State Bar of Arizona Lawyers on Call BK 05-13-14

Volunteer attorneys participate in the Lawyers on Call phone program, May 13, 2014, on the topic of bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Here is a follow-up to a State Bar event, by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona, azcentral.com and 12 News hosted the Lawyers on Call public service program on Tuesday, May 13.

The following is a recap of the program, which focused on bankruptcy and foreclosure issues.

The volunteer attorneys were: Anthony Clark, Diane L. Drain, Richard A. Drake, Tracy Essig, Margaret A. Gillespie, Peter Gustafson, Jeff Katz, Steven Keist, Vincent R. Mayr and Jim L. Webster.

Volunteer attorneys answered 76 calls on bankruptcy and foreclosure issues. An additional 25 consumers were assisted via social media, which gave us a total of 101 people who were helped. Although calls were plentiful, phone lines weren’t as busy as in the past. Volunteers thought it was a good indicator that bankruptcies and foreclosures are on the decline.

Here is a sample of consumer questions:

  • How do I know if I should file bankruptcy?
  • How do I file bankruptcy? Should I hire an attorney or do it myself?
  • Are there alternatives to filing bankruptcy?
  • Can I get rid of student debt if I file for bankruptcy?
  • What are the repercussions to filing bankruptcy or foreclosure?
  • How can I get rid of creditor phone calls?
  • Will I lose my car or home if I file for bankruptcy?

Social media continues to be a successful element of Lawyers on Call.  25 consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page, and attorney Diane L. Drain responded with her recommendations/advice.

Eight of the 11 attorneys were first-time volunteers.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ landlord and tenant questions on Tuesday, June 3.

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorIf the mark of a great blog post is a gorgeous graphic, I’m starting off the week with an epic fail.

But gauging posts by their relevance and praiseworthy content, this kind of offering is among my favorites.

Once again via my colleague Alberto Rodriguez, I pass on the great news of Arizona attorneys who stepped up to offer free legal advice. (As I’ve said before, no other profession that I’m aware of does so on such a routine basis.)

On Thursday, September 26, the State Bar of Arizona joined with Univision 33 to host the consumer call-in program Abogados a Su Lado. This most recent public service program covered bankruptcy and foreclosure issues.

Congratulations to the lawyers who stepped up to participate:

Those generous lawyers—all four were first-time participants—answered 67 calls during the two-hour phone bank. The following is a sample of the questions received:

  • Do I qualify for bankruptcy?
  • How does bankruptcy work?
  • Do I need an attorney to handle my bankruptcy or can I file on my own?
  • I’m behind on my house payment, how long before the foreclosure process begins? Can I save my home from foreclosure?
  • Am I automatically entitled to half of our assets if I file for divorce?
  • How do I qualify for a home loan modification?
  • The home I rent is being foreclosed on. What are my rights?

Congratulations and thanks to all the attorneys.

Lincoln_by John Holcomb

Abraham Lincoln would want you to share news of the State Bar’s great Law Day event. (painting by John Holcomb)

The State Bar of Arizona has a rich tradition of participating in Law Day, that annual national event reminding all of us how valuable the rule of law can be. And this year, they continue that commitment.

I have been privileged to moderate the Bar’s Law Day event a few times. In 2008, our topic was judicial merit selection, and we had a blast with a talented panel of speakers who are lawyers and judges. When I moderated, I had the chance to ask challenging questions that (I hope) led panelists to explore the topic fully.

I recall being offered a deep scowl when I devil’s-advocated a former Bar President panelist with the question, “So why not sign on to Senate confirmation of judges? Our current system came from Missouri, not from Moses.”

The next year, I was the moderator of our program centered on the screening of competing Law Day videos created by high school students. Much of it is a blur, but I do recall that I wore a beard and stovepipe hat to honor Abraham Lincoln. (Good times. No photo survives.)

So my Law Day affection is deep and abiding, and that’s why I am looking forward to this year’s offering by the Bar (no moderating required).

The Bar’s events will occur on Saturday, April 27, and they aim to provide the highest possible testimony to the value of our legal system—by providing actual legal information to those who need it most.

