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Brooklyn Bar Association hosts comprehensive two-day bankruptcy CLE

December 23, 2019 Rob Abruzzese

The Brooklyn Bar Association held its 2019 Bankruptcy Update over two days on Dec. 17 and 18, with attorneys David Doyaga and Gregory Messer explaining relevant changes to the law that spills over into many different areas.

The CLE takes place over two days for a couple of reasons. The biggest is that each year, there are a lot of people filing for bankruptcy, and a lot of the guidelines and debt limits change from year to year, so attorneys need to be updated so they can best advise their clients on exemptions.

Bankruptcy law also spills over into other areas such as real estate and matrimonial, so that the first day is typically more nuts and bolts, while the second day gets into more details and nuances.

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“David and Gregory are very knowledgeable. They do this program every year and know the information completely so a lot of attorneys come each year ready with questions for them,” said Richard Klass, the second vice president of the BBA. “They’re both Chapter 7 trustees and have been doing this for many, many years, so they are the experts that the experts turn to.”

Bankruptcy is an ever-changing field of law, so the annual update typically takes place over multiple days, and this year was no exception, as New York State made a major change this year in moving away from the Uniform Fraudulent Conveyances Act toward the new Uniform Voidable Transfer Act. The former was adopted in 1914, so clearly there was a lot to cover.

“Everybody here has had a client come in and say, ‘I have a home worth a million with no mortgage on it and I’m having some debt problems in my business and I might be going under. If I transfer it to my wife, can I file for bankruptcy?’,” said Doyaga. “We’ve had to say that you have to wait six years to file because of the six-year look-back, but there has been a change.”

Doyaga explained that the previous act led to many unanswered questions and that now New York can look to other states for guidance rather than relying on litigation.

In addition to covering the new Uniform Voidable Transfer Act, the duo also covered lien stripping and mortgage modification in Chapter 13, and small business organization under the new statute.

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On the first day of the CLE, Doyaga and Messer were joined by Hon. Elizabeth Stong, who sits in the Bankruptcy Court.

“We had fun the first night,” Doyaga said. “Judge Stong was on fire. I don’t know what happened. She was regaling us with stories from the Bankruptcy Court, she was making fun of me. It was great. That is someone who fights for us. She might not always rule in favor of us, but you can tell by her actions and her decisions that she is fighting for us. That’s an individual judge that makes our lives better.”

Doyaga and Messer, who go back and forth during the CLE almost like they’re hosting a talk-radio show, each made some recommendations for the attorneys in the audience. Doyaga endorsed East Coast Appraisals because, he explained, they are not auctioneers and thoroughly explain the reasons behind their appraisals.

“Some appraisers are also auctioneers, which creates a conflict very often, because when an auctioneer is doing an appraisal, you wonder if they are trying to push for the sale of the property and have inflated its value,” Doyaga said. “I like an appraiser who is an appraiser. ECA is known within the bankruptcy court. Sometimes I call them and say, ‘Is it really worth that much?’ They start telling me why. There is a high school next door and the kids throw bricks over the fence.”

Messer endorsed the Bankruptcy Exemption Manual published by Thomson Reuters. He explained that often people move to New York from out of state and he relies on the manual to answer questions on out-of-state exemptions.

“It’s on my desk at all times,” Messer said. “This can be very confusing. Sometimes you have to live in that state to claim its exemption. It’s more complicated than you might think, but this book helps explain that in a reasonable fashion.”


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