The American College of Bankruptcy Announces 2018 Distinguished Service Award Recipient

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The American College of Bankruptcy (the “College”) has awarded its 2018 Distinguished Service Award to the Hon. Elizabeth L. Perris (Ret.) of Portland, Oregon.

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The American College of Bankruptcy (the “College”) has awarded its 2018 Distinguished Service Award to the Hon. Elizabeth L. Perris (Ret.) of Portland, Oregon. Judge Perris received the award at the Class 29 Induction Ceremony held at the Smithsonian Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington, D.C. on March 16, 2018. The award was presented on behalf of the College by the Hon. Barbara J. Houser of Dallas, Texas.

The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor of the College. Criteria for selection as a Distinguished Service awardee include: significant accomplishments in improving the administration of justice in the insolvency and bankruptcy field; distinguished service consistently rendered over a considerable period of time or a single outstanding achievement in a particular year; accomplishments arising from voluntary activities rather than for services rendered to a client as a paid professional; membership in the College; and distinguished in his or her institution in a manner and in matters that are consistent with the goals and purposes of the College.

Judge Perris was appointed in 1984 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to be a Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Oregon, resident in Portland, and she served in that position until her retirement in 2015, including as Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Oregon from 2005 to 2010. She also served for twelve years as a member of the prestigious Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Ninth Circuit, from 1988 to 1993 and from 1998 to 2005, including as the Chief Judge of the Panel during 2003 to 2005.

Judge Perris presided over a number of significant bankruptcy cases, including one of the most contentious cases arising from clergy sexual abuse charges, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland chapter 11 case, along with the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province chapter 11 case. Because of her experience, other bankruptcy judges appointed Judge Perris to mediate other clergy sexual abuse chapter 11 cases. The importance of her work on these cases resulted in the development of a template for the resolution of other clergy sexual abuse bankruptcy cases around the United States.

Judge Perris also served as a mediator in a number of complex municipal bankruptcy cases, including as one of seven mediators appointed in the City of Detroit chapter 9 case, where she handled the mediation of complex financial transactions among the City and its financial creditors. As a result of the mediation process, their disputes were resolved consensually in the confirmed plan of adjustment. She also mediated complex financial and labor disputes in the City of Stockton, California, chapter 9 case, and labor issues in the City of Vallejo, California, chapter 9 case, enabling those cities to confirm their plans of adjustment. She also mediated the main dispute with a judgment creditor that enabled the Town of Mammoth Lakes, California, to dismiss its chapter 9 case.

Judge Perris served as a member of the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules (from 2007-2013) following her appointment to the committee by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. She served as faculty at countless educational programs around the country, including those at Federal Judicial Center educational programs for bankruptcy judges, including as a mentor judge for newly appointed bankruptcy judges at what is affectionately called “baby judge school.”

Judge Perris was inducted as a Fellow of the College as a member of Class 1 in 1990. She served over the years as a leader on many committees, including the Board of Regents and the Judicial Nominating Committee. She received a number of awards and recognitions during her illustrious career for her outstanding contributions to local, state and national bar associations. Through her scholarship, judgment, integrity, humanity, service and professionalism, Judge Perris has embodied the highest ideals of the legal profession for over 40 years.

During her introduction of Judge Perris, the Judge Houser, Chief United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of Texas, shared the following: "Measured by distinguished tenure on the bench, measured by the cumulative importance of her judicial decisions, measured by her prominence in mediating the most complex and highly charged insolvency cases, and measured by the sheer force of her energy, intellect and good cheer over many decades, Elizabeth Perris is preeminent among United States Bankruptcy Judges of this generation."

In accepting the award, Judge Perris acknowledged that being told she was to receive it came as a complete surprise. "What I have in common with those who came before me, and what distinguishes all the members of the College, is a willingness to say ‘yes’ to volunteering to make [the] insolvency field be of as much utility as it can be. It is the willingness to volunteer and contribute that really distinguishes members of the College."

The College is an honorary association of bankruptcy and insolvency professionals and plays an important role in sustaining professional excellence in the field. College Fellows include commercial and consumer bankruptcy attorneys, judges, insolvency accountants, turnaround and workout specialists, law professors, government officials and others in the bankruptcy and insolvency community. The College offers unique and challenging educational programs and publications, maintains the National Bankruptcy Archives at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, and, in conjunction with the American College of Bankruptcy Foundation, is believed to be the single largest financial supporter of pro bono bankruptcy services in the United States. 

For more information about the American College of Bankruptcy Distinguished Service Award, contact Shari A. Bedker, Executive Director at 434-939-6004, fax at 434-939-6030, or email at sbedker(at)amercol(dot)org.

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