More Than 160 Lawyers Set to Attend PuLSE Forum on Bankruptcy and Poverty May 25

More than 160 lawyers from around the country who practice in federal court including some judges both at the federal and state courts and law clerks have registered to attend The PuLSE Institute’s  Forum on Bankruptcy and Poverty, an online forum, which will take place on Tuesday, May 25 from 5:30pm-7pm.  The theme of the forum to examine how the federal bankruptcy court system can grant relief from debt from people who are economically disadvantaged is “Is the Court System Accessible to Low-Income Families?” 

Bankruptcy Judge Mark Randon, who sits on the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, will deliver the keynote address at the virtual forum, where he will speak  about whether the system can be enhanced to address the debilitating impact of poverty as well as the power that bankruptcy judges have to ensure a fair system of jurisprudence for those who appear before them.

The forum is free and open to the public and tickets can be obtained through the eventbrite link The U.S. District Court also announced the forum on its website.

The list of confirmed attendees at next week’s forum includes lawyers from some of the nation’s largest law firms as well as small scale law firms, trustees of the bankruptcy court and judges from various jurisdictions of the United States Bankruptcy Court. Among those who signed up to attend the discussion is Colleen A. Brown, the chief federal bankruptcy court judge for the District of Vermont.

Judge Randon’s address is coming at a time when there is an ongoing national debate about the state of the federal court bankruptcy system, and how the unaffordability of attorneys presents a series of challenges for individuals who are impoverished but need to access the bankruptcy system.

Following the keynote address, nationally renowned journalist and culture critic Bankole Thompson, the editor-in-chief and dean of The PuLSE Institute, will moderate a Q&A interview with Judge Randon about issues that are at the center of the debate around debt relief including commitment of the legal profession to help poverty-stricken families in bankruptcy court. Thompson is a twice-a-week opinion columnist at The Detroit News.

A 1992 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Randon, is currently the only African American judge serving in the Detroit Federal Bankruptcy Court. After graduating from law school, he worked as a labor and employment attorney for Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, and then for Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone PLC, before becoming counsel for United Technologies Automotive.  

An independent and non-partisan anti-poverty think tank headquartered in Detroit, and commonly referred to as Detroit’s anti-poverty think tank, The PuLSE Institute, has a National Advisory Panel made up of leaders and thinkers who are invested in the fight against global poverty, inequality and racial injustice  including Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, National Coordinator of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign under civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Weiner, former White House spokesman,  Sister Simone Campbell, a leading anti-poverty crusader in the American Catholic community, Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., Presiding Bishop Emeritus of the Church of God in Christ, the largest Black Christian denomination in America etc.

The PuLSE Institute is at the forefront of the debate around inequity in our nation and in Detroit. And this forum is an example of the critical need for us to examine the federal bankruptcy system and its impact on those who are living on the margins of society,” said Attorney Tina M. Patterson, the president and director of research at The PuLSE Institute. “Judge Randon’s address before The PuLSE Institute is timely in light of the urgency of the subject matter.”

The founding of The PuLSE Institute was inspired by the writings of Thompson, whose illuminating and influential work on economic and racial justice issues has helped elevate the discourse around poverty and inequality in Detroit, the nation’s largest Black city. Thompson said Judge Randon’s address is important to the debate about the role of the judicial system in addressing inequality. For example in a 2019 Detroit News column, Thompson wrote about the impact of the bankruptcy court system on Black and Brown families citing work that former presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren did on the issue.

“We cannot have any meaningful discussion about tackling poverty and inequality outside of the important but often overlooked role of the judicial system especially, the federal bankruptcy court. That is why Judge Randon’s upcoming address to The PuLSE Institute is crucial to the overall debate about whether the system can be reformed to give people a second chance,” Thompson said. “This forum is an opportunity to hear from one of the most brilliant legal minds in the judiciary and a sitting bankruptcy judge about the state of the bankruptcy court system and the impact it has on those who are simply trying to rebuild their financial lives.”

The Institute’s online speaker series program deals with issues from poverty to criminal justice reform that features an array of speakers including activists, thought leaders, policy makers and public officials whose work reflect the push for anti-poverty policies and reforming our system of justice. The Institute believes there is a moral necessity for these reforms to take place now especially in the era of the racial justice movements pricking the conscience of our nation and the world.

Most recently Dr. Natalia Kanem, the United Nations Under-Secretary General delivered a keynote address at The PuLSE Institute on women, poverty and the pandemic.

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