WHO WE ARE.
The National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center (NCBRC) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of the bankruptcy system and preserving the rights of consumer bankruptcy debtors. Created in 2010, NCBRC was founded by the Board of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys to provide assistance to consumer debtors and their counsel in cases likely to impact consumer bankruptcy law.
WHAT WE DO.
Each year, millions of individuals and families across the country struggle to pay their bills. Often financial distress follows on the heels of other unanticipated events such as job loss, divorce, substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses and natural disasters. Bankruptcy may provide these debtors with the opportunity for a fresh start. The Bankruptcy Code grants financially distressed debtors certain rights that are critical to the proper functioning of the bankruptcy system as a whole. However, bankruptcy debtors, lacking both financial resources and exposure to the bankruptcy system, often do not have the ability to protect the integrity of the bankruptcy system and preserve the bankruptcy rights of consumer debtors more generally. The National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center (NCBRC) was created to fill that vacuum.
NCBRC provides assistance either by working directly with debtors’ attorneys or by filing amicus briefs in courts throughout the country. An amicus curiae is an entity or person, not party to a case, who volunteers information to assist courts in deciding matters before it. Appellate cases are normally limited to the factual record and arguments from the lower court case under appeal, and the debtors’ attorneys focus on the facts and arguments most favorable to their clients. Where resolution of a particular case may impact consumer debtors throughout the country, amicus curiae briefs are a way to introduce those broader concerns, so that the larger legal effects of courts’ decisions will not depend solely on the parties directly involved in the case.
NCBRC also strives to impact the national conversation on bankruptcy laws and debtor rights by increasing public awareness and education and by attracting media attention to the important issues involved.
Tara Twomey is currently Executive Director for the National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center and Of Counsel to the National Consumer Law Center. She has been a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School, Harvard Law School and Boston College Law School. Ms. Twomey is a former Clinical Instructor at the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School where her practice focused, in part, on sustainable homeownership for low- and moderate-income homeowners. Currently, Ms. Twomey focuses on consumer credit and bankruptcy issues. She is a contributing author of several books published by the National Consumer Law Center, including Foreclosures: Defenses, Workouts and Mortgage Servicing, and is also a contributing author to the Collier Bankruptcy Practice Guide. She is a conferee of the National Bankruptcy Conference.
Ms. Twomey earned her J.D. from Boston College Law School, summa cum laude and received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego. After law school, she served as a law clerk for Chief Justice Herbert P. Wilkins of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Thereafter, Ms. Twomey received a two-year Skadden Fellowship to work at the Legal Services Center.
THE NCBRC BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Henry J. Sommer – President
Mr. Sommer is Supervising Attorney at the pro bono Consumer Bankruptcy Assistance Project in Philadelphia. He has litigated many major cases involving bankruptcy, consumer law, civil rights and other issues. Previously, he was the head of the Consumer Law Project at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, where he worked for over 21 years. Mr. Sommer has also served as a Lecturer-in-Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and is an Adjunct Professor at Temple University School of Law. He received his A.B. degree from Harvard College, magna cum laude and his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, cum laude. Mr. Sommer is Editor in Chief of Collier on Bankruptcy and the entire Collier line of bankruptcy publications. He is the author of Collier Consumer Bankruptcy Practice Guide (Matthew Bender 1997); Consumer Bankruptcy Law and Practice, (8th Ed. 2006) published by the National Consumer Law Center, Boston, Ma., and Consumer Bankruptcy: The Complete Guide to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Personal Bankruptcy (John Wiley & Sons 1994) as well as numerous articles on bankruptcy law. He is the co-author of Collier Family Law and the Bankruptcy Code (Matthew Bender 1991). He is also a contributing author to the Matthew Bender treatise on Debtor-Creditor Law. Mr. Sommer is the former President of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), a former member of the Federal Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules (appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) and former Chairman of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Conference. He is President of the National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center, and also a member of the National Bankruptcy Conference, a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy, a member of the American Law Institute, and a former member of the Federal Reserve Board Consumer Advisory Council.
Mr. Mason is a 1974 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and has practiced in California and Michigan since being admitted to the bar in that same year. As a practicing lawyer, Mr. Mason specialized in bankruptcy and consumer litigation while working in an office of the UAW-Chrysler Legal Services Plan. He is currently an Assistant Director of the UAW-GM Legal Services Plan in Detroit, Michigan. He supervises fifteen Plan offices located in Southeast Michigan; and Buffalo, Rochester and Lockport, New York. Those offices provide pre-paid legal services including bankruptcy and consumer matters to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler hourly workers represented by the United Auto Workers Union. As part of his responsibilities, Mr. Mason approves all appellate work originating from the offices he supervises and, in particular, maintains a keen interest in bankruptcy and consumer appellate issues that affect working people.
