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It's Judge v. Judge in Case of Bankrupt Law Grad

In an unusual example of judicial defiance, an on-his-way-out bankruptcy judge is siding with an out-of-work and deep-in-debt law grad and issuing a rebuke to the federal district judge who overruled him.

"An irascible Massachusetts bankruptcy judge known for 'whacking lenders' has turned his acid pen upon the chief of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts who overruled his decision to release a penniless bar-failer from her law school debts," reports Julia Reischel has the story at The Docket, the blog of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly newspaper.

The case involves Denise M. Bronsdon, now 65, who graduated in 2005 in the top half of her class at the unaccredited Southern New England School of Law but then failed the Massachusetts bar exam three times. She is now unemployed and lives on Social Security in a room at her father's house.

In a decision last January, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Joel B. Rosenthal ruled that it would be an undue hardship to force Bronsdon to repay the $82,000 she owes in law school loans and he ordered the debt discharged. On appeal by the creditor, U.S. District Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf said that Rosenthal should not have reached that conclusion without considering the fact that Bronsdon was eligible for a debtor-repayment plan. "[The] legal conclusions underlying the Bankruptcy Court's decision are incorrect," Wolf wrote.

Now, Rosenthal has issued a new opinion in response to Wolf's ruling, again discharging the law-school loans. As Reischel notes in her post, Rosenthal's tone in the opinion is "clearly annoyed" and includes "a condescending '[sic]' at the end of a long quote from Wolf's opinion." He went on to say that "shackling" Bronsdon to the repayment plan "would be such a pointless exercise" given that her "chances of ever repaying any portion of the loan are virtually non-existent."

Reischel speculates that Rosenthal was emboldened to rebuke his higher-up by the fact that he is poised to step down just as soon as his successor completes the required background check. "It's unclear how many more decisions, testy or not, Rosenthal will get to write," Reischel notes.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 14, 2010 at 02:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)


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