Law Review: Gotberg, Brook- What Should We Do With Bankruptcy Judges?: A Strategic Approach


The Supreme Court’s ruling in Stern v. Marshall has signaled a need to alter the bankruptcy court’s jurisdictional structure. In Stern, the Supreme Court ruled that bankruptcy judges, who lack the life tenure and salary protection of Article III, cannot issue final rulings in bankruptcy proceedings previously believed to be within their core jurisdiction. In response to the constitutional challenge raised by Stern, and in recognition that bankruptcy court’s jurisdictional limits represent a long-standing problem, many argue for a long-term solution: the restructuring of the system to create specialized Article III bankruptcy courts.

This paper evaluates this proposal in light of classic principles of system restructuring, namely, that any proposed restructure should stem from the underlying goals or strategy for that system. The creation of a specialized Article III bankruptcy court is consistent with the view of bankruptcy as a method of distribution, but not with bankruptcy as a procedural mechanism to deal with collective default. In recognition of this tension, the paper promotes an alternative solution to the Stern problem, one that harmonizes other strategic approaches and promotes uniformity in bankruptcy. This solution would replace bankruptcy courts with an administrative agency subject to the review of non-specialized district courts.

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1. Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Washington University, 1993. 2. Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University, 1996. Admissions to Practice of Law: North Carolina Bar, 1996. Federal District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of North Carolina. Specialty Certification: North Carolina State Bar: Certified as a Specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy. Areas of Practice: Practice limited to consumer and business debtor bankruptcy law, 1998 to present. Memberships: National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers (NCATL). North Carolina Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section. Lectures prepared and presented: North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers seminar on bankruptcy; Topic: Counseling the Consumer Debtor Prior to Court - C.Y.A. Forms to Help 'Gird They Loins'; 2001. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Preparing Chapter 13 Plans; 2002. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Efficient Office Practices; 2003. NACBA National Convention; Topic: Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Debates; 2004. Middle District Bankruptcy Seminar; Topic: Chapter 7 & 13 Hot Issues; 2004. Positions held: NACBA National Convention; Convention Chair; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator: Topic: Basic Bankruptcy Issues; 2008. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Chapter 13-Disposable Income and Other Issues; 2007. NACBA National Convention; Panel Moderator; Topic: Representing Members of the Military and Their Families; 2007. NACBA, Member of National Board of Directors, 2006 to present. NCATL, Chair of the Bankruptcy Section, 2003 to 2007. NACBA, Chair of the North Carolina Section, 2003 to 2007. NC Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section, Bankruptcy Council Member, 2004 to present.

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