University of Texas Law School. Professor Littwin studies bankruptcy, consumer, and commercial law from an empirical perspective. Her current research includes studying the knowledge of and attitudes towards bankruptcy among consumer being sued by debt collectors as well as the relationship between consumer credit and domestic violence (DV). She has published in journals such as the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the California Law Review, and the American Bankruptcy Law Journal. She has recently published articles about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s complaints process and supervision program as well as on how consumer bankruptcy attorneys adapted to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act. Professor Littwin has served as a speaker at numerous conferences and trainings.
Elizabeth Perris was an active United States Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Oregon, for over 30 years (1984 – January 2015) and served on recall until her full retirement in January, 2016. She received her A.B. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972 and her J.D. from the University of California, Davis, in 1975. She has been an Adjunct Professor at Lewis & Clark College of Law (2005 – 2006, 2008 – 2009) and Willamette University School of Law (1998). She was a member of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Ninth Circuit from 1988 – 1993 and 1998 – 2005. From 1976 – 1984 she worked in Oregon as a bankruptcy court law clerk, served as a bankruptcy trustee and an attorney in private practice specializing in bankruptcy. Elizabeth Perris was a member of the United States Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules from 2007-2014 and, as part of her Committee responsibilities, served as the chairperson of the Forms Subcommittee and Forms Modernization Project which oversaw modernizing national bankruptcy forms. She served as chairperson of the Bankruptcy Judges’ Education Committee and board member of the Federal Judicial Center, and in the process, helped educate new bankruptcy judges from throughout the country. Elizabeth Perris served as chairperson of the Bankruptcy Section of the Federal Bar Association, chairperson of the Oregon State Bar (OSB) Continuing Legal Education Committee, and chairperson of the OSB Debtor-Creditor Section. While serving as a judge, Ms. Perris was a judicial mediator in many bankruptcy matters, including the chapter 9 cases filed by multiple cities, Detroit, Stockton, Mammoth Lakes, and Vallejo. She is a fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy.
K. John Shaffer – Quinn Emanuel Urqhart & Sullivan, LLP
John Shaffer is recognized as one of the nation’s leading restructuring lawyers. His extensive experience includes representing debtors, creditors, and purchasers of assets in connection with a wide-range of industries, including financial services, real estate, healthcare, natural resources, and transportation. In addition to in-court representations, Mr. Shaffer has been involved in numerous out-of-court workouts, and he regularly advises hedge funds and other investors in distressed debt. Mr. Shaffer’s clients also have included creditors with significant positions in SIPC and FDIC-led receiverships, including Washington Mutual Bank and Lehman Brothers, Inc.
In addition to an active and sophisticated practice, Mr. Shaffer has been involved in the development of the nation’s bankruptcy laws and rules of practice. Mr. Shaffer was appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States to the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, which he served on from 2000 to 2006. Mr. Shaffer also chaired the Judicial Conference’s Joint Subcommittee on Chapter 11 Venue Issues, and was a member of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Advisory Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure from 2006 to 2012. Mr. Shaffer chaired the National Bankruptcy Conference’s Business Bankruptcy Committee, and he has served as Secretary of the Conference and as a member of its Executive Committee. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy, and has been President of the Los Angeles Bankruptcy Forum and a member of the Board of Governors of the Financial Lawyers Conference. Mr. Shaffer twice has served as a member of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judge’s Educational Committee, and he is a frequent speaker on bankruptcy-related topics.
James “Ike” Shulman – Treasurer
Ike Shulman received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and he received hi
s J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Shulman has practiced bankruptcy law
in San Jose, California, since 1986. His practice has been devoted almost entirely to small business and consumer bankruptcy debtors. He is certified as a Specialist in personal and Small Business Bankruptcy Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Shulman is a member of the State Bar of California, and is admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California; and the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Seventh and Ninth Circuits. He served as a delegate to the California State Bar Conference of Delegates from 1987 through 1989. A member of the Bankruptcy and Commercial Law Executive Committee of the Santa Clara County Bar Association, he organized and served as the first Chair of its Chapter 13 Subcommittee in 1989-90. He again served as its Chair for 2002. In 1996 and 1997, Mr. Shulman testified on consumer bankruptcy issues before the National Bankruptcy Review Commission. In March 1998, he also testified on pending bankruptcy legislation before the House Judiciary Committee.
