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Bankruptcy judge warns of impact of ‘fiscal cliff’

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Chief Judge James K. Coachys in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana sent a memo to the Indiana State Bar Association Wednesday explaining how budget cuts and the potential “fiscal cliff” have affected the court.

Nearly 90 percent of the court’s budget this year has been allocated to pay clerk’s office personnel. The number of staff has been reduced over the years: for the fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the court cut four and five positions, respectively. Coachys anticipates cutting six positions by early January because of a projected shortfall of nearly $500,000. Since the end of fiscal year 2011, the staff has gone from 73 to 58 when including the upcoming cuts.

The court is also eliminating or severely curtailing funding for cyclical building maintenance, personnel training, travel and supplies, the memo says.

He expects the budget to be reduced further for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, leading to more personnel terminations.

Historically, the Southern District of Indiana has ranked in the top 15 of the 94 judicial districts in terms of the bankruptcy cases filed.

“Although the information here is specific to our district, the budget cuts described and the resulting changes are similar to those being experienced by bankruptcy courts cross the country,” Coachys writes. “In fact, I have patterned this memo on a similar one by Chief Bankruptcy Judge Pat Morgenstern-Clarren in the Northern District of Ohio – a court experiencing very similar challenges.”

The “fiscal cliff” – automatic budget cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress acts – will result in sequestration of funds otherwise budgeted for all federal agencies, according to the memo.

“I hope that the information is useful in understanding how this Court continues to restructure to operate with the amounts allocated to us, and how that process is expected to continue in future budget cycles,” Coachys writes to the state bar. “However, be assured that we are doing our utmost in these extremely challenging times of declining resources to continue providing prompt and efficient service to you and your clients.”

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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