State Bar of Arizona logoThe very ambitious programming will cover four-plus legal topics, and the information will be provided at five locations around the Valley and in Tucson. There will be no charge.

More information on the clinics is here, or contact my colleague Alberto Rodriguez at 602-340-7293 or alberto.rodriguez@staff.azbar.org.

And if any lawyer-readers want to participate by offering her or his services, for one session, a half-day or (dare I ask it?) a full day, also contact Alberto. He is seeking lawyers who can provide information in the following focus areas: landlord/tenant; immigration (there will be sessions in both Spanish and English); divorce, child support and paternity; and bankruptcy and foreclosure. 

Abe Lincoln would have been proud.

And for those who join me in being pleased at the Bar’s commitment to legal services and the value of lawyers and law, let me share one anecdote that I read at my Law Day moderator gig in 2008:

“During the Suez Invasion of 1956, the British Prime Minister was careful to exclude opinions that disagreed with his approach. He specifically instructed that Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, the very distinguished Legal Advisor to the Foreign Office, and who had strongly and consistently advised that the British action was unlawful, should not be informed of developments: ‘Fitz is the last person I want consulted. The lawyers are always against our doing anything. For God’s sake, keep them out of it. This is a political affair.’”

That quality—of independent and honest counsel—is more valuable and more in need than ever before. Remember to share around the Bar’s Law Day agenda and encourage participation.

What killed the Twinkie?

That should be the legal and financial question we ask as we assess the most recent bankruptcy filings of Hostess, the maker of the cream-filled confection.

Hostess Twinkie

The Hostess Twinkie: Will it survive?

Last week, a new, cholesterol-laden version of Black Friday occurred, when distraught shoppers besieged stores seeking anything made by the company. They feared that the bankruptcy meant Twinkie’s, Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and more would now be unavailable forever.

I was personally “along for the ride” as a friend went through his mournful exercise of seeking Hostess products. In a Phoenix Fry’s store, he eventually opted for what was left—a chocolate cream-filled Twinkie, which seems a bit like bastardizing a bastard product. But that’s just me, a former East Coaster, who prefers Drake’s Cakes (go ahead, Google it.)

The Twinkie eulogy (which may be premature, as this news story says) was written pretty well by Wall Street Journal reporters Rachel Feintzeig, Mike Spector and Julie Jargon:

“The seemingly imperishable Twinkie finally may have an expiration date.”

“Hostess Brands Inc., the 85-year-old maker of iconic treats such as Twinkies, Ding Dongs and pantry staples like Wonder Bread, on Friday said it would go out of business after failing to reach agreement on wage and pension cuts with its bakers’ union.”

OK, as far as it goes. The newspaper was able to get the dreaded “U” word (“union”) right up top in the story, parroting Hostess’s management’s view of its demise. Later in the story, the reporter showed at least a little critical-thinking in that regard. But it’s not until you get to the story 12th paragraph—roughly halfway through the story—that we learn there may be players other than the dreaded union in Hostess’ untimely demise:

“The company’s burdensome debt traces back to Hostess’s first trip through bankruptcy in 2004. Missteps by a private-equity firm, hedge funds and managers since burdened the company, despite its more than $2 billion in annual sales.”

“‘I think there’s blame to go around everywhere,’ said Chief Executive Gregory Rayburn, a turnaround expert hired this year.”

“Increased costs for ingredients and fuel, a failure to adjust to demands for healthier foods, and the U.S. recession combined to weaken Hostess.”

The story goes on to explain that, following its second bankruptcy in 2009, Hostess “was owned by private-equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC and saddled with more than $700 million in debt that crimped investment. Ripplewood and lenders, including hedge-funds Silver Point Capital LP and Monarch Alternative Capital LP, hired new management that failed to keep pace with shifting consumer tastes to healthier foods and pursued marketing promotions that backfired.”

No Bain Capital to be seen, but you get the picture. I do enjoy the WSJ world, where $700 million may “crimp” investment.