In 1992, Mr. Shulman led the effort to organize the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys to provide consumer debtors with an effective voice in the legislative process. Mr. Shulman was elected NACBA’s first president, and served in that position through 1996. In 1997 he took over as NACBA Treasurer and also currently serves as Chair of NACBA’s Legislative Committee. He has served as a panelist at each of NACBA’s annual conventions and has appeared as a speaker at numerous other conventions and seminars.
Jill Michaux is a Kansas attorney with the Bankruptcy Law Office of Neis & Michaux, P.A., in Topeka. She represents consumer debtors and small proprietors in chapter 13 and 7 cases. She is a board certified in consumer bankruptcy law by the American Board of Certification. Michaux is a founding member and past director of the National Association Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA). She serves as a member of the federal Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules, appointed to a three-year term by Chief Justice John G. Roberts in November 2012. She is a frequent speaker at bankruptcy conferences and a blogger. She can often be found on Bankruptcy Law Network, Google+, and her own site, Kansas Bankruptcy, where she shares information about consumer bankruptcy law issues. email@example.com
John Rao is an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, Inc. Mr. Rao focuses on consumer credit and bankruptcy issues and has served as a panelist and instructor at numerous bankruptcy and consumer law trainings and conferences. He has served as an expert witness in court cases and has testified in Congress on consumer matters. Mr. Rao is a contributing author and editor of NCLC’s Consumer Bankruptcy Law and Practice; and a co-author of NCLC’s Foreclosures and Bankruptcy Basics. He is also a contributing author to Collier on Bankruptcy and the Collier Bankruptcy Practice Guide. Mr. Rao serves as a member of the federal Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules, appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2006. He is a conferee of the National Bankruptcy Conference, fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy, vice-president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, member of the editorial board of Collier on Bankruptcy, and former board member for the American Bankruptcy Institute.
Mr. Yen is the supervisory attorney of the bankruptcy project of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1975. After clerking for the County Court for Cape May County, New Jersey, he has worked for legal services programs representing low-income clients in New York, Alabama, and Illinois. He has been a Supervisory Attorney with LAF since 1987. He has written articles on bankruptcy and consumer topics for the Clearinghouse Review and Illinois Welfare News, is a contributing author for the Collier Bankruptcy Guide, and has been a lecturer or panelist in those areas for organizations ranging from the Alabama Judicial College to the National Association of Consumer Advocates. He is a member of the Illinois bar, the bankruptcy section of the Chicago Bar Association, and the American Bankruptcy Institute.
Ms. Hammes received her A.B. in Communications and Public Policy from the University of California (Berkeley) in 1972 and received a J.D. from Santa Clara University Law School in 1977. She has been certified as a Specialist in Bankruptcy Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization since 1997.
Ms. Hammes has represented consumer debtors in bankruptcy since 1978, in private practice with her husband, James Gold. She is admitted to the California State Bar, U.S. District Court – Northern District of California; U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits; and the U.S. Supreme Court. She chaired the Northern District of California Bankruptcy Court’s Bench-Bar Liaison Committee in 2010-2011, and served. She is a co-founder of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and served as a Director from its formation in 1992 to 2009. She served as its president from January 1997 to July 2001.
Ms. Hammes has been a speaker on consumer bankruptcy topics at various seminars and conventions across the country including NACBA’s. In July 2009, she was appointed by NACBA to serve as its liaison with the Obama Administration regarding the implementation of HAMP. In late 2009, at the U.S. Treasury Department’s invitation she served on its Bankruptcy Working Group that proposed improvements to HAMP regulations regarding bankruptcy debtors and foreclosures. Ms. Hammes previously has testified on consumer bankruptcy issues before the National Bankruptcy Review Commission (1996-97) and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative and Commercial Law (1998).
Daniel M. Press is a bankruptcy lawyer with the law firm of Chung & Press, P.C., in McLean, Virginia, and Greenbelt Maryland. A 1988 magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, he was an editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. He received his B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University. After graduating from law school, Mr. Press served as a judicial law clerk for Judge Jaime Pieras Jr. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. Mr. Press and his law partner Brett Weiss are the authors of Chapter 11 for Individual Debtors, published by Collier/Lexis-Nexis, and present “Bootcamp” training on Chapter 11 for individuals. Mr. Press practices in the Bankruptcy and Federal District Courts in the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia Maryland, and the District of Columbia, as well as other U.S. Appellate, District and Bankruptcy Courts around the country. He is a member of the Board of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and was previously the NACBA State Chair for the District of Columbia. He is also a member of the Section Council of the Consumer Bankruptcy Section of the Maryland State Bar Association and is the Education Director of the Consumer Bankruptcy Committee of the American Bankruptcy Institute. He is a regular speaker on bankruptcy and related topics at Continuing Legal Education seminars and programs locally and nationwide.