College Columns December 2021 - Page 18

Introduction on the Presentation of the Distinguished Service Award by the American College of Bankruptcy to The Honorable Barbara J . Houser

Hon . Thomas L . Ambro
Colleagues , College inductees , ladies and gentlemen , especially family and friends of Barbara Houser :
It is a privilege to be with you this evening . It is where we can collectively assemble and acknowledge the truth : that Article I judges are every bit as good as their Article III cousins .
Watching almost anyone do almost anything well is a great good . Seeing someone perform at the top of her craft is special . Barbara Houser is special .
Whether sitting first-chair in major Chapter 11s , as a judge in command of every nuance in a bankruptcy case ( and hence expecting you to be as prepared as she ), as a named plaintiff heading the charge for bankruptcy judges ’ pay , or in her most recent challenge as the lead mediator in the Puerto Rico insolvencies , Barbara is a professional in full : fully in command , fully understanding the issues and the players , fully willing to thread new ideas with the old , and , when appropriate , to commit to them and carry them through .
I focus on where I have observed Barbara most closely and personally – the Puerto Rico cases that , by my recollection , are among the three largest in American history . You had not only the Commonwealth and its then roughly 3.3 million people ( though now much less ), but also its several instrumentalities , ranging from a special purpose entity known as COFINA to its Aqueduct and Sewer Authority and numerous others . Their reorganization is under an insolvency law that , while it borrows much from the Bankruptcy Code , contains many provisions and constructs unique to the Commonwealth entities .
In the late Spring of 2017 , Barbara came new to these insolvencies containing disputes that had been brewing for decades . She was the lead mediator on a team where only one of its mediators , Judge Nancy Atlas , had significant experience in mediation . ( I had next to none .) continued online