Sounds a little like the Twinkie defense.

You can read the entire article here.

Drakes-Devil-Dog

The clearly superior Drake’s Devil Dog

medical marijuana plantsHere’s another unique angle on a unique industry you may not have considered:

Can medical-marijuana dispensaries declare bankruptcy?

To an increasing portion of the populace, medical-pot dispensaries are a business similar to many others—they have a building, some staff, a product.

That’s not to say that everyone wants that business near their home, but an increasing percentage of the population appear to view it as an industry like others—and like some others, one that has some needed regulation.

But a recent case in California throws that into question. After all, if the federal government is a significant holdout in the movement toward acceptance of the medical-marijuana industry, and if the federal government is in charge of the Bankruptcy Courts … you get the picture.

As a story by Stephanie Gleason begins:

“Mother Earth’s Alternative Healing Cooperative Inc. is in some trouble. The San Diego startup that opened last year is facing debt, the threat of eviction from its landlord and is involved in litigation. To deal with these issues, the company did what many would—on Wednesday, it filed for Chapter 11.

“However, Mother Earth isn’t just any business. It’s a medical-marijuana dispensary, licensed by the state of California and San Diego County, but it’s seen as illegal by the federal government. And, for now, it’s unclear whether the company can deal with its debts this way. After all, the Bankruptcy Code is a federal law.”

Read the complete story here.

In Arizona Attorney, we have covered broader aspects of the medical-marijuana controversy, specifically the dialogue over it in this state. But the intriguing question about bankruptcy is a good one. For if an entity cannot avail itself of bankruptcy protection, can it ever call itself a business?

What is your answer to the BK question?

Arizona Attorney July-August 2011

My State Bar of Arizona colleague Alberto Rodriguez provided the following in regard to Tuesday evening’s Lawyers On Call program:

The following is a recap from the February 7 Lawyers On Call public-service program.

Date: February 7, 2012

Topic: Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Issues

Volunteers: Eight Attorneys (Brian Blum, Diane Drain, Doug Edmunds, Tracy Essig, Macie Hawkes, Kristin Mathers, Leonard Sominsky, and Madeleine Wanslee)

Summary:

Volunteer attorneys answered an impressive 158 calls on bankruptcy and foreclosure issues.

Most-frequently-asked questions were:

  • How do I modify my current loan?
  • How do I avoid foreclosure? What are my options? Can I simply walk-away?
  • Is a short sale a good alternative to a foreclosure?
  • What are tenant rights after a foreclosure?
  • What is the process of a bankruptcy? Should I pursue it?
  • How do I deal with debt collectors?
  • What types of bankruptcy are there? How do I know which is right for me?

Three of the eight attorneys were first-time volunteers. They were satisfied with the quality of the questions overall and were excited to have participated in the Lawyers On Call public service program. Calls were consistent from 5 to 7 p.m., which led to another successful phone bank.

Interesting call of the evening: Macie Hawkes received one call from an individual residing in Massachusetts. He mentioned that he had been researching free legal advice and stumbled upon the State Bar’s Lawyers On Call public service program. He set his calendar—taking time zone into consideration—and patiently waited a few weeks for his chance to speak with one of our volunteer attorneys.

Lawyers On Call has helped 158 Arizonans in 2012 and more than 1,526 Arizonans in 2011. The program has helped more than 14,010 people in the eight years that 12 News KPNX -TV has broadcast the program.

The next Lawyers On Call will be held on May 8, 2012, and will address divorce and child support issues.

For more on Lawyers On Call, click here.

Lawyers on Call is a public service program sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona and Phoenix’s 12 News KPNX TV. On the first Tuesday of the month, members of the public can have their legal questions answered by volunteer lawyers.

Tonight, the topics are foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Thanks in advance to the lawyers who are pitching in pro bono to answer questions:

  • James Andrews II
  • Richard Chambliss
  • Tracy Essig
  • Scott Hyder
  • Susan Johnson
  • Jeff Katz
  • Cristina Perez
  • Shawn Stone
  • Andrea Wimmer

More information is here and here.

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