Southern District Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn, who is presiding over the Dewey & LeBoeuf bankruptcy, has a reputation as a well-prepared judge who keeps tight reins on his cases, asks probing questions and pushes attorneys to get to the point.
“Lawyers will frequently get a couple of sentences out before I interrupt with questions,” Glenn said in an interview. “What I want is answers to the questions. That isn’t always the most pleasant experience from a lawyer’s standpoint. It’s important to allow everyone to have their say on motions that are relevant or important to them.”
It is “not a surprise that some lawyers are more long-winded,” he added. “I’m probably at times less patient than some of my colleagues in listening to lawyers. I do want to hear them, but I want them to get to the point.”
Glenn’s style was on display last week in Dewey’s first bankruptcy hearing, which extended past business hours. The judge faced multiple parties with multiple attorneys all aware of the time.
When Eric Lopez Schnabel, a Dorsey & Whitney partner representing a group of retired partners, began speaking generally about his recommendations for a motion, Glenn interrupted.
“Mr. Lopez Schnabel, it’s late. Tell me what paragraphs you object to,” the judge said.
Steven Reisman, a restructuring partner at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, said, “You have to be very well prepared” on the facts and the case law “going into his courtroom. You can never bank that he’s going to rule in your favor.”
Some judges are quiet when they are in agreement with a party, Reisman said, but Glenn “actually cross examines both sides.”
Pedro Jimenez, a Jones Day partner who is involved in three bankruptcies before Glenn, said preparation is key. Even if an attorney hasn’t received an opposition from another party on a motion, “you know you’re going to be asked something” from Glenn.
Glenn, 65, is presiding over the Dewey bankruptcy along with several other high-profile cases for which he was randomly selected, including brokerage firm MF Global, book seller Borders Group, mortgage company Residential Capital and oil tanker owner General Maritime Corp.
Glenn joined the bench in 2006 from O’Melveny & Myers, where he headed the firm’s litigation group in New York with a focus on complex civil litigation, including securities, unfair competition and financial and accounting fraud.
“I viewed the fact that I was not a bankruptcy lawyer as a hurdle I had to overcome,” he said. “No question, I recognized when I came on board that I had a learning curve.”
“I’d always done complex civil litigation, not really bankruptcy, but I was certainly familiar with the cases this court handled and I found that interesting,” he said.
Glenn said he prepared for the bench by immersing himself in bankruptcy law, reading cases and opinions, and talking to colleagues. Right from the start, he said, he felt comfortable with some aspects of being a judge.
“I was always quite used to trying cases, having the rules of evidence applied. I think I have a pretty good grasp on the rules of evidence. I think I have a pretty good grasp on how to conduct a court proceeding, whether it’s a motion or evidentiary hearing,” he said.
Tight Control of Cases
Glenn said he “very actively” manages cases when it is needed.
“I try to keep cases moving. I set deadlines. I set page limits. I think it helps resolve cases,” he said. “Some of that is a carry over from my litigation days where I thought the best judges that I appeared before actively managed their cases. Everyone knew what the expectations were.”
Glenn is also a stickler for being on time.
“I’m always on time and I insist that lawyers be on time. That’s No. 1,” he said.
One attorney who appeared recently in a large case before Glenn and declined to be identified compared the judge to other judges, saying Glenn runs his court more formally, adhering more to guidelines and protocol.
Curtis Mallet-Prevost’s Reisman said Glenn’s litigation background is a real bonus given the cases that are before him, such as Residential Capital, MF Global and Dewey.
“He comes to the bench with an open mind,” he said, noting that practitioners who join the bench come from the creditor or debtor side.
Glenn said successful bankruptcy cases usually result from a consensual resolution of the issues by the parties and he views the role of the bankruptcy judge in part to keep momentum going, decide issues and encourage the parties to resolve as many issues as possible. Parties and attorneys are looking for predictability, consistency and fairness in a judge, he said.
Glenn said he reads all briefs, as do his law clerks.
“The quality of briefs varies widely. Sometimes they’re very good, and sometimes they’re very poor and you can’t rely solely on what you read in briefs. You need to go behind it, both in terms of the facts” and the law, he said.
Glenn is also an opinion writer. The Southern District court’s website shows he has written 23 opinions this year alone, while the website lists seven or fewer opinions for most of his colleagues during the same period.
Glenn said he tends to go through 10 to 15 drafts of an opinion.
“Judges will talk about, when they’re reaching a decision, ‘does it write well.’ If you can’t explain your decision and the basis for it, there’s something wrong,” he said.
Transition to the Bench
Glenn earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 1968 and his law degree from Rutgers Law School in 1971. After clerking for Judge Henry Friendly, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Glenn joined O’Melveny, where he stayed until 2006.
“I guess after 34 years in practice, which had been very good to me, I’d had enough of what I was doing. It was time for a change,” said Glenn, who makes $160,000 a year.
Tancred Schiavoni, an O’Melveny partner, said Glenn was a mentor to him from the time Schiavoni joined the firm as an associate in the 1990s.
When his O’Melveny colleagues heard about Glenn’s plans for the bench, some were taken aback, Schiavoni said.
They told him, “You could spend [retirement] in some material comfort or you could spend it in the tussle and tumble of the Southern District Bankruptcy Court. Have you thought this out?” Schiavoni said. “But for him I think it was natural. It was a perfect fit.”
O’Melveny partner Andrew Frackman said he could see why Glenn applied for the position.
“It didn’t surprise me at all because Marty has a wonderful judicial temperament, he knows the rules of evidence, he knows how to try cases, he knows good lawyering and he is very interested in the law, which isn’t true for every big firm litigator,” Frackman said.
Arthur Gonzalez, the former chief bankruptcy judge who retired from the Southern District bench earlier this year and who often goes running with Glenn, said Glenn took the obligation of adjusting to bankruptcy law “very seriously.”
If an attorney understands complex business transactions, then with appropriate study “he can understand the implications the Bankruptcy Code has on those transactions, and being an experienced and complex civil litigator is a very good basis to build upon,” Gonzalez said.
Glenn points out that his litigation background is not completely unique on the bankruptcy bench. Former Southern District Bankruptcy Judge Adlai Hardin Jr., who sat in White Plains and who retired in 2009, was a litigation partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, and Eastern District Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Stong was a litigation partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher.
However, Judges Shelley Chapman, Robert Drain, Robert Gerber and Allan Gropper all previously worked on bankruptcy issues at large firms before joining the bench.
For more than two years, until mid-2010, Glenn was the bankruptcy judge in the Manhattan division assigned to the Chapter 13 docket, which are consumer wage-earner plans.
“Really the people most in need of help,” he said. “You see everything, from just absolutely terrific lawyers to some really horrible lawyers in the consumer cases because the lawyer doesn’t get paid very much,” adding that consumer lawyers often have a high volume of cases.
Although Glenn can be direct, lawyers say he has an even judicial temperament. In his office he keeps a book of New Yorker lawyer cartoons, along with photos of his family. He and his wife, Andrea, have three adult children, two grandchildren and another grandchild on the way. He says he’s a frequent runner and avid skier.
The Dewey case is Glenn’s first law firm bankruptcy, but he presided over four adversary cases in the law firm bankruptcy tied to convicted and disbarred attorney Marc Dreier.
Law firm bankruptcies have elements in common with other bankruptcies, Glenn said. Clawback claims, in which the debtor’s estate goes after former partners to pay back funds, are simply fraudulent conveyance matters, adversary cases that are present in many bankruptcy matters, he said.
@|Christine Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.