Court Administration Study Tour--Federal Bankruptcy Court

On Monday we started our second study tour—this time concerning court administration. During the tour, we will visit the Federal Bankruptcy Court, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, and the US Tax Court. We will also meet with Stephanie Hemmert a Senior Judicial Education Attorney at the Federal Judicial Center, which provides education and training for judges and employees of federal courts. 

 We met the judges and ABA-ROLI field staff from Kazakhstan at the hotel at 9 AM before heading to the Federal Bankruptcy Court together. It was great to meet the new group! Gulnaz and Auyelbek, our field staff from Kazakhstan, were both so friendly and helpful. I'm really grateful that my internship overlapped with study tours—it's been wonderful meeting everyone and hearing new perspectives on our legal system.

I also really enjoyed visiting the Federal Bankruptcy Court. Bankruptcy wasn't an area of law that I had considered previously, but Judge Stong and Judge Gunn's presentations highlighted the massive impact that bankruptcy cases have on people's welfare and the need for compassion, transparency, and accessibility. Both judges noted that due to the nature of the cases—people filing for bankruptcy—parties tend to be particularly anxious and sometimes feel a sense of shame, so they both try to put the parties at ease as quickly as possible. Interestingly, Judge Gunn emphasized her role in encouraging people to settle disputes themselves, rather than have her decide for them, as they will likely be happier with an outcome they come to an agreement on than the one that the judge imposes on them. 

Additionally, the Federal Bankruptcy Court provided us with a chart illustrating their hierarchy—many of the positions were still open. When one of the visiting judges from Kazakhstan asked why so many are vacant, a court clerk explained that expected budget cuts have prevented them from filling the positions. Because of this, the staff does have to work harder to ensure people's cases are heard. 

It was really wonderful to be able to see the more human, day-to-day side of working in a court. It was also a great reminder that the work of legal professionals—judges, attorneys, court employees—can have a massive impact on people's lives. 

 On a lighter note, Haley, Billy, Gulnaz, Auyelbek and I got to take a selfie together in the courtroom!