Consumer Bankruptcy Journal Winter 2018 - Page 36

BIG BOOK OF BANKRUPTCY FUNNIES said the magic words, “You are hired.” Cal also said, “I think that we will work well together. Welcome aboard!” I was ecstatic, on top of the world. I’m sure I shook his hand a little too enthusiastically. During my four-month tenure, Cal and his career law clerk (then Ms. Kathleen Lax) took time to teach me how to craft a brief, present issues, and be professional. (Eventually, Kathleen Lax was appointed as a bankruptcy judge. From 1987 to 2010, Judge Lax -- ultimately serving and retiring as Judge Kathleen Thompson -- was on the bankruptcy bench in the San Fernando Valley Division of the Central District of California. Cal always displayed good humor and a positive attitude in chambers. One afternoon (just before mounting the bench), Judge Ashland said to me, “Now let’s go out there and see what’s in all of their little pointed heads.” Another time, I remember a pro se debtor asking Judge Ashland, “Are you a mean judge?” Cal smiled and responded, “No, but some days, I wish I was a mean judge!” Cal and I enjoyed sharing jokes and humor about the law. When my term was up, Cal gave me a copy of his personal legal joke book. I treasure the book because it reminds me not to take life too seriously. When Judge (then attorney) Ashland first moved to Los Angeles from Iowa, Ashlandʹs first job was with the bankruptcy and collections boutique now known as Sulmeyer Kupetz. After receiving a stellar written letter of reference from Judge Ashland, I also began my own 35‐year career at Sulmeyer Kupetz. For the last 18 years, I have been a partner at Hinds & Shankman, LLP specializing in creditor rights and remedies, financial and business litigation, and corporate 36 CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY JOURNAL restructuring. Judge Ashland never stopped mentoring his former clerks. I distinctly recall my early appearances before Judge Ashland. After we completed the business at hand, Judge Ashland would sometimes ask me a personal question. Such as, “Have you made any mistakes yet?” or “Do you have any clients in jail?” (That second question always worried me a little.) After a calendar, Cal might invite me into chambers to chew the fat about daily life. Cal was also a friend. When Judge Ashland learned that my sister died, he adjourned court. Cal, Kathleen Lax, and Sheri Bressi (his deputy clerk) called to ask what they could do to help me and the family. I was truly touched. Cal set a great example of what it means to be the best person and attorney that one can be. Finally, just to be clear, I did not have access to Judge Ashland’s Big Book of Bankruptcy Funnies until after I won my fair share of Bankruptcy Joke for a Buck competitions. That is my alibi, Professor Bovitz, and I am sticking with it. More about the Big Bankruptcy Funnies. Book of I’ve had the privilege to read Judge Ashland’s Big Book of Bankruptcy Funnies. (T he Consumer Bankruptcy Journal thanks Judge Ashland’s widow, Ilse, and the Ashland family for permitting us to review and refer to a few selections from the joke book.) The Big Book of Bankruptcy Funnies includes over a hundred cartoons from many major publications. In one cartoon (Peanuts, December 2, 1980), Linus reminds us that Abraham Lincoln -- unlike Snoopy, the dog/ Winter 2018 attorney -- was always able to find his way to the courthouse when he was a practicing lawyer. Another cartoon shows two judges in a private conversation. One judge whispers to the other, “Did you ever have a day when you don’t give a damn about the rules of evidence?” This reminds me that bankruptcy judges may not enjoy our excessive evidentiary objections. The Hon. Barry Russell, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Central District of California, is an exception to this rule on evidentiary objections. Judge Russell is the author of the Bankruptcy Evidence Manual (more than 1,200 pages on evidence). At $581.85, Judge Russell’s book is probably the most expensive paperback available from Amazon. Don’t check the “OK to deliver by drone” box or Amazon might hurt someone. Over the years, Paul Shankman cut out published cartoons from the newspaper, dropped the published tag lines, added his own cutting-edge bankruptcy lines, and sent these to Judge Ashland. Judge Ashland placed many of Mr. Shankman’s Franken- toons in the Big Book of Bankruptcy Funnies. The Big Book of Bankruptcy Funnies included an article from the August 7, 1978 edition of Family Circle. This was an excerpt from Barbara Seuling’s book, “You Can’t Eat Peanuts in Church & Other Little Known Laws.” For example, “In Connecticut, the law states that if you are beaver, you have a legal right to build a dam.” (Compare the cost of this little gem to Judge Russell’s book. At 85 cents, You Can’t Eat Peanuts in Church & Other Little Known Laws is probably the least expensive paperback available from Amazon.) The Big Book of Bankruptcy Funnies includes an undated article from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys