Article I, Section 8, of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to enact "uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies." In the Bankruptcy Act of 1898, Congress authorized the district judges to appoint bankruptcy referees to oversee the administration of bankruptcy cases in the district courts. Over the years, the district judges of the Eastern District of Louisiana appointed the following people to serve as bankruptcy referees: William Alexander Bell (1901 - 1919); Edward J. Thilborger (1919 - 1933); Edmond E. Talbot (1933 - 1969); and Percy M. Flanagan (1965 - 1971); Thomas M. Brahney, III (1969-1978); T. Hartley Kingsmill, Jr. (1971-1978).
In 1978, Congress enacted the "Bankruptcy Code" (92 Stat. 2657) and created the position of United States Bankruptcy Judge. A Bankruptcy judge exercises jurisdiction over judicial proceedings related to bankruptcy, and the bankruptcy courts act as units of the United States district courts. Congress determines the number of bankruptcy judges in each district. See 28 U.S.C. § 151. A bankruptcy judge is appointed by the majority of judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit that encompasses the district in which the Bankruptcy Judge will preside. Bankruptcy Judges serve for fourteen year terms.
When the position of bankruptcy judge was created in 1978, the sitting bankruptcy referees in the Eastern District of Louisiana, Thomas M. Brahney, III and T. Hartley Kingsmill, Jr., assumed those judgeships. Judge Kingsmill retired effective February 1, 1992, and was placed on receall and served in that capacity until September 30, 2003. Judge Brahney served as a bankruptcy judge until his death in 2004.
Two bankruptcy judges currently serve the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Judge Jerry A. Brown, officially retired as of September 1, 2011, is sitting as a recalled judge for a term of three years. He has served as bankruptcy judge since 1992. Judge Elizabeth W. Magner has served as bankruptcy judge since 2005, and is now Chief Judge.
The Bankruptcy Court’s caseload has gradually increased from a few hundred bankruptcy filings a year to the current filings of 4,197 for the year 2011. The Bankruptcy Court Clerk's office has 26 employees including a Clerk, a Chief Deputy Clerk and other management personnel and staff.
Over their history, the bankruptcy courts have been instrumental in the recovery from financial crisis for millions of individuals and companies. Particularly in times of economic downturn, the bankruptcy courts have efficiently and economically assisted in the reorganization in the Eastern District of Louisiana when financial collapse was threatened. For example, the Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District handled 9,500 corporate reorganizations and individual filings each year following a crash in the petroleum markets in the early 1980s. Following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, the Bankruptcy Court administered 11,500 filings in 2005 alone. Through their efforts, companies and individuals alike were able to restructure their finances and emerge as productive and positive contributors to the overall economy of the district.
United States Bankruptcy Court
Hale Boggs Federal Building
500 Poydras Street, Suite B-601
New Orleans, LA 70130
Elizabeth W. Magner, Chief Judge
Jerry A. Brown
Sheila K. Booth
© United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana