income consumers of their rights and responsibilities regarding outstanding debts. To date, Paul Hastings attorneys have participated in three Bankruptcy Clinics - two of which were staffed entirely by Paul Hastings volunteers - during which they met with debtors who were considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief and advised them on the steps needed to successfully obtain discharge. "The time and effort expended by the Paul Hastings pro bono volunteers has allowed the Project to assist more people in dire need of skilled legal counseling and helped to substantially reduce the waiting list of eligible clients," said John McManus, Director of the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.
The Consumer Bankruptcy Project also administers the Bankruptcy Pro Bono Panel, which provides pro bono representation in matters referred by bankruptcy judges of the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. The Panel is comprised of volunteer attorneys who represent pro se debtors in discrete contested matters relating to their Chapter 7 cases, such as the discharge of student loans and stay relief. Bryan Kaplan, an attorney with Paul Hastings whose practice area is finance and restructuring, has been actively involved as a member of the Panel since its inception in 2006 and has successfully represented several clients in litigated matters.
Kaplan and Danny Choi, also of Paul Hastings, are currently representing a client referred to the Bankruptcy Pro Bono Panel in connection with a motion to reopen his Chapter 7 case. The client is a Con Edison employee who was a World Trade Center first-responder following the attacks on September 11, 2001. The client filed a Chapter 7 case in 2002 and received a discharge in 2003. He then developed a respiratory illness relating to his work at the World Trade Center, and was found eligible due to his diagnosis to receive a distribution from the recent settlement of a class action lawsuit. The Chapter 7 trustee has moved the Bankruptcy Court to reopen the Chapter 7 case to potentially recover some of this distribution from the client. The client, with the assistance of Paul Hastings volunteers, is opposing this action by the trustee.
Alan Brudner, Board Member of the City Bar Justice Center and Litigation Partner at Paul Hastings was instrumental in introducing the work of the Justice Center at the firm, which also recently joined the CBJC's Veterans Assistance Project. "The Justice Center is pleased to recognize Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker LLP for its commitment to assisting low-income New Yorkers and we look forward to continuing to work with such an enthusiastic pro bono partner," said Carol Bockner, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at the Justice Center.
* Pictured in photo above - Back row (from left to right): Paul Hastings Attorneys Mor Wetzler, James Grogan, Justin Wolff, Bryan Kaplan and Daniel Hughes. Front row: CBJC Consumer Bankruptcy Project Staff Ramona Morel, John McManus